Saturday, May 21, 2011

Neighbors Object to Hindu Temple Expansion Plans

The Hindu Temple of St. Louis says it's out of space and intends to expand its complex on Weidman Road to include an annex with classrooms, a dining hall, library and more parking.

But a neighborhood association says it has a host of concerns about the plan, primarily about disruptions to the residential life homeowners bought into some 30 years ago.

The complex, the largest of its kind in the region, started with the construction of the Mahatma Gandhi Cultural Center in 1991. A small temple was also built nearby a few months after, but it grew quickly. By 2000, artisans from India sculpted ornate details on a majestic gopuram, or main tower, that juts into the air above the tree line.

Until recently, the tower was lit up at night, much like the Mormon temple of Highway 40. The glowing Hindu temple has drawn comparisons to a spaceship.

In response to complaints, the temple set a timer on the lights a few weeks ago for 9 p.m., said G.V. Naidu, vice chairman of the temple's board of trustees. "We didn't realize that was causing a problem," he said.

In 2008, the temple bought a foreclosed housing development next door that didn't make it off the ground, to have more space for the annex. The $3 million plan has been on hold the past year, partly from a hearing and meetings over neighborhood concerns.

Frank Visconti, 71, president of Parkview Estates Subdivision, which borders the temple property, opposes the project. "It's just that they are expanding and expanding and expanding," he said.

Some 1,500 people come to the temple throughout the week, primarily on Saturday. Traffic particularly backs up on holidays. A large sign bolted to one area resident's mailbox reads: "Don't even think of parking here."

But the Hindus share the space they have when they can, said Ashley Thompson, office manager of neighboring Country Acres, an animal rescue farm and kennel, which schedules its annual fundraiser around parking availability at the temple. "We couldn't really do it without them," she said.

Apart from parking, neighbors also are concerned about drainage from a new paved lot, encroachment from another building and effects on property values.

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  1. golly gosh, I wonder if there would be so many "concerns" if this was a Christian church.

  2. Anonymous8:57 AM

    As long as they got all necessary permits from the county and aren’t violating any laws or local ordinances, what’s the problem?