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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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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Neighbors wary of proposed new meditation center

The Bonsall [California] Community Sponsor Group delayed its recommendation on the Dai Dang Monastery‘s expansion plans after hearing more than two hours of testimony Tuesday night.

The group serves as an advisory body to the county Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say on the Buddhist monastery’s proposal for a two-story meditation center. The Bonsall advisory group has unanimously opposed expansion plans for the monastery in the past.

Several residents spoke against the planned expansion. Wrightwood Road residents to the north of the monastery expressed concerns, for example, that their street would be used as a new entrance to the center.

The monastery opened at 6326 Camino del Rey in Bonsall in 2001 and has been planning to build a meditation center since 2006.

The center would feature three new, two-story buildings, a paved 81-space parking lot and an unpaved 41-space lot on about 9 acres. The center now has two buildings it uses for a meditation center and a residence for 10 monks.

While some residents said they are concerned the new 7,664-square-foot meditation hall and 6,196-square-foot worship hall would open the door for large events at the site, monk Joe Roissier said the buildings are designed for quiet activities.

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“It seems like a lot of square footage,and I think people are concerned about that,” he said. “But we’re only there two times a day, and we’re sitting quietly, meditating.”

Monastery leaders said the expanded project would provide living quarters for about 20 more monks and that visitors on Sunday would increase from about 120 to 300.

Frank Hoang, spokesman for the monastery, said the center each year also may hold up to four events that attract 1,000 people.

The county requires a major use permit to build the project. As part of the process, the monastery also must acquire a mitigated negative declaration, a document that describes why it would not have a significant environmental impact in the area.

Public comments about the mitigated negative declaration will be accepted by the county until Feb. 11. The sponsor group held its meeting Tuesday to hear from the community before submitting its commits about the document. It will take up the issue again at its regular meeting 7 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Bonsall Community Center, 31505 Old River Road.

Chairwoman Margarette Morgan said she found many faults with the document, including a reference to the Borrego Springs Fire Department rather than the local fire department.

“There are so many errors, it’s unbelievable,” she said. “I am most displeased with the county.”

Morgan grilled Alex Jewell of project designer RBF Consulting about several aspects of the plan, including a proposed unlocked gate at Wrightwood Road, a concern to residents on that street. Jewell said fire officials said the gate should be unlocked for safety reasons. Morgan said that was unusual because emergency crews have keys to gated streets.

Other board members faulted the plan for having an unpaved parking lot, which they said could contaminate the ground, and questioned how a septic system could handle 300 guests on Sundays and up to 1,000 during special events.

Tan Nguyen, who said he is a consultant to the monastery monks, told the board that the congregation has operated peacefully throughout its 10-year history in the community.

“This project is for all of the Bonsall community, not just for us,” he said. “You are welcome to come here. We are here to share. We are here not to make any noise or any problems. You haven’t seen any traffic accidents or complaints. We don’t understand why you are opposing this thing, This is for everybody.”

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Monk’s displaced congregation opens new home in Jackson, Mississippi

Minh Cong Nguyen has found a home for his displaced Buddhist congregation – this time outside of Rankin County.

Nguyen opened a Zen Center last month on Terry Road, just south of U.S. 80, which will house meditation classes and worship services.

He holds worship services on Sunday for Buddhists as well as meditation classes for everyone.

“Westerners are invited,” the monk said of the free classes he will start holding on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The first is Saturday.

Americans live a stressed-out lifestyle, and these two-hour sessions give people a mental break, he said.

“Our minds are like a computer,” he said. “You keep putting too much information in it. Meditation is the delete key.”

Nguyen’s quiet little studio, behind Kim’s Seafood, is a break to the busy roads around it. Each class will have 12 people.

Interested people may e-mail him.

“I came here to open my doors for everyone,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen came to the Jackson area from Biloxi last year to set up a Buddhist temple. He chose a site north of Pelahatchie in rural Rankin County.

“They didn’t have a temple here,” he said.

Neighbors filed complaints, and the plans to expand the temple, located in a spruced up mobile home, were halted when a stop-work order was placed on the facility.

Officials denied a request for a building permit in September, citing public safety as the chief issue.

Located on a small feeder road to Mississippi 43, the church did not have the best transportation access, the board cited.

District 4 Supervisor Walter Johnson said he has heard an “outpouring of concern” from nearby residents about traffic, related to use and parking along the quiet lane, which was among the reasons supervisors cited for denying the request.

Nguyen said he does not plan to return to Rankin County. It wasn’t a good fit, he said.

Nguyen estimates there are 500-1,000 Buddhists in the metro area, saying a meeting he hosted at a Rankin school last summer drew 400 people.

Before coming to Jackson, Nguyen started a temple in Biloxi. He even rode out Hurricane Katrina, giving shelter to as many people as could fit in the building’s attic.

The water rose to an inch below the ceiling of the first floor, he said. They stayed calm through meditating, he said.

“A lot of Westerners came to my temple,” he said, a trend he hopes picks up at this new temple in Jackson. “When you meditate, it helps you reach peace.”

This article was originally published in the Clarion-Ledger.

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Buddhist temple project may begin in spring

A plan to build a Thai Buddhist temple in Columbus, Ohio, is far from dead. In fact, construction on the temple could begin in the spring.

Representatives of the Columbus Buddhism Center have submitted paperwork to the city requesting a lot split for property on Blacks Road.

They also have submitted new paperwork outlining possible plans for the temple.

John Tai, a representative from the Columbus Buddhism Center, could not be reached for comment on the temple project because he is out of the country, but Pataskala Planning Director Diane Harris said she has spoken to Tai and the project is moving forward.

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