Foothills site likely for Mormon temple

Church has land at Ina-Skyline; final decision pending
2013-05-04T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T11:21:34Z Foothills site likely for Mormon templeBecky Pallack Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The likely site of Tucson's first Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple is in the Catalina Foothills, near where East Ina Road curves into Skyline Drive.

Church planners submitted preliminary documents to Pima County showing a two-story, 34,000-square-foot temple on 7.46 acres the church purchased in 2010 for $1.6 million. The church also recently bought a home on one acre on the north edge of the possible temple location for $390,000.

At 34,000 square feet, the Tucson temple would be about one-fourth the size of Arizona's best-known LDS temple in Mesa.

The church has 400,000 members in Arizona, including 30,000 in Southern Arizona. The Tucson temple will be its sixth in Arizona.

David Hoefferle, Tucson Latter-day Saints spokesman, said no final decision has been made about the location of the Tucson temple, and the church has talked about at least two other sites. But a check with planning agencies in Tucson, Marana and Pima County turned up no similar plans submitted for other large church-owned properties in those jurisdictions.

The submission to the county, labeled "LDS Temple," includes site and floor plans, renderings of the building, surveys and environmental studies.

Chris Poirier, the county's assistant planning director, confirmed a church project manager has submitted preliminary plans to Pima County for review and is in talks with the county.

The property's existing zoning already allows religious uses, so the church will not have to go through a rezoning process.

The preliminary plans submitted to the county in February show the temple would have capacity for 450 people, with 260 parking spaces and a significant buffer of undeveloped desert land between the temple and the surrounding neighborhood.

Poirier said the county's height limit in that location is 44 feet plus a dome. While most of the structure appears to be within that limit, the preliminary submission includes a 95-foot spire that would require the church to apply to the Board of Adjustments - and likely have to go through an extensive review and hearing process - to get an exception.

Most LDS temples include soaring spires topped with a golden figure of the angel Moroni, who Mormons believe appeared to Joseph Smith and told him to start the church.

For comparison, the control tower at Tucson International Airport is 112 feet tall.

The church announced in October it would build a temple in Tucson, but has not publically announced details about where or how big it would be, or when it would be built. However, most of the temples built recently in the United States have started construction two to three years after they were announced..

Neighbors contacted by the Star said they were not aware of the plans and were not prepared to comment.

When told about the plan, Stan Kartchner, president of the Shadow Roc Homeowners Association, the neighborhood where the temple could be located, said, "That's cool. I like it."

"I'm a member of the church, so for me there's nothing but positive about having a temple in the neighborhood," he said.

Shadow Roc previously opposed an office development on that site "because it didn't seem like the right thing for the area," Kartchner said. A temple is "one of the more favorable uses we could imagine."

Kartchner hopes the church tells neighbors about the project and asks for feedback. He said traffic, lighting, size or height could be issues for neighbors, but those issues can be negotiated or addressed by the church.

Other large properties owned by the church that could accommodate a temple include 11 acres near Alvernon Way and the Rillito River and several large parcels in Marana. There are no plans on file for those properties.

While all signs point to the Ina/Skyline location, Hoefferle said from past experience the church could quickly identify another site, including one not currently in the church inventory.

On StarNet: To see more renderings and a map of the proposed building and site, go to azstarnet.com/gallery

Did you know?

Temples built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are significantly different than the church meeting houses that already dot the community.

Latter-day Saints churches are open to anyone. They have Sunday services and a host of other activities that take place in the churches of many other denominations.

Temples are considered to be the most sacred places on Earth and are open only to church members. They do not have congregations per se or traditional church services, but rather a number of small rooms where members can "shut out the world and ponder the things of greatest importance," as well as host marriages, baptisms and other ceremonies. They are closed on Sundays.

On the web

mormontemples.org/tucson

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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