Mormon church plans to build Camas temple

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased property near 192nd Avenue in west Camas for $8.25M in May 2023

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Cars drive past the Kielo at Grass Valley apartments off Northwest 38th Avenue in west Camas, across from undeveloped land owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Monday, March 11, 2024. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has announced plans to build its sixth Washington state temple in Camas.

The LDS church, also known as the Mormon church, announced in October 2023, that it planned to build 20 new temples worldwide, including one in the Vancouver area.

On Feb. 26, the website churchofjesuschrist announced more details about the local temple, and said the church had announced plans to build a temple on a 15-acre site near the intersection of Southeast Bybee Road and Southeast 20th Street in Camas, close to 192nd Avenue and the Camas-Vancouver border.

“Plans call for a multistory temple of approximately 43,000 square feet,” the site noted.

According to Clark County property documents, the church, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, purchased several parcels of land near the intersection of Southeast Bybee Road and Northwest 38th Avenue in west Camas for $8.25 million in May 2023.

The proposed temple site is adjacent to a sanitary lift station owned by the city of Camas and close to Evergreen Tennis, Fisher Investments and two apartment complexes — Kielo at Grass Valley and Grandview Place.

The sites purchased by the Mormon church are zoned for regional commercial use. According to the city of Camas, the Regional Commercial (RC) Zone is the largest of the City’s commercial zones, designed to “serve the region or a significant portion of the region’s population” with commercial merchants selling “apparel, home furnishings and general merchandise … as well as providing services for food clusters and some recreational activities.”

Bryan Rachal, communications director for the city of Camas, said the City’s regional commercial zone allows church uses outright, so the LDS church will not need a conditional-use permit to build on the land. Rachal added that, as of Monday, March 11, the church had not yet submitted any development applications with the City.

Nonetheless, the planned Camas temple has already drawn opposition from at least one citizen.

On Monday, March 4, a man spoke in front of the Camas City Council and said he opposed the construction of the LDS temple on that particular piece of Camas land.

“I feel like, to tear down that corner for a temple, does not resonate with the needs of that community,” Enoch Tsai told Camas officials.

For 16 years, Tsai said, he and his family have “upheld a tradition every evening: walking down Bybee up 38th (Avenue) and among the trees on that site.”

The Tsai family marvels at the abundance of migratory birds on the undeveloped site, he said.

“I am filled with the realization that this tradition may soon come to an end,” Tsai told the Council members. “I’ve always viewed Camas as a city that coexists among nature … businesses, apartment complexes and multigenerational homes built their identity next to this fragile connection to (nature).”

Tsai said the proposed temple site is home to deer and other wildlife and “bordered by protected land and wetland buffers.” He urged the Camas City Council to oppose the temple construction and keep the land — which is privately owned by the Mormon church — an undeveloped place where “families will find a peace and a reason to stay generation after generation.”

According to an article published Oct. 4, 2023, in The Post-Record’s sister publication, The Columbian, there are more than 280,000 LDS members in Washington state who belong to 489 congregations. The closest Mormon temple to Southwest Washington is the 80,500-square-foot temple in Lake Oswego, Oregon, located about 30 miles southwest of Camas.

A report by thechurch, said LDS President Russell M. Nelson announced in October 2023 that the addition of the 20 planned temples — including six new United States-based temples in Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, Oklahoma and Virginia and 14 international temples in Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Samoa — will bring the total number of LDS temples to 335 worldwide.

“President Nelson has announced 153 new temples in the five years and eight months he has served as president of the Church,” reported.

The Post-Record was unable to reach a spokesperson for the church’s Camas-area chapter in time for this newspaper’s print deadline.