Although the plan for a regional Latter-day Saints Temple is still in its beginning stages, representatives for the church offered some initial details on the project to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday.
Kerry Neilson, an architect for the LDS church, said that the plan to find a home for the proposed temple has been in the works for over a year before pursuing the parcel at the intersection of Melrose Drive and Farmington Avenue. The group has investigated several real estate options in the Greater Hartford area.
"We came to Connecticut and looked at 20 different sites in the Hartford area," said Neilson. The church chose Farmington for many reasons, including its general accessibility and the land available for development. There is also a historical connection: a Farmington ancestor from the 1800s, Wilford Woodruff, immigrated to the west and became a known leader in the LDS church.
"The temple is a sacred building," said Neilson. "We consider it a house of the Lord."
Neilson explained that a temple, unlike a church building, is not used for Sunday services, rather it is a place of spiritual education and the site of members' marriage ceremonies. In fact, there is no 'chapel' space in the initial design, mostly classrooms and smaller meeting spaces.
Neilson described the proposed 24,000-square-foot facility, which would be near the site of the former Whitman Restaurant, 1125 Farmington Ave. The temple would have over 100 parking spaces, classrooms for education and a beautifully landscaped property, he said. A home is proposed to be built on the 11-acre site as well, which would be inhabited by the caretaker and his wife.
Commissioners asked about construction of a backage road, named "New Town Road" on the sketches, which would connect Bridgewater and Melrose and run parallel between Farmington Avenue and the river. The road would eliminate all curb cuts between Melrose, across from Winding Trails and Bridgewater, across from the Wood n Tap, and regulate traffic through lights at the intersections.
After the presentation, commissioner Barbara Brenneman said the new road would be important for the project to be successful. Commissioner Don Doeg asked for a clarification of how the facility would be used and wanted to know more about how it would affect traffic on Brickyard Road.
The majority of LDS temples are much larger than that in Farmington would be so church representatives didn't have firm traffic estimates. The temple would serve the church's approximately 15,000 Connecticut members as well as those in Rhode Island.
Many of the commissioners complimented Neilson on how appropriate the rendering of the building seemed in its facade; Bill Stanford even calling it "shockingly New England."
Neilson gave a description of the proposed structure.
"It's a one-story, white stone facility, with a steeple reaching to about 115 feet in the air. At the top of the steeple, a statue of Moroni is positioned, similar to other LDS temples. The grounds are landscaped with foliage and low, New England-style, stone fences are used around the property," he said.
"We have a lot of faithful members of the church who are hoping to have a temple nearby," Neilson said during the presentation, but reiterated that they are in the early stages of the process.
Church representatives will go before the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency in March. For the project to be approved, the zoning commission would have to either ammend the regulations to allow a religious building in a commercial zone or rezone the area for residential use.
Neilson stated that a website detailing the project will be created soon.