As speculation about a new church temple in Smithfield continues to swirl, the city’s mayor this week said the municipality has yet to be contacted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Meanwhile, however, the church has revealed both a location and design for a new temple in Helena, Montana, one of 20 towns selected for new temples along with Smithfield as revealed in an announcement during the church’s General Conference in early April.
Smithfield Mayor Jeffrey Barnes said if the church has yet to settle on a temple location among the four vacant properties it owns in Smithfield, city officials think they could be helpful in the site-selection process.
“We’ve had a discussion in the city on whether they’re sold on any of those locations or whether when they do come to the city and talk to us whether we can suggest some other properties that might interest them as well,” Barnes said. “There are other properties in the city they could look at.”
Among the four properties currently owned by the church, the most likely spot for the temple is a 13.32-acre lot at 100 North and 800 West, Barnes believes. The other three, including one on higher ground near the mouth of Smithfield Dry Canyon, are only about 3 acres in size, which he views as too small for such an edifice.
When the religious organization purchased the large west-side lot last June, Smithfield officials wondered what was up.
“We saw that the church bought that property and we wondered what for, and in the office we kind of laughed because someone said, ‘Oh they’re going to build a temple there,’” Barnes said. “Then it was announced, and we laughed again.”
Ultimately, the church will have to contact town officials to navigate the planning-and-zoning process. City water and sewer services have already been extended close to the west-side property because of housing developments just north of there, but one consideration could be a height restriction currently in place. The city has yet to allow any three-story townhouses, according to Barnes, so a zoning variance could be needed.
Situating a temple in the flight path of the Logan/Cache Valley Municipal Airport could also become a factor, he said.
With the exception of a tall spire, the Helena temple, as envisioned in plans released by the church, will only be one story high. An article in The Deseret News reported the plan there calls for a roughly 10,000-square-foot building, which would rank among the four smallest Latter-day Saint temples in the world.
Some observers believe Smithfield would warrant a much larger temple than Helena due to the large Latter-day Saint population in northern Cache Valley.
Barnes said excitement among Smithfield residents has been high since the conference announcement. His phone was flooded with messages in the immediate aftermath, and there has been a lot of chatter since.
“We are excited about it,” he said. “The residents are going to be happy to have a temple so close, not just the residents of Smithfield but all the towns to the north that won’t have to drive to Logan to attend the temple. … It’s getting harder and harder to get into a temple.”