KNXV Channel 15 reports that on Sunday November 22nd, 2009, at least 30 residents of the Deer Valley area of northern Phoenix, Arizona picketed the proposed site of the new temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church proposes to build a new, nearly 10,000 square-foot temple on a five-acre lot adjacent to their current chapel at 51st Avenue and Pinnacle Peak Parkway.
Local residents state that religion is not the issue. Scott Anderson, a spokesperson for the Little Deer Valley Homeowners Association, said "We respect their right to worship, this isn't about religion. What it's about is a building that's incompatible with the neighborhood". According to the local residents, traffic and aesthetics are the incompatibilities.
Traffic is the primary concern. The locals believe that embedding a high intensity, large project in a neighborhood of low intensity homes will breach the carrying capacity of the traffic network. They question whether the roads can handle the increased traffic, and may be concerned about the impact upon kids playing in the area. However, on their website, the LDS Church has stated that the fears about traffic are overblown. Unlike the older and more established temple in Mesa, this temple is not designed to accommodate a large number of patrons. Traffic flow is expected to be nominal, and ample parking is available on site (140 spaces) and at the adjoining chapel (176 spaces). No visitors' center, pageant, or other large-crowd event will occur on the temple grounds. And during the opening ceremonies, the Church will minimize the impact of traffic to guarantee neighbors easy access to their homes and businesses, although the Church omitted mention of the customary open house prior to dedication, in which public tours are conducted daily for a period of a month. The open house will also generate a temporary upsurge of traffic.
But opponents say the traffic study upon which the LDS Church assessment is based is flawed. Although the Church's traffic study found that the two-lane road can handle the temple's weekly and weekend traffic, one resident claimed the traffic study does not cover the 30-day visitor period (open house). But this is because the open house is only a one-time event before the temple is dedicated, so it shouldn't be a lasting issue.
The aesthetical concerns are the lighting, the steeple, and obstruction of the view of nearby mountains. The local residents are unhappy at the prospect of the steeple being lit until 11:00 P.M., although the lighting will serve to deter opportunistic crime in the neighborhood. They also believe the 126-foot steeple may obstruct their view of the mountains. In response, the LDS Church has stated that the lighting system will consist of a sophisticated system of directed lighting—specifically designed to minimize light pollution and to preserve dark skies as much as possible. As for the mountain views, the Church has stated that the visual impact of the temple on mountain views will be minimized by generous setbacks, an earth-toned exterior, world-class landscaping (open for public enjoyment), and a tiered design that tapers to a thin central spire.
People should know by now that when they move into a neighborhood, there can be no absolute guarantee that all the aspects making it attractive in the first place can be preserved for eternity. Life is about change.
These people don't seem to be cranks; there's no overt evidence of any anti-Mormon activists manipulating them behind the scenes at this time. They've hired zoning-and-land-use attorney Stephen Anderson to represent them, and they've launched a fundraising campaign to pay for his services. Nevertheless, both the Phoenix Planning Commission and the Deer Valley Village Planning Committee have already recommended approval, and the only remaining hurdle for the LDS Church is the Phoenix City Council, which is scheduled to consider the issue at 5 P.M on December 2nd at the Orpheum Theatre located at 203 W. Adams St.
One LDS member attended the Phoenix Planning Commission meeting; here are some of the person's impressions:
As an LDS member who lives within minutes of where this new temple would be built, the construction of the temple is no small thing for my part either. With small children, it means an easier time worshiping, and less hassle and expense in babysitting so my wife and I can drive to Mesa. It means more freedom to practice my religion, and more peace in my life.
I was touched that the members of the opposition side made such a distinct effort to point out that they were in no way opposed to the LDS faith or the members of the LDS community. They simply were opposed to the construction and physical aspect, location, size and lighting of the building itself. I don’t know if they realize it, but their willingness to separate the religious side from this debate was a very, very kind gesture.
My fear, in seeing the emotion tied to this debate, is that these fine citizens, and this fine community of people, will forever have a negative impression of the LDS church and its members. While the debate was civil, or even calm for a room full of people this big, the tension was thick. As it appears the temple re-zoning and construction will be completed as expected and desired, feelings may be hurt, and people may be disappointed.
An unscientific poll being conducted by Azcentral.com shows that out of 855 respondents as of this post, 67 percent favor the temple and 33 percent are opposed.
Perhaps the local residents might want to consider what could happen if the LDS Church does not build their temple there. They could get a Wal-Mart, a Target, a skate park teeming with yelling, cursing teenagers clattering skateboards at all hours...or they could get a halfway house for recovering dopers or child molestors. In other words, they could end up with much more risky neighbors than the LDS Church. I wish them well in resolving this issue.