Zoning Board To Hear South Middlebush Road Temple Application

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Trimandir temple, targeted for a 16-acre tract on South Middlebush Road.

An application for a 21,000-square-foot temple on South Middlebush Road, adjacent to Snyder’s Farm, is set to be heard at the September 17 Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting.

The temple has been in the works for at least the past five years. A ground-breaking ceremony was held on July 4, 2015, but the property was put up for sale about two years later.

The temple’s developer is the Dada Bhagwan Vignan Institute, based in India but with 30 centers throughout the United States.

The group’s local representative is township resident Bhupendra Patel.

Plans are to build a “Trimandir,” a temple which places on equal footing the gods revered by those who follow the three major religions in India: Jainism, Shaivism, and Vaishnavism.

There are 15 Trimandirs in the world, all of which are located in India. This would be the first one in the West.

It is the organization’s goal to have 24 Trimandirs throughout the world, according to its web site.

The original plan for the property was to also build a separate building that would contain a gathering hall, but that hall is not on the plans being considered by the Zoning Board.

The temple would be built on about 16 acres of now-wooded land. A 2 1/2-storey house now on the property would be retained and would be used for clergy, according to the current plan.

There is no sewer service to the property, so the institute plans to install a septic system, and also install an underground water tank for fire suppression and potable water purposes.

A report from the Somerset County Health Department said that the property passed a water permeability test, done to show appropriateness of a septic system, but that its “proposed septic design was denied as insufficient information was provided to the Health Department.”

It was not known if that deficiency has been rectified.

Plans also call for two parking lots, an expansion and paving of the existing driveway, and walkways and landscaping, according to the application.

The institute’s traffic engineer reported that traffic on South Middlebush Road would not be adversely affected by the temple because “there are no official activities on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.”

“150 to 175 people may visit the site between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. after evening ‘rush hour’ on Fridays,” the report said.

The report noted that “maximum activity will occur on Saturdays,” with 75 to 100 attendees between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. three Saturdays a month, 125 to 140 attendees between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturday a month, and 50 to 75 attendees between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. one Sunday a month.

Twice a year, on a Saturday and Sunday, there will be 225 to 250 people visiting the site between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., the report said.

Those calculations differ from the characterization of how the site would be used given in 2015 by California resident Shirish Patel, a member of the organization’s governing board, speaking at the temple’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Patel said then that by the time the temple is built, the organization projects that about 300 people will attend events there several times a week. He said the group will also hold morning and evening prayers, as well as “big events.”

The temple will be “a very hustling and bustling center,” Patel said at the time.

The Zoning Board is set to meet virtually at 7:30 p.m. September 17. For information on how to participate in that meeting, click here.

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