Sep 202011
 
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Fort Collins will soon be the site of a Mormon temple, despite objections to its construction from some local residents.

Mormon leadership announced plans for the building on April 2 during a semiannual conference of Latter-day Saints church members.

“When (they) announced that they would build a temple in Fort Collins, my family jumped up and we yelled because we were so excited,” said Saundra Royer, a Mormon CSU food science & human nutrition senior.

She and 250-300 other Fort Collins Mormons celebrated the news, hailing the temple as “something that’s such a blessing to have near us,” she said.

But residents of the Westchase neighborhood, where the temple is set to be constructed, have had a different reaction.

The two-story, 27,000-square-foot building with 275 parking spaces on 18 acres of land will attract 200,000 LDS church members from Wyoming, Nebraska and northern Colorado and will open around 2013. Homeowners near the site fear that their quiet neighborhood will become a tri-state epicenter of religious worship, and have been fighting the temple’s construction at every turn of the process it must go through.

When individuals purchased or rented their homes in the subdivision, the area’s land-use code said the plot of land on which the Mormon temple is supposed to be built was reserved specifically for residential property.

“My biggest concern is that this property was designated as resident-only,” said Devin Hirning, who lives in the neighborhood. “Yes, I did know that there was a restriction on there when I bought my house. That’s why I bought there.”

But these regulations were set forth by Larimer County, since Westchase falls outside of Fort Collins’s jurisdiction. Once it becomes annexed, the neighborhood will have to follow city-zoning guidelines, which Chief Planner Ted Sheppard said allows for the temple to be built.

“The county has their own procedures and their own rules and regulations, and that’s all going to be water under the bridge upon annexation,” he said. “…Part of annexation includes zoning … a place of worship is a permitted use within that zone.”Neighbors also opposed the temple’s construction because they feared it would decrease their property values, citing increases in traffic and street congestions as detractions from their homes’ worth.

Estimates have already plummeted because of the nation’s recent economic turmoil. In the middle of 2007, Hirning’s home was worth $371,000. It is now valued at $344,000.

“I’ve invested a fair amount into my property, which is probably why I’m so outspoken,” he said.

But a Mormon temple has not depreciated property values in Twin Falls, Idaho in the aftermath of its construction in 2008. Susan Stevens, who has been a realtor and associate broker in the area for nine years, said the values of homes immediately surrounding the building have increased as a result of its construction.

“Those property values are very, very high,” she said. “I think a lot of people come into our area because of the temple. Hotels have come up locally, and I think it shows that there are values to Mormon people when they live close to the temple.”

Westchase residents caution that their resistance to the building is not rooted in anti-Mormonism. An LDS church already existed in the neighborhood when they purchased their homes, and they have been coexisting with its presence without issue.

“It doesn’t matter whose label it is –– it’s a big thing that doesn’t belong in that neighborhood,” said Fort Collins resident Peggy Loonan. “You just can’t be rolling over people like that in good conscience.”

Royer said she understands the perspective of neighbors hesitant about having a temple in their backyards.

“I really hope that people, once its built, they’ll get a better picture of what it is and what it really means to us,” Royer said. “They’ll see that it’s not just some crazy Mormon thing. It’s part of our religion, it’s part of our beliefs, and it’s a blessing for us.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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