Residents voice concerns over proposed Mormon temple

by Laura Bednar

July 10 planning commission public hearing

Independence residents took issue with the lighting, height and landscaping of a proposed Mormon temple to be built at 5997 Brecksville Rd.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acquired the property at the end of 2022. It spans 11 acres but Christian Stevens, architect with The Haskell Company, said only the front 5 acres would be developed.

The property is currently zoned residential and the church is seeking a special-use permit and consolidation of the two land parcels. City law director Greg O’Brien said a federal law passed in 2000 allows a church to build wherever they choose. If the city were to deny the request, Independence would likely lose in federal court, he said.

The temple, considered the most holy place for members of the faith, would be almost 9,000 square feet with a 100-foot tall spire, or steeple.

Longano Drive resident Wayne Benos said the area is residential and people don’t want to be disturbed. He asked if residents would see the steeple. Stevens said the steeple would be visible and is important to the faith as it reminds the people to look towards heaven.

Several residents spoke simultaneously expressing concerns over the height of the steeple. According to, the height of the Mormon temple in Columbus is 77 feet. Stevens said the building was a different design.

Dave Johnson, a bishop within the church, asked if Stevens or Jason Symons, church member and project manager, had conducted any studies as to how visible the steeple would be. Stevens said they had not.

Residents Linda Sobieraj and John Bodner both asked about lighting on the spire. Stevens said the spire will have subtle lighting, but would not be overpowering. “The lighting will meet city codes,” he said.

Resident Christine Novak asked if the steeple would be lit 24/7. Symons said the preference would be for the steeple to “be lit as long as possible, but we can work on that to be a good neighbor.”

Councilperson Jim Trakas suggested the church consider a “dusk-to-dawn” policy for the lighting.

O’Brien referenced the federal law, stating the city could take issue with the steeple height and lighting if they did not have religious significance.

A 2,200-square-foot ancillary building on the property would include a room for those waiting to enter the temple, space for maintenance equipment and restrooms.

One Longano Drive resident said the building, which was referred to as a “welcome center,” sounded like a lot of traffic. He said the building should not be placed in the neighbor’s backyards.

Stevens said the location of both the temple and building were planned around land grading, parking and required setback from a ravine. He added that trees and shrubs would be planted around the property to act as a buffer for the neighbors.

Mike Snyder, president of the Cleveland, Ohio stake, oversees eight Mormon congregations in the state. He said there would be no activities outside of the temple and there would be no services on Sunday. “We come to the temple because it’s the holiest place we have,” he said.

Hours of use are typically Monday through Saturday, from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Church members from other cities and states would travel to visit the temple, according to Stevens. He said there are 63,000 Mormons in Ohio, but scheduled visitors would come in small groups at different times.

Resident John Calabrese said he lives on Brecksville Road and would “rather have this in front of my house than AAA and Topgolf.”

Symons said, “Everything that’s said today will be taken to church leadership and discussed.” ∞