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Temple expansion allowed
Commission votes 3-1 on changes to Hindu facility
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth County commissioners granted a requested expansion Thursday for a Hindu temple on James Burgess Road.

The board voted 3-1, with Commissioner Todd Levent opposed, to approve the conditional use permit for the Shirdi Sai Temple with an amended sketch plat. Commissioner Brian Tam was absent.

Planning director Tom Brown said the county has changed its zoning requirements for religious facilities since the temple first received approval.

Under the new requirements, all religious uses must receive a conditional use permit instead of a sketch plat approval, which required the temple to seek a CUP instead of an amendment to its previously approved plans.

Architect Ishwar Dayabhai said although the application process was for a new permit, the request was in effect “a minor amendment to a previously approved sketch plat.”

The new plans for future development on the 13.5-acre site double the size of the planned multi-purpose hall, increase parking and remove two separate buildings that would have been the priest quarters and meditation hall.

The multipurpose hall would be about 22,000 square feet, instead of the originally proposed 10,000 square feet, and it would go next to the temple instead of north of it.

Adding to the existing temple of about 13,500 square feet and other small buildings, the total development would still total about 39,000 square feet due to the removal of other buildings in the original plan.

The concept plan states the multipurpose hall would be two stories with parking below.

The major difference in the plans calls to increase parking from the 211 spots shown in the sketch plat to 308.

Members of the temple said cars spill out into the road now as people search for an open spot among the 108 that have already been built, so they expect the increase in parking to reduce road traffic.

Dayabhai said the temple’s membership has essentially “plateaued” and so the expansion to parking will serve to meet existing needs, rather than draw in more people.

Area residents expressed concern about the increasing congestion on two-lane James Burgess Road from the impact of several new and planned developments, including the temple expansion.

John Cunard, county engineering director, said a traffic study was not required for the temple’s request since the existing right and left turn lanes were determined to be “adequate” for the traffic generated by Shirdi Sai.

Speaking to other residents’ concerns about storm water runoff and the detention pond, Cunard said any needed upgrades would be required prior to permitting.

Commissioner Jim Boff, who represents the district of the temple, motioned to approve the conditional use permit after asking staff questions about some of the concerns raised.

Levent voted in opposition after requesting a postponement to June 6.

Levent said he didn’t feel comfortable voting in favor without getting “proper information” on what he considered unanswered questions.