Buddhist temple plan remains on the table

By LORELL FLEMING, North County Times Staff Writer, Dec 22, 2004

BONSALL, Calif. (USA) -- An effort to develop a Buddhist temple and meditation center on a hillside along Camino del Rey in Bonsall continues to draw protests in this rural community.

While the Buddhists work to complete an environmental report that includes a proposed septic system, a small group of protesters shows up at the site each Sunday with signs in opposition.

But that hasn't stopped the Buddhists, according to Chris Brown, the Buddhists' consultant on the project.

"We're very committed to this project," Brown said Tuesday of the Dai Dang Meditation Center proposed for 6326 Camino del Rey. "We hope to meet with neighbors to alleviate some of their fears about what this project will mean to the community."

Opposition arose when plans for the temple and center were unveiled earlier this year. Opponents cited their concern that traffic and noise in the area would increase.

"The area is a residential area," said Jim Jamieson, an opponent of the project who lives about a quarter-mile from the site. "The county (planning department) put together a community plan for Bonsall. It specifically allocates an area for nonresidential buildings and businesses and other activities, and this area they want to build their temple in is not that area.

"The people of Bonsall are not opposed to a temple in Bonsall," Jamieson added. "But in the middle of this residential area, with the road access we have, is the wrong place."

The Buddhists are seeking a major-use permit from the county for the site. Final say on the permit application rests with the county Board of Supervisors.

As proposed, the center would include a 6,196-square-foot main hall, a 7,664-square-foot meditation hall, an 8,936-square-foot residence hall for monks, and parking for about 72 cars.

The site is owned by the Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation Congregation Inc., a nonprofit organization formed in 2001 by a handful of monks living in the existing single-family building on the property.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Sunday there would about 50 to 75 people at the center, Brown said. Four major Buddhist events a year also would draw more people than normal to the center ---- maybe a couple hundred, Brown added.

It's the issue of the number of people that has prompted the pickets to come out, according to Jamieson, who said he is one of them.

"We will continue to be there until this is settled," Jamieson said. "Our signs say, basically, we're opposed to the traffic and the disruption in the neighborhood. This plan has caused a great deal of unrest in the neighborhood. We're not bigoted or close-minded. The issue is that they are looking for an exception. It's zoned for residential, agriculture, and there's no reason to allow the exception."

Fred Flam, another Bonsall resident, questions why the opponents are picketing.

"I think it's the voice of intolerance," Flam said Tuesday.

Once the Buddhists' plans for the sewer system and their environmental report are submitted to the county planning department, a copy will go to the Bonsall Community Sponsor Group.

The sponsor group, which gives recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on local land-use issues, rejected the preliminary plans for the project in April. But the local panel has yet issued a recommendation to the county.

"We're going to see how they'll deal with the sewer disposal, and see if the size of the buildings will change," Margarette Morgan, chairwoman of the sponsor group, said Tuesday.