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Nauvoo OKs parking garage permit

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NAUVOO, Ill. — Permits have been approved for $5.8 million in new construction by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A $2 million parking garage and a $3.8 million housing complex for LDS missionaries and workers were given approval without objection. The 60-unit housing complex will be built west of Illinois 96 in the city's recently designated outdoor museum district.

Plans call for a mix of single-family, duplex and multi-family units in a development consisting of 24 individual structures. Each would be a one- or two-story building consistent with the architecture already in the city's historic "flats" area.

The district consists of a number of 1840s-vintage structures important to LDS adherents and members of the Community of Christ Church, both of which operate visitors' centers in Nauvoo.

LDS authorities have planned a 200-car parking garage on the southwest corner of Illinois 96 and Bluff Street. That site is across the street from the church's $30 million Nauvoo Temple, now under construction. The garage will be given a brick facade in keeping with the area's architectural character, and will include public restrooms. An estimated 250,000 visitors tour Nauvoo each year, about 80 percent of them LDS church members. That number is expected to increase after the temple's completion, scheduled for early next year.

While the temple itself will be closed to all but faithful church followers after its dedication, officials said the garage will be available for all visitors.

The process used by the City Council to approve the new construction showed officials still need time to adjust to a new planning and zoning code. Approval had to wait until disputes over changes to building permit fees and a previously adopted zoning map could be worked out.

Ultimately, church representative Keith Stephan agreed to pay $6,000 for a permit to construct the garage and $11,400 for a permit to build the housing complex.

"It's a substantial change," Stephan said, noting the fees are hundreds of dollars more than called for under the old city ordinance. He asked city officials to remember the church's cooperation in future dealings.

Councilman Bob Soland's motion on Tuesday to approve the projects came with a warning that a traffic study is still due from church officials. The projects can go forward, he said, but the study must be complete by the time the temple is ready to open.

Nauvoo, a small town that has been significantly impacted by church development in the past few years, was under a building moratorium for some months. The moratorium was lifted earlier this year with the adoption of the city's first planning and zoning code. The council imposed the moratorium after a Utah company proposed an apartment complex in the city of about 1,200 residents.