Neighbors oppose church in rural settlement in Orange County

Proposal calls for Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints near Lake Avalon

By Clay LePard - Reporter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Residents in West Orange County are voicing opposition to a proposed church in their rural settlement. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has submitted a proposal to build a church on the corner of Davenport Road and Avalon Road near Lake Avalon. 

Initial plans called for a steeple as tall as 67 feet, despite county zoning rules limiting it to 35 feet. The church is seeking an exemption for the steeple. 

Randy Newton lives two properties over from the proposed church, which would replace an orange grove.  

"If you lived here, in this little piece of heaven, would you like to look at a steeple?" he said. "Can't stop progress, but we can try to protect our little slice of heaven."

Under the church's proposal, the church would also be used for recreational activities several days a week, as late as 9 p.m. 

"I have nothing against the church," Newton added. "If you're going to build one, build one to fit into the community." 

Several community meetings regarding the church have garnered more than 100 residents in attendance. 

Joel Staley, a spokesperson with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told News 6 the church has taken several steps to reassure residents. 

"We have listened carefully to the concerns of area residents," he said. "We want to assure them that the proposed chapel is a not a megachurch but a right-sized community church."

Staley pointed out that the church plans to reduce the height of the steeple from more than 60 feet to 55 feet, as well as adding an earth berm and landscaping to minimize noise and lights from cars in the parking lot. 

"Residents will find wherever our chapels have been established around the world, that we have been good neighbors and a long-term benefit to the communities we serve," he added.  

The issue is expected to go before the Board of Zoning Adjustment in August before ultimately making its way to the Board of County Commissioners.

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