Now that a building permit has been approved for a controversial Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in Cody, the church can start construction on the 101-foot-tall building despite an ongoing legal effort to halt the project.
Preserve Our Cody Neighborhoods (POCN), a local group opposing the location of the proposed temple, has filed preliminary injunction requests in Park County District Court to prevent its construction, but until those requests are addressed by the court, they have no legal standing to block the project.
The ultimate question at this juncture is, will the church wait until the legal challenge has been heard, or will it break ground and go forward with building the temple regardless?
Representatives from the church did not respond to multiple requests from Cowboy State Daily for comment. POCN has reported it also has asked the church that question and hasn’t received an answer.
The church typically holds a well-publicized ceremonial groundbreaking when it builds a new temple.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were no signs of construction activity at the temple site aside from a few survey flags. Terry Skinner, a POCN representative who lives near the site, said these flags have been up for months.
Last week, a scheduling conference was held by Judge John Perry for representatives of the city of Cody, POCN and church attorneys to plan the timelines for the four petitions filed in court related to the temple. POCN has filed injunctions on the site plan and conditional use permits for the temple project.
The result of this conference was an Oct. 23 deadline for all parties to submit and present evidence on the stay pending administrative appeals. A date for oral arguments to be presented at the Park County Courthouse also will be set in the near future.
POCN reports that depending on how the court rules on the stay, there also may be a trial held in Cody on the evidence related to it. Based on the timing of filing periods, that hearing may not happen before early 2024.
There are four ongoing court petitions challenging decisions made regarding the temple construction by the Cody Planning and Zoning Board. Since the city has approved the building permit for the project, POCN says it will convert its previous motions for a stay against the city to a stay against the church to not build.
In a Sept. 15 court filing, the church argued that if the court grants an injunction, POCN must provide a sufficient security or bond to make up for potential financial losses the church could incur because of the delays.
The church said any permit delay “would adversely affect the public’s interest” and would result in “construction setbacks and significant financial losses.”
“The harm caused to the church by continued delay outweighs any injury to the neighborhood group,” it states in one filing.
The church estimates it’s losing $200,000 each month the project is delayed because of inflation and other related construction costs. It has determined the value of the property and the temple itself at $41 million.
The church has said the neighborhood group doesn’t have legal standing to bring its appeals or that the city’s Planning and Zoning Board’s approval of the temple were “arbitrary or capricious.”
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.