Another Round Of Hearings Set for Hindu Temple Project In Bridgewater

April 19, 2009

Author: Nyier Abdou

Source: The Star-Ledger

It's nearly five years since the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple appeared before the Bridgewater board of adjustment seeking a large-scale expansion of its prosperous temple.

A previous expansion of the temple -- a 10,000-square-foot construction of a religious processional walkway, had just been completed when the temple returned to the board in 2004 with a far more ambitious proposal.

The new plan included apartment housing for live-in priests and their families, a parking garage, and plans to rebuild the temple's modest 9,800-square-foot cultural center as a state-of-the-art religious and cultural complex nearly four times the size, replete with a performance space and dining area.

Neighbors of the 20.5-acre property off Route 202/206 balked, packing board of adjustment hearings. Residents warned of an inevitable spike in membership from out-of-town and out-of-state worshippers, resulting in increased traffic and noise.

Since the plan was first introduced, the board has denied the necessary variances for the cultural center expansion three times, first in January 2005, then again in December 2005 and May 2006. The temple has filed two lawsuits -- one state, one federal.

Meanwhile, the temple has purchased neighboring properties, increasing the size of its property by another four acres. And the expansion plan has been pared down -- a smaller cultural center, less parking and smaller-scale, multi-family homes instead of an apartment building for priests.

Now, for township officials, temple leaders and neighbors, it's deja vu all over again. The newest version of the plan is back for a fourth round of hearings before the board. This time, however, it should meet are more amenable board.