Decision expected on Buddhist retreat

By Paul Brooks, Times Herald-Record, April 29, 2008

Wawarsing considers center

CRAGSMOOR, NY (USA) -- A $26 million Buddhist retreat center here is moving closer to reality despite local concerns.

The developer has presented the Wawarsing Planning Board with its final environmental impact statement. The board has yet to act on the statement, but that could happen as soon as next month. The board could accept the statement, reject it or ask for more information. Planning Board Chairman Martin Lonstein and Building Inspector Jack Kissel could not be reached for comment.

The developer is Dharmakaya Inc., a company affiliated with the Buddhist sect of H.E. Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche. It has a center in Cochecton.

The Cragsmoor proposal, called the Mahamudra Hermitage, surfaced in 2005. The center would be built on 90 acres off Cragsmoor Road. The property is west and a bit north of Sam's Point. Plans call for more than a dozen buildings totaling 70,000 square feet, including a main temple of 22,000 square feet. The project would accommodate up to 200 people on short retreats and about 85 people year-round. About 20 of the residents will pursue mediation study lasting three years, three months and three days.

"We are not opposed to the project per se, but we are concerned about the project's effect on the community," said Jim McKenney, president of the Cragsmoor Association, which represents about 120 people in the hamlet of 500.

The project's impact on the water supply is the biggest concern. McKenney said his group has asked for further water study and more commitment to restricting future uses of the site.

"It sounds like they could be wonderful neighbors and guests. They just haven't been willing to "¦ assuage people's concerns," McKenney said.