Last July, temple officials revealed to The Richmond Review its $50-million proposal to transform the temple into a pivotal North American religious centre with a giant statue of Buddha inside a towering temple hall.
The proposal called for up to nine new buildings on its property at No. 5 and Williams roads. At 140 feet high, the main temple hall would have rivalled heights of high-rises in Richmond's city centre and dwarf the temple's current buildings.
The new temple complex is proposed directly south of the current structures on the same 20-acre lot. Other buildings would serve as smaller temples and dormitories for male and female monks.
Although the project still calls for up to nine buildings, tripling current space, the Buddha statue has been downsized.
City spokesperson Sandy Webster confirmed Richmond has now received an application from the temple, but said staff are still negotiating with the proponent and have not yet finalized a report.
The earliest the city's planning committee will consider the proposal is March. It would then be subject to the committee's approval before advancing to council and a public hearing.
Webster said she could not say how large the copper and gold Buddha statue is now proposed at, saying it still could change.
Kabel Atwall, a development consultant handling the proposal, confirmed the size has been reduced by about half.
Temple spokesperson Jason Lee said the Buddha statue would be even smaller, claiming its height would be similar to the temple's current statue, which is 15 feet tall.
Whatever the size, temple officials say the size of the Buddha statue has to do with religious doctrine, not tourism.
Lingyen Mountain Temple is part of the Pure Land Buddhist sect. Local worshippers are followers of a monk who established a temple in the rugged mountains of Taiwan over 20 years ago.
Lee said the proposed Buddha would mirror the statue in the temple overseas. He said it should be large enough for all temple goers to see at once, since the spirit of Buddhism is equality.
"The Buddha's might blesses all believers at the same time," he said.
The expansion is necessary to meet the demands of the temple, which is currently short of space.
Lee said the current temple complex was crowded at recent Chinese New Year celebrations and April's vegetarian festival is even larger, attracting 5,000 people. The existing hall holds 400 people, he said.
"We're really short of space. We're really short of space."
Lingyen Mountain Temple, which has 5,000 members and 38 resident monks, opened in 1999. Temple goers maintain a small farm on the property, harvesting mostly vegetables, apples and pears.
According to Atwall, the expansion proposal has received approval from the Agricultural Land Commission.