Buddhist Monk Must Wait To Hear Fate Of Proposed Temple On Hamilton Street

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Truong Son T. Huynh, a Buddhist monk, speaks to his interpreter during the May 1 Zoning Board meeting.

A Buddhist monk will have to wait until at least July to find out if he’ll be able to convert his Hamilton Street home into a temple.

In the meantime, the monk’s planners and attorney will confer to see if the proposed 2,677-square-foot, two-story building can be trimmed down a bit.

That’s because members of the Zoning Board, before whom Lanfrit and his client appeared May 1, expressed concern over the size of the proposed Phuoc Duyen Temple.

Truong Son T.Huynh has owned the property at 970 Hamilton St. since 2010, and has been living there and using it as a temple, his attorney, Peter Lanfrit, told the board.

“People come to meditate,” Lanfrit said.

The current building is a one-story, 1,029-square-foot structure.

Huynh wants to provide a larger, more formal meditation area, which would be the building’s first floor, Lanfrit said. The monk plans to live in a small apartment on the building’s second floor.

Lanfrit had to speak for his client because, he said, the monk understands only a little English and does not speak the language at all. Lanfrit said the mediate sessions are conducted in Vietnamese.

A claim by the applicant’s architect that the worship space – planned large enough to hold 90 people – would only hold 30 at the most was met with skepticism by Mark Healy, the township’s planner, and Vincent Dominach, the township’s principal zoning officer, as well as some board members.

But architect Jim Kissane was adamant when challenged on the claim by Dominach.

“You’re thinking like a Western man who has 18 inches to sit in a pew,” Kissane said. “That’s not the case here. The altar spills out into the worship area and people bring rugs and spread out.”

Lanfrit told the board that Huynh holds services from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Sundays for between 15 and 20 people. He said that the people come to the house in no more than seven or eight cars.

There are three special days when that total could get as high as 30 people, Lanfrit said: the Vietnamese New Year, Buddha’s birthday and the mother of Buddha’s birthday.

All but the Vietnamese New Year are celebrated on Sundays, Lanfrit said.

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An artist’s rendering of the proposed temple.

Board chairman Robert Thomas was a bit skeptical on the number of people who would show up.

“We could point out a number of houses of worship applicants that didn’t come as advertised,” he said.

The fact that 90 people could fit in the worship area was a bone of contention on the board.

When asked by Healy why the building needed to be so big, Lanfrit said his client “wants to build something attractive, something people would feel comfortable in.”

“Part of the space is a teaching room,” he said. “This is just what my client thought would be an appropriate size.”

Thomas wondered aloud why the building couldn’t be made smaller.

“I don’t think small is necessarily ugly or unusable,” he said.

The plans also call for a statue of Buddha to be placed next to the temple, toward the front.

The 19-foot-tall statue would be illuminated by lights on the ground, the board was told.

The plans also call for a 14-foot-tall entry gate at the front of the building.

Several of the monk’s neighbors showed up at the meting to oppose the plan, saying it’s too large for the area.

Some also complained that the congregants park on the street, making it difficult fr them to get around.

The plan calls for 13 parking spaces, which questioning by Dominach showed should alleviate that street parking problem.

Derrick Hamilton of Berry street, whose house faces the back of the proposed temple, said he didn’t like the idea of the statue.

“I don’t want to look out my front window and see a Buddha in front of my house,” he said.

Thomas told Hamilton he probably would be able to see the statue from where he lives.

The board will take up the application at its July 17 meeting.



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