planning

Buddhist centre plans for derelict Southampton pub

A Buddhist group is trying to turn a boarded up derelict Southampton pub into a meditation centre.

The Plume of Feathers Pub in the St Mary’s area of the city has been boarded up for several months.

The Triratna Buddhist Order’s Southampton group has submitted a planning application to develop the pub in St Mary Street.

Leader Dharma Modna declined to comment on the proposal until the planning application had been heard.

Local councillor Sarah Bogle said: “I think it’s a really novel idea.

“I was surprised, to be honest, when I saw the planning application but also I thought why not?

“It’s …

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San Diego County group continues fight against meditation center

The Bonsall Community Sponsor Group has filed an appeal to the county Planning Commission’s April decision to allow a Buddhist monastery in Bonsall to expand into a meditation center.

County spokesman Gig Conaughton said the appeal could be heard by the Board of Supervisors sometime this summer.

The Bonsall Community Sponsor Group opposed the expansion of the Dai Dang Monastery when the project went before the local board, and group members argued that it would be inappropriate for the area at last month’s Planning Commission meeting.

Opponents also included neighbors, a local farmer and the Farm Bureau.

The monastery is at 6326 Camino del …

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San Diego Planning Commission to hear proposal for Buddhist monastery expansion

Gary Warth, North Country Times: The San Diego County Planning Commission is scheduled on Friday to hear a proposal to add a meditation center to a Buddhist monastery in Bonsall, and a community group plans on fighting the project with a petition signed by about 400 people.

The Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation Congregation has proposed the expansion of the Dai Dang Monastery off of Camino del Rey, and neighbors have said they fear that the quiet monastery where 10 monks live will become a noisy destination when hundreds of people begin visiting for ceremonies.

The Bonsall Community Sponsor Group, an advisory board to the San Diego …

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Zoning board denies meditation chapel variance

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A borough man’s variance request, to use his garage as a meditation gathering room for friends, was shot down Wednesday.

Deena DiBacco, Patch.com: Wednesday night, Collingswood [New Jersey] Zoning Board members unanimously denied a borough man’s use variance application, aimed at using his detached garage as a gathering place for group meditation.

Applicant Stephen Tumolo, who owns the said property at the unit block of Coulter Ave., holds a master’s degree in Theology and currently teaches religion at Camden Catholic High School.

Tumolo has lived at the 2-and-a-half story Coulter Ave. property for the past two years, which features a detached garage.

Wednesday night, Tumolo testified that 10 months after purchasing his home, he began making improvements to the garage space without building permits.

“A few times each month, I gather (in the garage) with friends to host a silent meditation and support group,” said Tumolo, adding that meetings originated…

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Buddhist community opens new meditation centre in Brno, Czech Republic

The local Buddhist community has built a new meditation centre in Brno, the Moravian capital and the Czech Republic’s second largest city with a population of 500,000, Marketa Blazejovska, from the community, has told CTK.

The new building worth 24 million crowns, named the Diamond Path House, has replaced the Buddhist community’s old headquarters, situated elsewhere, that had run out of capacity and could not be extended.

A half of the new building’s costs were financed from a grant, and the rest from an interest-free loan from a private foundation.

The debt has been repaid through donations from the centre members and supporters from the…

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Czech Republic and abroad.The house, with a hall with a capacity of 200 seats, has been built in a modern style.

Its architectonic design “corresponds to the way Buddhism functions in Western countries at present. Modern people are interested in Buddhist ideas and meditation methods, not in the Tibetan culture. That is why we didn’t want to build our meditation centre in an eastern style. On the contrary, we’ve stuck to Brno’s tradition of functionalism,” said Buddhist teacher Veronika Cerna, whose lecture will open the centre to the public on Monday.

She said the number of Brno residents showing interest in Buddhism and meditations has been on increase. People are ceasing to feel they could do with material values only, they want to develop and live a rich internal life. Many of them are university students, but families with children arrive as well, Cerna said.

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Marin planners contemplate Spirit Rock proposal

Marin County officials continued to wrestle with proposed plans for the Spirit Rock Meditation Center — even though the county staff says doing nothing would be worse for the environment than approving the Buddhist retreat’s newest plan.

County planning commissioners decided Monday they need more time to reflect on a new master plan for the complex and told planning staff to outline specifics of regulations limiting attendance at special events. Another session will be scheduled later.

“I’m wondering if we are moving ahead with this before we have the program written out,” said Commissioner Randy Greenberg of attendance regulations. “We don’t know the magnitude of the issue,” added colleague Wade Holland. “What if they get 25,000 people out there?”

A handful of special events over the past 20 years has attracted crowds of up to 1,600.

Although county staffers indicated that moving ahead with a proposal to relocate structures away from creeks and minimize grading would have less impact on the environment than proceeding with development plans approved in 1988, commissioners worried about how to handle crowds.

Jack Kornfield, one of the founders of the 410-acre Woodacre retreat…

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for those who seek Buddhist wisdom, said the center will limit daily attendance to 791 people, as long as it can hold two special events a year exceeding the limit.Commissioners seemed to agree that up to 1,500 will be permitted to attend two

special events at the facility each year, and asked staff to develop specific regulations regarding resource restrictions, traffic, parking, public safety and related permit issues. The panel said each special event would be subject to a use permit requiring a public hearing.
The center wants to relocate structures approved in 1988 but never built, eliminate temporary buildings and add about 6,000 square feet of new construction. The plan would reduce the number of residential retreat and staff units by 21 to a new maximum of 177. In all, the complex would include 142 retreat units, and another 35 for teachers and staff. Some 88 are already built.

Currently, an attendance cap of 315 people is in place, but the limit never has been enforced. Officials noted an environmental review indicated that even if 791 people were brought in to simultaneously jam every unit, meeting room, meditation and dining hall structure, stretching the septic system to capacity, there would be no significant impact.

Commissioner Katie Crecelius indicated planners were making a mountain out of a mole hill. “I actually think this isn’t such a big deal,” she said. “There is a very competent list of mitigation measures. … It’s an exceptional negative declaration (of environmental impact) for a project that is going to improve the environment at Spirit Rock.”

Several neighbors, citing traffic and related concerns, begged to differ, including Jean Berensmeier, head of the San Geronimo Valley Planning Group. She called the new plan “excessive” and contended the popular retreat is more than neighbors bargained for.

But Taylor Hamblett, head of the San Geronimo Valley Stewards, another valley group, called the plan a big improvment. “This is asking to do what already has been approved, better,” he said.

Contact Nels Johnson via e-mail at ij.civiccenter@gmail.com

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Noise, traffic, animal sacrifice (yes, really). These are the objections put up to block Buddhist groups

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Here at Wildmind we’ve reported on several Buddhist organizations that have faced strenuous opposition to establishing or expanding Buddhist centers. Usually the objections are supposedly about traffic, noise (meditation being a notoriously noisy activity), and in one case, the perceived nuisance of animal sacrifice.

John Pappas, a blogger at Elephant Journal, has collated a handy list of groups that have faced such planning objections:

  1. Berkeley Thai Buddhist temple ~ Asian Pacific Americans for Progress
  2. Vietnamese Buddhist Temple (Lansing, MI) ~ The State News
  3. Bat Nha Meditation Institute (Los Angeles, CA) ~ LA Times
  4. Yuan Yung Retreat Center (Rowland Hieghts, CA) ~ Buddhist Channel
  5. Dau Trang Minh Dang Quang Temple (Utica, NY) ~ WickedLocal
  6. Cambodian Buddhist Society of Connecticut (Newtown, Conn.) ~ The Newtown Bee
  7. Aram Buddhist Temple (Olive Township, MI) ~ The Holland Sentinel
  8. Chung Tai Zen Center (Walnut, CA) ~ God Discussion
  9. Dai Dang Monastery (Camino del Rey, CA) ~ North County Times
  10. Tam-Bao Buddhist Temple (Tulsa, OK) ~ Tulsa World
  11. Virginia Beach Temple (Virginia Beach, VA) ~ Hampton Roads

We can add to that list a homeless Vietnamese Zen group, led by Minh Cong Nguyen, which faced planning objections in Pelahatchie, Mississippi.

As John points out, “All of these issues brought up by citizens were with primarily Asian American sanghas.” He’s been unable to find any predominately non-Asian temple or Zen Center that has been hit with the same road-blocks. That’s been my own finding as we’ve reposted news stories on Wildmind.

As John goes on to point out, the inescapable conclusion of this is that there is a pattern of racism. It seem clear that planning objections are being used by the white, Christian population’s way of keeping their areas ethnically homogenous.

UPDATED

There have also been some recorded incidents of vandalism at Buddhist centers. In some cases these may be simple theft or casual vandalism, but in others, such as at the Phuoc Hau Temple in South Louisville, Kentucky (see image) there’s an element of at least religious, if not outright racist, hatred.

Arun at the Angry Asian blog, started keeping a map of incidents he read about, although fortunately there are only four pins in his Google Map.

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151 comment letters, petition received on Buddhist temple

The public comment period on the re-circulated draft environmental Mitigated Negative Declaration for the proposed Buddhist temple in Bonsall [California] closed Feb. 11, and the county’s Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) received 151 comment letters and one petition.

DPLU received 45 public comment letters critical of the project, 106 letters supportive of the project, and a supportive petition with 804 signatures. DPLU staff will review and respond to all comments, although the response to any comments not related to California Environmental Quality Act issues will be that the comments are outside the purview of the environmental statement.

DPLU staff does not currently have an estimate when the potential Major Use Permit would go to the county’s Planning Commission for a decision. Although the Planning Commission has the authority to issue or deny a Major Use Permit, the decision can be appealed by either side to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

The Major Use Permit would legalize the existing religious assembly and group residential uses on the 8.94-acre site with A70 (limited agriculture) agricultural zoning while also approving the future addition of 22,796 square feet of building area to bring the total amount of building area to approximately 33,475 square feet. The conditions of the Major Use Permit would restrict hours of operation, the number of large events, and the maximum number of visitors.

The property in the 6300 block of Camino Del Rey was purchased by the Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation Congregation in 2001. Previous uses on the property included…

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horse keeping and horticulture, and the native vegetation has been removed due to the past residential and agricultural activity. Eucalyptus is grown on-site for sale to plant and flower businesses.

An existing one-story house with 2,840 square feet of living space and a three-car garage is currently being used as a rectory, and the proposed Major Use Permit plans to convert that building into a library and study rooms. A converted horse stable measuring approximately 5,151 square feet is approximately 50 feet north of the house and would be converted to a storage facility.

A feed and equipment storage building totaling 2,164 square feet is approximately 30 feet from the converted stables but would be removed to provide parking on the site. A 573 square foot two-bedroom trailer which was once used as a caretaker’s residence is planned to remain in that use. A groundwater well at the southwest corner of the property is used for irrigation of the plants grown on the property, and the conditions of the Major Use Permit include the destruction of that well.

The site’s current uses include quiet meditation during the weekdays and religious assembly on the weekends during which between 100 and 300 people visit the facility. There are no formal parking facilities other than those which were provided for the existing single-family residence, and access to the site is provided by an existing driveway off of Camino Del Rey.

The 22,796 square feet of new building facilities would consist of a 6,196 square foot main worship hall, a 7,664 square foot meditation hall, and an 8,936 square foot monk residence hall. The two-story residence hall would include 12 double-occupancy bedrooms, a communal bathroom on each story, a laundry room, a locker room, three multi-purpose rooms totaling approximately 900 square feet, an isolation bedroom with a private bathroom, a library, a 325 square foot kitchen connected to a 1,055 square foot dining room, and a 450 square foot office and reception area.

The accommodations would provide for approximately 30 monks at any time. The residence hall would have a maximum height of 33 feet, 2 inches.

The meditation hall would be a partial two-story building with architectural features creating a height of up to 29 feet. A large main room would have an altar at the east end for congregational assembly and meditation, and approximately 1,725 square feet would be used for a multi-purpose room which would also serve as a weekend food warming kitchen and weekend dining hall. The second floor would include a conference room measuring approximately 2,430 square feet. Both stories would have restrooms.

The main worship hall building would be 35 feet in height, and a steeple over the altar area would extend the height to 40 feet. In addition to a large room for congregational assemblies, the main worship hall would include daily administrative use office space and restrooms on both stories, and the second story would have approximately 1,440 square feet of study and private meditation area.

The grading of 14,400 cubic yards of cut and 13,400 cubic yards of fill would create an export of 1,000 cubic yards, and the relocation of the driveway to meet County of San Diego sight distance requirements would involve movement of 3,400 cubic yards of cut and 4,900 cubic yards of fill.

A 24-foot-wide paved driveway from Camino del Rey would serve as the main access while emergency access would be provided from Wrightwood Way at the site’s northern boundary. The 81 parking spaces would include six handicapped spaces, and a permanent overflow parking area would have a capacity of an additional 41 parking spaces.

The monks do not drive cars, and no visitors would be allowed after 5 p.m. The center would operate between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and Buddhist holidays; normal weekend meditation activity would occur approximately 45 times a year and would attract up to 300 people. Four special religious events each year, based on Buddhist holidays, are expected to attract between 300 and 600 people, and three annual events associated with Buddhist holidays or a visit from the Headmaster would attract up to 1,000 people.

Amplified sound would be used in the interior of the buildings, but not in any exterior areas, during special events. In order to monitor and control the number of visitors and parking spaces, the Dai Dang Meditation Center would set up a Website and require that all who attend the special events pre-register on-line.

The Website would not only register the total number of people for each event but would also assign parking spaces to the visitors. All guests would be required to print out a parking pass or permit prior to arriving at the site, and no visitors would be allowed to enter the site by automobile without such a pass or permit.

If the number of guests is projected to exceed 300 people, privately-contracted passenger busses would be utilized and staged at the parking lot of the Bonsall Union School District, which is approximately 1.75 miles west of the site. The facility would not have a gift shop or other retail sales.

The existing on-site septic system would be upgraded to 7,000 gallons to support 100 guests, 30 full-time residents, and four volunteers. The Major Use Permit would require portable toilets for any event attended by more than 100 people. The new construction would also include two stormwater detention basins.

The original application for the Dai Dang Meditation Center was submitted on April 2, 2004. Three drafts of initial studies preceded the first draft environmental Negative Declaration, which was advertised for public review in October 2007. The response to public comments on that draft Negative Declaration was completed in May 2008, and the public review was followed by submittal of a visual study and submittal of the first draft of extended initial studies following the public review. The first draft of initial studies following the public review was submitted in November 2009, and subsequent draft initial studies led to the recirculation of the draft Mitigated Negative Declaration.

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Buddhist group claims discrimination behind zoning problems

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Mary Pulley, Fox 4, Kansas City — A Johnson County Buddhist church has outgrown its building, and they have a new place to worship picked out. But so far they have been denied the right to use it, and a metro Buddhist leader says that zoning isn’t the reason why they can’t move in.

The Lao-Buddhist Association is trying to move its Olathe temple to a location along 119th Street in Olathe. But the Johnson County Board of Commissioners has so far denied the group a conditional use permit. Neighbors say that the area the Buddhists have chosen is zoned residential, but Lama Chuck Stanford of the Rime Buddhist Center says that discrimination is the real reason behind the opposition.

“This is clearly just ugliness of ethnic and religious prejudice,” said Stanford.

Neighbors, who refused to go on camera, told FOX 4 that being opposed to the Buddhist temple doesn’t make him a bigot, while another neighbor told FOX 4 that other commercial proposals in the neighborhood have been declined as well.

Standord notes that Christian churches are common in residential areas, and that comments made by residents during a January zoning board meeting indicate fear and ignorance. At the meeting, people raised concerns about traffic, water pollution and “animal sacrifices,” along with noise from gongs, which Stanford says are no louder than church bells.

“I’m so shocked that this year, in 2011, in Johnson County, their people would be a little more liberal, and better educated, than that,” said Stanford.

The Johnson County Department of Planning, Development and Codes has recommended approval of the Buddhist’s permit. But the Northwest Consolidated Zoning Board voted unanimously to recommend denial of the request.

The Lao-Buddhist Association has submitted a second, scaled-back plan to the board, but neighbors say that if it is passed it will open the door for other commercial properties in the area. The Board of Commissioners will take up the issue next Thursday night.

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Community planners hear more comments on Buddhist monastery expansion

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Gary Warth, North County Times, California: Proponents of a Buddhist meditation center proposed for Bonsall made one final pitch to a community advisory group Tuesday, but the project still seemed a tough sell to the board members.

“You want to work with the community?” Bonsall Community Sponsor Group member Mark Litner said to Frank Hoang, who represents the project. “I’m not feeling the love here of you trying to work with the community whatsoever.”

The meeting Tuesday was the second time in two weeks that the Sponsor Group, an advisory board to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, listened to public comments about a proposed three-building meditation center planned by the Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation Congregation for the Dai Dang Monastery off of Camino del Rey.

The Sponsor Group did not vote on the project Tuesday, but comments from individual members will be submitted to a county-required mitigated negative declaration, a document that describes why a proposed project would not have a significant impact on the environment.

About 10 Buddhist monks live at the monastery, which has operated for 10 years at 6326 Camino del Rey in Bonsall. The congregation hopes to expand the property, increasing the number of monks living at the site to 30. The number of people attending services on Sundays is expected to increase from about 100 to 300, and the congregation could hold four events a year that would each attract up to 1,000 people.

Residents near the monastery have expressed concerns that the center will be too large for the site and will increase traffic through the rural community.

Neighbors on Wrightwood Road to the north of the monastery said they are concerned that their street will be used as a second entrance to the property and that construction trucks will roll past their homes while the center is being built.

Hoang told the Sponsor Group that Wrightwood Road would not be used as an entrance to the meditation center, but said construction crews would have an option to use the road if they are willing to put up a bond that would pay for any damages they cause.

“That’s not acceptable,” a resident in the audience responded.

“What about peoples’ lives?” another said.

Public comments to the mitigated negative declaration will be accepted by the county until Feb. 11. County staff members then have three weeks to prepare the report for a public hearing that will be scheduled before the county Planning Commission. Any decision by the commission can be appealed to the county Board of Supervisors.

Hoang said that if the project is approved by the county, construction could begin by the end of the year. Asked after the meeting if he thought the county would approve the plans, Hoang said, “Our project is spotless.”

The Sponsor Group and several residents at the past two Bonsall meetings, however, had several objections to the project, including buses, possible ground contamination and portable toilets that would be placed within view of neighbors during large events.

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