Meeting about Buddhist temple expected to draw a crowd

By J. Harry Jones, San Diego Union-Tribune, July 30, 2005

Bonsall, CA (USA) -- Plans to build a 22,800-square-foot Buddhist temple on property overlooking the San Luis Rey Downs racetrack, a subject of controversy for some time in this semirural community, is heating up again.

Residents who live near the proposed temple are expected to turn out in force Tuesday to voice their concerns about the project, which they say will increase traffic congestion and otherwise affect the character of their community.

Established in 2001 by the Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation Congregation, the Dai Dang Meditation Center is currently housed in a single-family home at 6326 Camino del Rey. A small group of monks who are followers of the Mayahana school of Zen Buddhism, practiced in Vietnam, have been living there.

Neighbors have complained for several years that, at times, large crowds that come to the center disrupt traffic and create unacceptable noise.

Last April, the county issued a cease-and-desist order that prohibited the monks from assembling or practicing organized meditation at the site because they had not complied with permit processes regarding the number of people using the center.

Tim Harron, chief deputy county counsel, said about the same time that the center filed many of the documents it needed for permits to be processed. "Had we known those documents were coming, we wouldn't have taken the action," he said.

In June, the nonprofit Buddhist group filed a federal lawsuit against the county, citing a 2000 law that protects religious institutions from discriminatory zoning practices.

Two weeks ago, Harron said, a settlement was reached, and the lawsuit should be dismissed soon. Terms of the settlement allow the monks to continue what they're doing as long as they "expeditiously process their permit and not expand their operations," Harron said.

Essentially, things are now back to where they were before the spring.

The Board of Supervisors will decide, probably next year, whether to allow construction of the temple. Before that happens, the Bonsall Community Sponsor Group will make a recommendation to the board, as will the county's Planning Department and Planning Commission.

Tuesday's Bonsall Sponsor Group meeting will be for informational purposes only, said Chairwoman Margarette Morgan. A vote is not expected for several months.

The meeting will be held at the Bonsall Community Center at 7 p.m.

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