Some Residents Fight Proposed Buddhist Temple, Aug 12, 2005

Caledonia, Milwaukee (USA) -- The Wat Lao Wat Tha Nar Am Buddhist Temple at 3435 W. Clybourne in Milwaukee is a small storefront temple in the inner city hoping to make a big move.

Temple attorney Lawrence P. Zieger says the temple members need more space, especially an outside area where members could have picnics and allow their children to run and play in safety.

So the temple put an offer on 14 acres at Highway V and 7-1/2 Mile Road in the Town of Caledonia, and the landowners accepted the offer.

Zieger says the Laotian members in Milwaukee will gladly drive to Racine County for Sunday ceremonies, so the temple has room to expand and eventually build multiple structures.
But first they need approval from the Racine County Planning Committee. The county planning director says she received an e-mail opposing the plan.

Zieger calls the opposition "nothing but discrimination."

Neighbors along 7-1/2 Mile Road say they recently recived a flyer from Holly Due asking them to stand up and say something about the temple trying to move to their neighborhood. It also says they should stand together to insist the land be developed only as low density residential.

"This isn't even vaguely anything but bigotry. These are Buddhists and Oriental, and if this was a Christian cause I don't think we'd be here," said Zieger.

Numerous neighbors, including Due, said they simply had traffic concerns and questions.
Leaders of the Laotian Buddhist Temple Buddha Haksa say they faced some opposition when they tried to build in New Berlin in 1993, so they found another site in Waukesha, where they say they have been welcomed warmly.

In Racine County, the planning director says it's unlikely the temple could be blocked because of current federal religious freedom laws.

If the sale to the temple does not go through, the landowner says he has another offer from a storage unit company -- which is also opposed by some neighbors.