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Plan for Hindu temple in west Forsyth dealt setback
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Forsyth County News

WEST FORSYTH — A recent court ruling has sent a proposal for a Hindu temple in west Forsyth back to the planning stages, though the organization appears prepared to press on with the matter.

On May 29, Chief Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley denied a motion for summary judgment made by Chinmaya Mission of Alpharetta and reversed the decision of the Forsyth County commission, which approved a conditional use permit. The decision returns the proposal back to the county’s planning department, where Chinmaya must begin the application process anew.

The move had been sought by James Cartwright and the Polo Fields Golf and Country Club Homeowners Association Inc. The neighborhood sits across the street from the proposed temple and, according to their attorney, Kevin Tallant, never received a mandatory notice of public participation meetings.

“We filed our Superior Court action because we believed that the applicant did not comply with the requirements of the unified development code, which required the applicant to do several things, including sending a notice to all homeowners association within 500 feet of their property,” Tallant said.

Last summer, the Forsyth County commission approved Chinmaya Mission of Alpharetta’s plan to operate a religious place of worship and priest residence in an existing structure that is about 10,000 square feet on nearly 11 acres off Pittman Road.

The Hindu organization also got permission to build several additional buildings that would bring the project to about 60,000 square feet with some 300 parking spaces.

Last month, Forsyth County’s zoning board of appeals denied an appeal from Polo Fields, ruling that the setup would have religious uses rather than education ones.

The attorney for Chinmaya, Stuart Teague, said the changes required in Bagley’s ruling were procedural, not difficult to fix and likely would limit what could be petitioned in the future.

“Because it’s a remand, it really goes back just to fix those issues that the court found hadn’t been complied with,” Teague said. “So our position is that the petitioners, Polo and Cartwright, are pretty much limited in what they can argue from here on out.”

During the hearing, other issues, including an incorrect conditional use permit application number on public participation sign-in sheets and sign errors were discussed, but Teague said they didn’t factor into the judge’s decision.

“Most of those issues, the court actually found that they weren’t significant enough to amount to anything really,” he said. “The court did find that when they had the public participation meeting Chinmaya didn’t send a notice to one of the adjacent property owners, and that was the reason that they needed to remand it.

“Ultimately, all this really amounts to is a delay. It doesn’t really settle the issue in the long term for anybody. Chinmaya is not going anywhere. They’re going to pursue it until they can get the things resolved. ”

Teague said he wasn’t sure whether Chinmaya would appeal the judge’s ruling, but would likely follow the county’s lead.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said Forsyth would “pursue multiple legal avenues to address the order.”

Teague also said that this would only delay the opening of the mission.

“Ultimately, all this really amounts to is a delay. It doesn’t really settle the issue in the long term for anybody,” Teague said. “Chinmaya is not going anywhere. They’re going to pursue it until they can get the things resolved.”