BOISE -- The Ada County Board of Commissioners voted 2-0 (with one absent) to allow the LDS Church to continue its project plans to build a new temple in Meridian.
The Planning and Zoning Commission previously approved the project, but a neighbor, Merrilee Morton, filed an appeal. A Wednesday night public hearing on the appeal brought out a big crowd, with some forced to stand or go to an overflow room. Dozens testified.
At the beginning of the meeting, supporters of the temple stood at the request of the project manager from the LDS Church in Salt Lake City. By that, it appeared the bulk of the crowd wanted the new temple in Meridian off North Linder Road.
However, there were certainly plenty of questions and people opposed. Many of the concerns were written out in the appeal form by Morton, who lives by the temple. She and others worry about increased traffic, impact on wildlife, how big the building is, how bright the lighting is and the overall impact on a presently more rural landscape.
"The sheer massiveness of this building and the temple rising to 120 feet in height, 165 feet wide is grossly inappropriate in such a truly rural setting," Morton said.
"The power of those lights to successfully illuminate the top of this very large building and the glow and use of the security lights for the parking all unduly influence the use and enjoyment of my property," said Avery Epperly, another neighbor.
Many church members and some other immediate neighbors of other faiths testified in support of the project, saying the area is growing no matter what, and this would be a better option than some other building projects.
"That value of [this] property, if it doesn't have a temple on it, it's going to have something on it. And I would much rather look at a quiet, sacred space than a bunch of houses and a bunch of different mismatch," said neighbor Dan Long.
Many in favor also spoke about potentially increased property values and the fact that the large Mormon population has a need for a temple in that area. Church members and officials said they plan to work hard to be good neighbors to the community.
"We recognize there are some concerned neighbors and we're glad to go back and speak to them and to address any issues that we can accommodate," said Kerry Nielsen, Project Manager for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "We have tried to mitigate, comments about lighting, we will control that. It's in the record that we're going to control the lighting. The parking, the traffic ... [has] been addressed with ACHD. All those issues have been vetted and addressed, and they're in the record."
Only two commissioners were at the meeting: Dave Case and Rick Yzaguirre. Case declared publicly he is LDS, but he said it would not influence his decision. Commissioner Jim Tibbs was not present and would have been required to listen to all testimony prior to voting if there had been a tie.