A proposal from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build a new temple in Cody is stirring a feud of biblical proportions.
One of the main issues with the plan is where the Mormon Church wants to build its Cody Wyoming Temple. It wants to build it in a residential neighborhood overlooking much of the town.
The 9,950-square foot temple would sit on a 4.69-acre parcel of land in city limits.
Then there’s its height, which at a proposed 101 feet tall at the peak of the temple’s tower is more than triple the city’s 30-foot height limit in the area’s zoning district.
“It’s a massive structure,” Terry Skinner said on KODI Radio on Monday. He’s a member of Preserve Our Cody Neighborhoods, a group that’s formed to oppose the project.
Seeing The Light
Preserve Our Neighborhoods had set up a crane near where the proposed structure will be built to showcase how tall the temple will stand. A flag sitting atop the crane can be seen from even far away in and around Cody.
Church leaders are seeking a conditional use permit with the city for the temple and an auxiliary building, along with a special exemption request to exceed the 30-foot height limit. The multi-tiered steeple capped with a gold pyramidal spire will make the temple by far the tallest structure in Cody.
The construction will include building a new street to the site with a cul-de-sac turnaround and a 140-space parking area that will be lighted.
Carla Egelhoff, also a Preserve Our Cody Neighborhoods member, said it has been reported that the tower will be illuminated 24 hours a day.
Temples are not regular places of Sunday worship for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and hold a much more exclusive place within the religion. They’re reserved for the religion’s most sacred ceremonies and require a “recommend” from church leaders for members to go inside.
Anyone, regardless of religion, may enter a LDS meetinghouse and attend church services, but a temple is limited to members of the church who are in good standing, aside from a public open house initially held when a temple first opens.
Keep Religion Out Of It
The neighborhood group says the temple doesn’t follow the city’s master plan when it comes to building and developing and that project infringes on the architectural integrity of the neighborhood surrounding it. Also, it will cause light pollution, dangerous traffic and damage to wildlife habitat.
Under the master plan, the existing character of the city’s neighborhoods and residential areas must be maintained. New development not in harmony with this character is discouraged.
“Once there’s an exception made to the existing rules, where else could developers or whomever take advantage of that precedence and do what they wish?” Skinner asked.
Some people have criticized the Mormon religion itself in their opposition to the structure.
Luke Hopkin, a Cody resident and LDS member, told Cowboy State Daily he supports an open discussion on the building as long as it solely pertains to the facility, which he said will be located 350 feet from the nearest residence. The neighboring residences are relatively upscale.
“Honest questions or concerns about the temple project, or sincere questions about the LDS religion, are welcome in my opinion,” Hopkin said. “The negative comments, and misinformation, about the temple and the religion don't personally bother me, but they also don't help the conversation. They muddy the water of honest concerns and cause division and unnecessary strife.”
Plans for the temple first surfaced in October 2021, but it was not announced at that time where in Cody it would be located.
On March 13, the location of the temple was revealed — in an empty field in a more affluent part of town overlooking downtown Cody.
About 11% of Wyoming residents are Mormons, with 7,800 living in the Big Horn Basin of northern Wyoming.
As the only temple in the Big Horn Basin, Hopkin said the facility will be a regional draw. Hopkin travels nearly two hours away to Billings, Montana, about once a month to visit the temple there.
“You can expect all the LDS in the Big Horn Basin,” Hopkin said about who would use the temple. “By far the majority of people going there would be those currently going to Billings.”
Although Hopkin said people will hardly notice when ceremonies are taking place at the temple, he also said the Cody Wyoming Temple will bring an economic benefit to the town, with people going shopping, eating out or conducting other errands before or after their temple visits.
Some have expressed concern the temple will bring heightened traffic to their residential neighborhood.
“With a large building with many cars, that’s going to change the lifestyle significantly and not be particularly safe,” Protect Our Neighborhoods member Doug Peterson said in the KODI interview.
The Cody Wyoming Temple would be the third LDS temple in Wyoming. A larger temple was built in Star Valley in 2016 and another is under construction in Casper that will be roughly the same size as the Cody one.
A public hearing scheduled for Wednesday to consider zoning applications related to the temple was canceled two days before it was to be held. The city announced that the church has withdrawn both of its applications, but plans to resubmit them with the goal of holding a new hearing in June.
City Planner Todd Stowell did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment about why the application was rescinded.
On Monday, the Cody Wyoming Temple also rescheduled a community open house it was supposed to host Wednesday.
Over the past two days, Preserve Our Cody Neighborhoods has been hosting petition signings at a local park to oppose the project.
Peterson said members of his group have concerns that if the Cody Planning and Zoning Board grants the exceptions to the LDS temple, it will spark a trend of similar actions that chip away at the intent of the city’s master plan, such as building 10-story buildings in the historic downtown district.
“There will be a precedent set if these things are negated so they can build a temple,” he said. “That’s a concern.”