Mormon Temple Approved

Town Plan and Zoning Commission clears plan for September start.

A plan to build Connecticut's first temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Route 4 in Farmington was approved Tuesday night by the town's Plan and Zoning Commission.

The site plan application and zone change, which calls for a 35,000-square-foot, white granite temple, topped by a tall steeple and statue of the angel Moroni, were approved unanimously despite the objections of several residents who said they worried the temple would create additional traffic and reduce the town's tax base.

Jean Gorcyzka alone spoke as an enthusiastic proponent of the project, saying, “I am not a Mormon but I am so enthusiastic about these people coming to town. I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful project.”

Evan Cowles and Brie Quinby complimented the design work but raised concerns about the levels at which the temple would be lit at night. Both proposed the commission reevaluate the lighting plan in a year, a suggestion the commission adopted.

April Mock, a mother who lives in the Highlands, fervently objected to the plan on grounds it would add the already impossible traffic situation on Route 4.

“I can’t get milk, buy gas or bring my children anywhere without Route 4… I already have to sit for half an hour to travel a mile and a half,” Monk said.

She had reviewed the traffic study, which she said dismisses the impact of traffic on Saturdays – one of the temple’s peak traffic times with a projected 75 trips.

Commission Chairman Phil Dunn reminded Mock and other speakers that a traffic study, approved by Farmington Town engineering staff, described the temple as likely to have almost no increase over the present situation — an office building and several empty houses.

Diane Barnes sharply objected to the project because of traffic concerns and loss of taxable land. She also questioned whether the temple would be appropriate for the proposed location.

“I appreciate that they want to create a landmark but I’m not sure Farmington has asked for a landmark,” she said. “The building itself is very monument-like. With the white granite, the reflection off the building materials, it’s going to be pretty intense.”

She noted that the tax-exempt status awarded to religious institutions is due to the anticipated benefit to quality of life, including organizations’ involvement in the community. The temple, she said, offers no such benefit since it will only host visitors and not be home to a faith community.

Dunn explained that the commission is not allowed to take tax matters into consideration of a zoning application, rather, it makes land use decisions based on town regulations.

There was little discussion from the commission on the vote.

“Last year we approved the Goddard School for this location. The office building would have remained, the Goddard School would have been built, which would generate considerably more traffic, and there was a proposal for at least two more office buildings,” Dunn said. “So what we’re really doing is taking 11 acres of potential office buildings and schools and substituting it with literally what’s already there. In the morning it will lighten the load. From a traffic perspective, it’s beneficial.”

According to Kerry Nielsen, project manager for the church, construction would begin in September and last about two years. Once the temple is completed, it would be open to the public for viewing for a period of time, then will be dedicated. Once it is dedicated, the temple will be closed to all but "active faithful members of the church measuring up to the worthiness code of the temple," Nielsen said.

The temple would sit on 11 acres between Melrose Drive and Bridgewater Road, surrounded by heavily landscaped formal gardens, which would be open to the public.

The plan also calls for two other buildings on the property – a 2,094 square foot house for a caretaker couple and a 753 square foot utility building. Buildings and parking lot would cover just over 36 percent of the 11-acre site – less than the 40 percent required in town code.

Flanking the temple site on the plans is a proposed “New Town Road,” which would eventually connect Melrose Drive to Bridgewater Road, creating the opportunity for possible development of the area along the river. The church plans to build the road, running parallel to the river, from Melrose Drive to a temporary cul de sac. Peter Fishman of PKT Development, which owns the development on Bridgewater Drive, plans to build the other half of the road, to connect the two streets.

For more information on the project visit http://mormontemples.org/hartford.

Barbara Brenneman June 21, 2012 at 02:39 PM
My comments will be short and sweet....I only wish everyone commenting here would take the time to attend TPZ hearings when projects are submitted for public hearings. The temple hearings were not attended by many folks. I wonder how many Patch commentators actually saw or heard the presentation.
Tobey Harvey June 21, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I agree!
Stephen C June 21, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Ann, there were a few comments that were very negative and derogatory toward 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints'. It looks like those comments were removed so that we can all have a civil discussion.
Paul Chotkowski June 21, 2012 at 04:59 PM
A righteous outcome! Two thoughts on past and present comments on the Temple’s sighting. Traffic: Residents vs. Commuters.The town and the state have made poor choices concerning traffic on Rt 4 and Rt 10. A fix would require taking significant land by eminent domain and making Rt 4 into Rt. 44 as in Avon / Simsbury [thereby destroying the character of the High St / Main St portion of the town including the Country Club] that is what would be best for the commuters - sorry Historic District Supporters and the 1%. Or we continue to tinker at the edges and never really solve the problem which extends well beyond the boundaries of the town [unless we fully implement Agenda 21 & force everyone back into urban living without cars - Green’s the new Red don’t ya know!]. Growth vs lower taxes. Again very simple, buy at market prices all unbuilt land in the town and donate it to the Farmington Land Trust and allow the ever increasing taxes to economically cleanse the town. We’ll be the Gold Coast [or at least Avon or Simsbury] before you can say Bosnia Herzegovina. Farmington Future et aliae has demonstrated a willingness to “invest” in the quality of life in the Valley so let them raise the necessary funds & buy the land. The town is bisected by two state roads used by commuters & what is best for the State is not what is best for Farmington - gotta love it when Progressive / Socialist theories are applied in your own back yard & the outcomes are evidently sub-optimal!
Charlie Brown June 21, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Barbara : Many don't attend TPZ meetingsbecause they trust the elected officials will be representing the town and its residents as believed. Too many times this is not the case, public comments and concerns fall on deaf ears, projects get rubber stamped, and personal agendas are pushed to the forefront.
Saul Freedman June 21, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Case in point: the sewer vote from last election. The result wasn't the desired one, so we're voting on it again. Why bother voting if that is the attitude?
Bob Smith June 22, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Ms. McCallum, I find being called a bully almost laughable. Are we still in 3rd grade? Mr. Clark and Mr. Dunn are both grown men and should be able to defend themselves. As you said Ms. McCallum, public servants do deserve our recognition and respect. To all of them I say thank you. But I am suggesting that Mr. Dunn is not serving the community, he is simply serving his own agenda. I do not believe that my statement is any different then many made on the Patch daily, with the exception that it was toward Mr. Dunn. Either way I would like to restate 2 facts which I do not consider bullying remarks: 1. Mr. Clark did make accusations toward another public servant (Lisa Wilson Foley), which are no different then accusations that I have made about Mr. Dunn. And 2 Mr. Dunn does not own a residence in Farmington. He is a trustee of an estate and I am not sure if he is legally able to serve as a public servant without being a resident. I may be mistaken, but if I am please let someone correct me rather then deleting my comment to protect Mr. Dunn. I like to think this paper is not run like some news channels, where the government controls everything that is written, and censors all the negative comments made against them. Hopefully I am correct.
Kaitlin Glanzer (Editor) June 22, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Mr. Smith, I rent a house in Farmington. Do I reside in Farmington? I don't know anything about Mr. Dunn's personal affairs. But I can't imagine you do either, since you said you're an elderly invalid who just moved back to town and therefore can't substantiate your identity or witness public meetings. If there are similar accusations on Patch made against people in Farmington, please show me where and I will remove them (I'm not concerned about Obama or Malloy). I certainly don't want anyone to feel that they will be under attack on Patch.
Bob Smith June 22, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Yes Ms. McCallum, you do reside in Farmington. But as a renter, I am unsure if you could run as an elected official. That is my question. As to Mr. Dunn's personal affairs, I know nothing other then what I read here and on the interweb. So I suppose it may not give me much background. Maybe I am wrong about his character but I am still curious about the legality of his position. And as for other articles with the same type of accusations, I will be looking in to that and I will try to make you a reference list.
Hal Bright June 22, 2012 at 03:42 PM
As another member of the church living in Farmington I am pleased to have such an important building of our faith located in our town. I don't know the reasons Farmington was chosen, but one guess would be that the 4th leader of the church in the nineteenth century, Wilford Woodruff, was born and grew up in the Farmington/Avon. The 2nd guess is the ease of access from the major freeways connecting the state. I maintain, with others, that the temple will be a traffic-neutral building given that the traffic from the office building and residences are being replaced. The temple is redevelopment, not new development. As far as blending, beyond the village Route 4 is a mish-mash of buildings. The temple will add to the pleasant dynamic of gas stations, homes, apartments, agricultural fields, and office parks we are familiar with. There is no answer to tax revenue issues, it is either built it or it is not. Nonprofit/church status is an issue debated throughout the entire history of our country. This is really the only objection I can see as valid, but cannot be defended in the long run given legal precedents. I acknowledge this comment is entirely biased as a member of the church.
Hal Bright June 22, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Yes, any resident, renter or owner is entitled to run for office in town as long as they are a citizen.
Ann C. Jett June 22, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Barbara was completely right in her comments about resident attendance at these meetings. I feel remiss in not taking the time to attend and hear first hand about the proposal and having an opportunity to voice any concerns. Let's not make the same mistake with the new proposal before the TPZ regarding the land on the corner of Mill Street & Rt. 177. We need to have a huge voter turnout at the June 25 meeting to hear the proposal regarding land use, which is reportedly ANOTHER pharmacy. It's only by voicing reasonable and intelligible concerns and/or objections that we can make an impact. If not that way then certainly at the polls!
David Williams June 22, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Bob: I've been looking through your various Patch submissions and I have to say you really do fill the role of the curious old curmudgeon in these discussions. In some ways it's kind of endearing, although you do get a little crusty sometimes. Part of getting old is claiming the right to speak your mind I guess. I am admittedly new to the town’s TPZ process, but I do have experience with various town committees throughout the state. The Farmington TPZ committee appears to do their best to keep within their charter and perform their function. If there is a hidden agenda, it was well hidden. From where I observe, the committee members simply see the value of the temple to enhance Farmington’s character without burdening the town’s resources or causing more congestion. I am just not making the connection between your suspicion of Mr. Dunn and the readily apparent facts as presented at the meetings except that he has become the object of your curmudgeoness. Still, part of the reason the town remains strong is because the process is well scrutinized by suspicious residents like yourself.
Greg Tomb June 23, 2012 at 12:54 AM
@ Stephen C It is my understanding the Goddard school will still be built at the opposite end of the development across from Wood n Tap. The auxiliary road t be built along the river is a road to no where. It will only have access to RT 4 and will not affect traffic patterns. The proposed road only benefits the developer.
Greg Tomb June 23, 2012 at 12:57 AM
"TPZ is probably the toughest elected position in town" - if one can't take criticism they should seek election! "Also, since when in Farmington do we look at development based only on tax revenue?" - since the budget has gotten out of control, property values are declining and the Town Officials will do anything to increase the grand list.
C. Noujaim June 23, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Thanks Ann. I know for myself, I usually don't hear about these things until they are a done deal. I don't know if that is true of most people or not. I do know that I used to live in MD, in Chevy Chase. And the Mormon Temple there is most definitely a landmark. We already have a significant amount of light pollution. My other concern is that perhaps the design is too reminiscent of the Congregational Church? We have some beautiful old churches in Farmington, would this take away from the church that is on our town seal? I have no objection to another religious community coming to the town, I am concerned about the impact on traffic, the placement of the church, and the design of the church. Thank you.
Stephen C June 23, 2012 at 02:23 PM
@ Greg Tomb, you are correct that the Goddard School will still be built on Rt. 4. Was there outrage at the traffic that will be generated by that establishment? Did anyone oppose the Goddard School for this site last year or for its new site elsewhere on Rt. 4?
April Mock June 24, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Ms. Brenneman although there was not a large crowd the meeting was attended by many concerned Farmington residents. Are you admitting to the fact our concerns fell on deaf ears? The traffic concerns are very real and as an elected official you have an obligation to listen to your constituents. In my opinion, noone on that board considered for one moment the objections brought to your attention at the meeting on Tues. night. This will be remembered next election. To watch our beautiful community of Farmington clog with traffic each day because of poor planning, greed of overdevelopment, and lack of concern saddens me. Shame on you Barbara Brenneman, shame on you!
Ann C. Jett June 24, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Ms. Mock, I do not attempt to tell anyhow how to react or respond but in this instance I take issue with you chatising Barbara Brenneman who has been an outstanding representative of this town for many years. You cannot question this woman's integrity nor her dedication to the greater good of Farmington.
April Mock June 24, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Mr. Chotkowski- Are you a resident of Farmington??
Janet Colturi June 26, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Charlie, Not attending TPZ meetings because you trust the elected officials will represent the town and its residents is just a cop- out. If you don't attend the meetings why should your personal concerns be taken seriously? I for one, don't share your opinion that this project brings no value to Farmington. The Mormon Church has already reached out to the Food Pantry in Farmington as well as Avon and Plainville with a very geneous donation of food that we can order from their warehouse. Many of the items that the Farmington Food Pantry ordered from the Morman Church are never donated to us. Also, when I have concers about a proposal before the TPZ positive or negative I attend the meeting. I believe that this project brings value to Farmington even if it does not generate tax revenue. Tax revenue should be considered but should not be the only reason TPZ approves a project. As Barbara mentioned, TPZ has no control over which projects come before them. They are not Supreme Court Justices.
MAC June 26, 2012 at 04:43 PM
In all this discussion by the naysayers, no one seems to acknowledge the BENEFIT to the community of having the gorgeous gardens and landscaping, which the LDS temples always have as their setting. As described in the article/comments, the gardens will be open to the public, and will comprise over 60 % of the 11 acres. The naysayers seem focused only on the lack of property taxes to be paid and traffic concerns, which would only be made worse by commercial uses for the land. I predict that once the temple is built and the beautiful gardens are installed--especially if the "curmudgeons" take the opportunity to tour the temple during the open house before dedication--that the more intangible benefits to the community will be appreciated.
Greg Tomb June 27, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Would people please search Mormon temple on google images to get an idea of how ridiculous these temples are in size and design. Also light pollution should be a major concern (tpz gave FSA a hard time over lights in an industrial park but not this temple). I'm all for an individual's right to religion but this will be in your face and down your throat. LDS solicitors have also been making the rounds lately.
Trenton Spears June 27, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Greg Tomb The size of the Temple is based on the present and future needs of its members. If you build a Temple just on the present needs in years to come the Temple will become so small that another Temple will have to built in the area to accomodate the increase in member attendance. The LDS Church uses a lot of foresite in the needs of the Church. That is a result of reponsible leaders that are willing to work with any local governments and neighborhoods. As far as the lighting concerns the Church has always modified its plans to provide adequate lighting for the needs of the Temple. In some cases the Temple provide covers over the lights to reflect the light downward to avoid overlighting the area. You must realize that safety is an issue and well lite parking lots helps in the security of the patrons. LDS temples are always well lite to enhance the beauty of the Temples. The LDS Missionary program will not make any changes in its program because of the building of the Temple its efforts will remain the same we don't use the Temple for finding new members. The missionarys will always preach the Gospel to those who are willing to listen. They are very courteous and if a person does not want to listen they will respect their wishes and move on their way. You have to be a member for 1 year to seek a Temple Recommend to attend the Temple. I know you are not satisfied with the building of the new Temple and I respect your opinions and concerns. Sincerely, Trenton Spears
Paul Chotkowski June 28, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Ms Mock for the record I live in Devonwood and would be dealing "first hand" with any "traffic" that would occur at the Farmington Ave traffic light!
Robert Parker June 28, 2012 at 03:29 AM
It's just amazing how you can I corporate "progressive/socialist" theories into every aspect of life. I think. You need to start a new hobby.
Greg Tomb June 28, 2012 at 11:37 PM
@stephen C If the school is still planned, how does this temple reduce traffic as you stated above
Stephen C June 29, 2012 at 08:42 PM
@ Greg Tomb, I am only referring to the site where the Temple is being built. The Temple will reduce the amount of traffic that would have been generated at this site and this site only. I can't speak for other sites along Rt 4 where traffic is generated. Each site is subject to its own review by the TPZ. I understand the frustration with traffic. It is no fun to sit and wait in traffic, but the Temple simply will not increase the traffic on Rt. 4 by any noticeable amount. There are no large group meetings that occur at the Temple that would increase traffic at any time during the day. People will trickle in and trickle out during the day, but mostly in the evenings and on Saturday.
Tobey Harvey June 30, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Isn't religion the root of the problem here?
Trenton Spears June 30, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Tobey Harvey Is religion a problem for the United States of America if it is we have been going on the wrong course since the founding of this Nation. You may be part right that the ideal of a LDS Temple has cetainly given fuel for the opposition to the new Temple. If the freedom of religion is a problem for some people I guess we will have to be more tolerant of their opposition and hope that they will someday find it in their heart to except all religions on the merits of the goodness of their Faith. Only a good tree can produce good fruit. I live far from the town of Farmington but I will visit your gracious town and attend the Temple. Sincerely, Trenton Spears


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