Mormon Church Sues Cody Over Planning And Zoning Board’s Denial Of Temple Plan

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is asking for a judicial review of the city of Cody Planning and Zoning Board’s dismissal of part of its plan to build a 101-foot-tall temple and steeple.

Leo Wolfson

July 20, 20233 min read

An artist's rendering of what the proposed Cody Wyoming Temple would look like.
An artist's rendering of what the proposed Cody Wyoming Temple would look like. (Courtesy Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

Just as it seemed debate over a proposed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in Cody couldn’t get any more heated, it has.

The church has filed a lawsuit against the Cody Planning and Zoning Board for a ruling the board made against the church's June 15 rejection of the commercial site plan for the temple, which would feature a controversial 77-foot steeple and be illuminated late into the evening.

The topic of the steeple has drawn more opposition than any other aspect of the project but this piece of the project is not directly addressed in the court filing.

The commercial site plan pertains to the requirements needed to make the church fit with its surroundings in the rural residential neighborhood it is located in. Many opponents of the project have said the temple should not be located at its proposed site.

On Monday, the church filed a petition for review in Park County District Court, accusing the city of breaking its own regulations when it ruled that a majority of the board’s members didn’t support its site plan.

The Meeting

At the June 15 meeting, five of the seven board members were in attendance. A motion was made to approve the site plan and three of the board members voted in favor of it, making the vote 3-1 in favor of the church. One member present abstained from the vote.

Gaining approval for the site plan on the 4.69-acre parcel overlooking Cody is a critical part of the approval process for the temple, as it will help give basic approval to build it and an ancillary building.

Board Chairman Carson Rowley then determined that the motion failed because it had not received a majority vote of support from all seven board members, including the two who were absent. By that count, approval would require at least four votes.

The church is requesting judicial review of the decision, claiming that city code only requires the support from a majority of board members in attendance as long as a quorum is present. 

Cody Municipal Code 9-2-3 says “that an affirmative vote of a majority of the Planning, Zoning and Adjustment Board members in attendance at said meeting.”

“Accordingly, the approval of three members of the board (a majority of those in attendance) was sufficient to approve the site plan,” writes Sheridan attorney Kendal Hoopes in the petition. 

Hoopes, who represented the church at the meeting, filed the petition with the court.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bill Simpson, son of former Wyoming U.S. Sen. Al Simpson.

Special Meeting

A special meeting was held to discuss the temple Wednesday night. It was stated on the meeting agenda that no action would be taken.

The board planned to “discuss findings of fact” as it pertains to the church’s conditional use permit and special exemption permit for the temple. 

The special exemption is for a 77-foot steeple affixed atop the temple that potentially exceeds the height restrictions in the residential rural neighborhood it's being built in.

At the second meeting on the temple, the board determined thatany approval of a conditional use permit for the temple would be contingent on accepting the special exemption for the steeple, an action that rescinded a previous vote accepting the permit.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter