Mormons sue New York suburb over zoning rules prohibiting new temple construction

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2001

HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) -- The Mormon Church has filed a federal lawsuit against the Town of Harrison over zoning rules that would restrict the size and height of a proposed temple.

The suit is the latest fight in years of wrangling between the church and residents, who fear the regional temple will cause congestion and environmental damage. The building is meant to attract members from Hartford, Conn., to Philadelphia.

The lawsuit accuses the town of infringing on the church's freedom of religion and assembly.

Earlier this year, the zoning appeals board refused to waive the town's 30-foot height limit for the temple, which would be 53 feet tall not counting a steeple. A state Supreme Court justice overruled the board, but the town is appealing.

In November, the town authorized a fourth traffic study after eight months of public hearings. Jim Staudt, a lawyer for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in December that the church had made numerous changes at the town's request, to no avail.

''Having exhausted all administrative options, the church was left with no alternative but to file suit,'' he said.

Town attorney Jonathan Kraut refused to comment.

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