main banner

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Annandale house transformed into Buddhist temple

A small house on a hill overlooking Columbia Pike in Annandale has been transformed into a serene sanctuary where two Buddhist monks live and tend their garden and members of the local Vietnamese community come to pray, meditate, and make offerings.

The house, at 6822 Columbia Pike, had been in a state of disrepair until Kim Nguyen purchased it last fall for use as a Buddhist temple. Volunteers spent the last six months fixing it up, and it’s now known as the A Di Da Charitable Buddhist Association.


People show up for prayers and meditation as early as 5 a.m., said Ha Nguyen, who helps out at the temple and give me a tour. There are two large statues of Buddha in the front yard, a large altar in what had been the living room, and a smaller altar, with framed pictures of people who have died, in the former dining room.


The monks, both with shaved heads, are Master Phap Quang, a man in his 70s, who lives in the basement level, and a youngish woman, Hanh Hieu, who has been a monk since she was seven years old and lives upstairs.

The temple offers yoga and meditation classes on Wednesday evenings, martial arts classes on Saturday afternoons, and Vietnamese language lessons for 15 kids on Sundays.


55 comments:

  1. Seems like a zoning violation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. my friend, get a life! NIRVANA(taken from Wikipedia, first paragraph)Buddhism is a religion indigenous to the Indian subcontinent that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as the Buddha, meaning "the awakened one". The Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.[1] He is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end their suffering (dukkha) through the elimination of ignorance (avidyā) by way of understanding and the seeing of dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda) and the elimination of craving (taṇhā), and thus the attainment of the cessation of all suffering, known as the sublime state of nirvana.

      Delete
    2. What has nirvana got to do with zoning?

      Delete
    3. How do I report a possible violation of zoning regulations?

      Alleged violations of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance may be reported directly to the Zoning Enforcement Branch by one of the following methods:
      1. Online: Department of Code Compliance
      2. By phone: Call 703-324-1300, TTY 711 during the hours of 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday.

      Delete
    4. I reported this one a while back and I was told by Zoning Enforcement that they are not touching anything that is religious related. The BOS told them it was not worth it. On Sunday you should see how many cars are parked there.

      Delete
  2. Thank you for a story on what is going on with this house! We had noticed a lot of work going on there, and it is a vast improvement over the long-neglected property it had been.

    ReplyDelete
  3. FX County never let a zoning regulation stand in their way

    ReplyDelete
  4. Why dont they go back to where they came from.

    We have laws here and these alleged Buddhists are breaking the law. Why is it that the other religions must follow the rules and that this 'nirvana princess" can do as they please?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nirvana is attained when we seek compassion and understanding and a cessation of
      po·lar·ize
      polarizing opinions
      [ pṓlə rz ]


      1.cause division of opinion: to make the differences between groups or ideas ever more clear-cut and extreme, hardening the opposition between them, or become ever more clear-cut and extreme in this way.
      the issue here is ZONING and the starting point is to report a POSSIBLE ZONING VIOLATION---Fairfax County Zoning Office

      Delete
    2. I sincerely pray that you can find peace in your life. For you to say "they should go back from where they came from" makes me feel sad for you. I am a 33 year old white American female. I visited this temple after it was purchased for the purpose and it is a beautiful and holy place. A monk lives there that has been a monk her whole life and she is a bright light of goodness. I will pray for you.

      Delete
  5. Anon 4:30: can you cite proof that they are breaking the law? That is a big leap from the supposition in the first comment.

    For reference, my church (in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County) was built in the 1950s and sits on property zoned for residential use. I don't know exactly how that is, but I'm not sure that zoning regulations are applicable in this case either. (I do know a house of worship is a house of worship; the form of religion is not a factor.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. correct application of ZONING exclusively or primarily?

      Delete
    2. They do not have license to have a church or a business. I know because I have spoken to the county before. The County is aware of the situation and turns a blind eye.

      Delete
    3. I am not sure a license is needed to be a house of worship.

      Delete
    4. Honestly. Such venom over a church, essentially. I wonder what Anonymous and CD would say were it a Christian house of worship.

      Delete
    5. What would you and others say if it was a house of satanic worship?

      Delete
    6. It is not about the part it is a relgiious organization it is the part that we have laws. Let me also add because I want laws enforced does not make my words venomous. I am just tired of the County not enforcing our laws. We have plenty of different Churchs/ Temples/ Mosque and what ever. They went through the correct channels and was zoned for that type of business. This is not the case here. Please be respectful of others opinions and do not make judgements of people you do not know.

      Delete
    7. Here's a tip. What are the property taxes like for a recognized and properly zoned church? Any chance that as a regular property owner, this organization is paying regular property taxes, and simultaneously improving the neighborhood? I can see why FX is looking the other way.

      Delete
  6. Alleged Buddhists? Nirvana princess? Back where they came from?

    Wow. Your hate is showing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It is on a residential street and the fact that its a house of worship doesnt matter. There is no difference if 15 people show up at 5 a.m. to pray or if 15 people show up to buy coffee or a pair of jeans from a business, heavy foot traffic in a residential area. People are going to be showing up at 4:30-5 for service and probably sit there and idle in their cars waiting for the temple to open. That will be disruptive for those close by.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I knew where you lived so I could idle my car outside your house all day...

      Delete
  8. They probably got a waiver or special permit. If you are concerned, call the County. A group tried to do the same thing in our neighborhood and the County went after them because the neighbors complained. The issues is not the religion (as long as its peaceful), the issue is the cars, noise, trash, people in a residential area. So if you are opposed to this, it does not necessarily make you a hater or a racist. You PCers need to dial it back.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This property is zoned R-3, not R-Temple.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Clever, but wrong. According to the Fairfax County Department of Tax Administration website, the property is R-2. As is St. Albans and the Presbyterian Church at 6901 Columbia Pike (next to the Masonic building). AUMC is zoned R-3.

      So if the zoning is the same/similar as mainstream Christianity, what's different? They're new, they worship differently, they don't look like you? None of those qualify for unequal treatment under the law.

      Delete
    2. R-1 or R-4, it still isn't zoned or varienced R-Temple

      One of your examples and appicable to all:
      6937 COLUMBIA PIKE, UNKNOWN, VA - Public Record

      Additional: Company: CHURCH METHODIST ANNANDALE Resource Center
      Property History
      Mailing Address: 6935 COLUMBIA PIKE, ANNANDALE, VA 22003-3458
      Care of Name:
      Legal Description: Annandale Church And Lt 25 Alpine 9197-1523
      Land Use: Governmental/Public Use
      Property Class: 710 Plat Liber/Folio: /604

      Zoning Desc: R-3(Residential 3 Du/Ac) Quality Grade:
      Prop Use: CHURCHES, SYNAGOGUES
      Building Use: CHURCH Xfer Devel.

      Repeatedly showing the use as Church or Synagogue, etc.

      NONE of these uses appear on the tax record of 6822 Columbia Pike, and no varience has been applied for or obtained.

      The only use listed for 6822 is RESIDENTIAL, which it is not with the present use.

      Most people choose to live near a place of worship or NOT. And, most people do not appreciate such a place forcing their presence upon them and violating the law.

      Delete
  10. what if 15 people show up to drink coffee (that you provide for free) and talk about the redskins? What if you give them cookies? what if you say grace over the cookies? What if your friend shows up and you pray together?

    Clearly religious worship that you dont pay for is not the same as a commercial use - and not every thing you do that involves parking is not allowed in a residential zone (are super bowl parties banned now too?) The definition of a home house of worship in zoning is complicated. I dont know the exact status in Fairfax County. I do know that its allowed for zoning codes to ban them, but NOT if its aimed at a specific religion. Google on Airmont New York and religious freedom if you don't believe me.

    ReplyDelete
  11. There is a reason why zoning exists: to keep occupancy uses separated or co-mingle those when those either compliment each other or provide a mutual benefit. Increasing pedestrian and vehicular traffic, noise and demands on off-street parking because of an assembly use are neither of those.

    The Buddhists are probably delightful people and most likely have the best intentions. But a temple/church in a residential zoned area is not applicable. Should a waiver not exist, then at a minimum the zoning office should initiate with the land use committee a meeting with the community to provide feedback on this "special use/exception" given that is not compatible with R3 zoning.

    ReplyDelete
  12. How is increasing pedestrian traffic NOT a benefit? Walking where its deserted (especially at 5AM) can be a distressing experience - walkable places have a critical mass of walkers, as that is safer vis a vis crime, makes drivers more aware of pedestrians, and will put more pressure on politicians to improve pedestrian infrastructure - how often do we hear that sidewalks aren't need, crosswalk protections aren't needed, etc because there just aren't that many pedestrians?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Then move next door to them. Jeeze, you really need to get off your street and visit some countries where zoning is not regulated. ah like Syria!

      Delete
    2. Or other third world locations with no zoning, like Houston or Tulsa. (Really, you thought a random ad hominem reference to Syria would bolster your argument?)

      Delete
    3. Dah, why don't you move to Houston then? I am sure they would love to have you.

      Delete
  13. Columbia Pike on that stretch has a Methodist church, a Presbyterian church, AND an Episcopalian church, all much, much larger.

    I mean c'mon.

    Also the Pike itself is a quasi highway. No wonder this house was is disrepair - a lot of people don't want to live right on top of a noisy road. Thats why a house of worship is actually a good use.

    Though I'd be fine with a 6 story condo building with a frozen yogurt place on the ground floor.

    ReplyDelete
  14. How about they give them a variance in exchange for giving the county an easement to connect up the sidewalk from the side road to in front of the Episcopal church (and then get an easement from the episcopalians, or a route around) Thats one of the annoying blocks to walking/biking connectivity on the north side of Col Pike.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The property in question shares a road with other neighbors. There is a process in place to determine whether this use is appropriate there or not. I really have to wonder if this group is ignorant of the process or willfully disregarding it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hardly, they are simply utilizing the benefit of apologizing rather than asking permission. Thereby putting the residents in the position of working to protect themselves, rather than them having to do the job of proving themselves. We chose to live without them in the neighborhood and now they invade our community.

      Delete
  16. This group is following the precept that it is more effective to ones goal to apologize rather than ask permission.

    And, here, the citizens who follow the law must now wade through the law to get rid of the lawbreakers they choose to ignore. And we who abide the law are left with this mess.

    ReplyDelete
  17. The county code compliance office has received complaints and is reviewing them. The zoning rules seem to be vague on religious institutions. According to an official in the planning department, it's perfectly okay for a homeowner to hold weekly prayer meetings in their home without needing a permit or anything.

    And to all you haters out there, it you move to a house near a busy road like Columbia Pike, you should realize there could be new developments. As other commenters have noted, there are several large churches nearby.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The other nearby churches are zoned for that use! Neighbors living near this property bought homes there under the current R-2 single family home classification. Now, forget about the temple stuff, this is a business plain and simple. Are we expected to believe that they offer their yoga, martial arts, language and meditation classes for free?

      Also, what just happened here with the change in ownership of the property?

      Date Amount Seller Buyer
      06/11/2013 $0 BUDDHIST SISTERS LLC NGUYEN KIM DAO T

      02/15/2013 $0 NGUYEN KIM DAO T BUDDHIST SISTERS LLC


      Delete
    2. Disappointed to read the "haters" comment. How about just concerned neighbors with an opinion different from yours but nonetheless worthy of respect.

      Delete
  18. I was NOT expecting these comments. What is wrong with you people?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the community is just overwhelmed with just about anything goes!

      Delete
  19. This home is being used as a house of worship day in and day out. That is a lot different than someone inviting others into their home once a week for a 2 hr prayer or study meeting. Those events usually don't get more than about 6-12 people because that's about all most anyone could fit in their living room.

    It is not the fact that they are Buddhist, and there's no excuse that they are on a busy road. It's the fact that they have no respect for our local laws and processes, and no willingness to find out how things are done here. That then shifts the burden to neighbors to complain, document, and testify at meetings, etc. It's totally unfair and disrespectful, and a waste of resources that could be avoided if they just followed the law. And I am angry that the county appears to be turning a blind eye - that is not what we pay taxes for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are communities much more liberal and tolerant of cultural diversities than Fairfax that do not allow this negligence in code enforcement.

      This issue is about civil respect for the community and the law. It is not about Buddhists and/or religious tolerance. It's really that simple!

      Delete
  20. That sounds cool. I think I will stop by. I have always wanted to learn how to meditate.

    It is kind of neat they have the support of the community. What I mean by that is they have so many visitors. Real Buddhist monks live off of their alms. No daily visitors, no food to eat.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Drove by a little while ago. Looks like they cut down trees in the VDOT right of way and put up signs and decorations in their place.

    ReplyDelete
  22. My take is that any zoning requirement for a religious facility violates the first amendment to the Constitution. Now, if the local tools would like to make the street in front of it a no-parking zone so that any parking would have to be on the property itself, that would be cool...as long as they did this in front of Christian churches, Mosques and Jewish or Hindu Temples as well. My sense is that, though there may be one or two here who really are upset about the zoning issue/problems, most of you complaining are just intolerant of religions different from yours.

    ReplyDelete
  23. "Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."
    Dalai Lama

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hello... I'm a Buddhist. More pertinent to this conversation, I used to be an urban planner - albeit on the West Coast. Conversions of former SF residences to monasteries or temples by Buddhist congregations has become fairly typical throughout the U.S. in the last 25 years. Most congregations take the time to get the necessary land use reviews and any of the necessarily limited permits. Cultural misunderstandings occasionally cause other groups to jump the usual administrative processes. But none of that needs to be a source of hostility or defensiveness. As I'm now out of the planning business and land use regulations tend to be LESS restrictive here in Virginia, I'm not familiar with the applicable part of the FX County Code. However, in every code I've seen, religious uses are permitted in residential areas. The primary concern I would have had in my former life was whether the traffic impacts created a nuisance under code. While no U.S. municipality is going to slap red tags on a religious use, religious uses are still generally subject to reasonable restrictions on operation hours, noise, and traffic impacts. The most irate neighbors could expect is some kind of compromise to deal with those issues. There are clearly numerous churches in FXCO that have arranged for police traffic support on Sunday, etc. Be very clear though, the temple is not going away. My standing recommendations for concerned neighbors has always been: 1) familiarize yourself with the applicable zoning code; 2) observe and document if there really is any violation of code; and most importantly 3) do as all should do - go knock on the door, talk to the monks (you'll find they tend to be very reasonable people) and have a civil discussion about your concerns. I'm assuming there may be a language barrier - but that too can be crossed if one starts from a positive place and makes an honest effort to be a good neighbor.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Amitabha...Amitabha...Amitabha...
    Peace to all.

    ReplyDelete
  26. To the person who said that they should go back to where they came from, you need help and Jesus at the same time. This is a religious place and lady monks practice there and for you to disrespect them like that is wrong. Keep your rude opinions right yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thanks for illuminating what is going on in the house. We are practicing Buddhists and and our teacher is Vietnamese. We just moved to Annandale, and we drive by it all the time. We would be happy to support this tiny temple.

    It's two years since this post, so I'm assuming that the perceived zoning situation is resolved. But I would note that unlike the kinds of mega churches now common in the US, it is actually very common to have small Buddhist temples populated by one or two monastics for the benefit of the very local community. It is unlikely that there is any interest in growing a huge congregation. That's just not the way Buddhism is practiced. The comings and goings of a temple would not be the same as a Sunday church service.

    ReplyDelete
  28. We, as human beings tends to find it's always rather easier to point finger than to work together to come up with resolution(s) amicably. That's an unfortunate.

    Personally, I think it's valid to be concern about people breaking the laws and if one takes the laws seriously, nothing can make it more annoying when one sees others breaking it right infront of our eyes. However, everyone breaks the laws directly or indirectly everyday when driving through a red light or stop sign, parking in the handicap space when one is perfectly healthy, speeding, etc. This Temple may seem to break the laws by not properly applying for permit, it does not harm people while speeding, running red light / stop sign can injure and kill others, what do we suggest the County to do?

    It's also a reminder that each and everyone of us who is American whether by birth or by naturalization, was once an immigrant or had ancestor(s) settled in the United State of America from another part of the world. Just look at our name. For that reason, we should be kind to other countrymen/women even if our skin colours or our 'Gods' are different. If everyone goes back to where he/she came from, our country will be in trouble....

    Wonder if the concerns were ever discussed face-to-face with the residents of the Temple by the neighbours?

    ReplyDelete
  29. I have been going to the temple for about 6 months. Even volunteered in the construction of the addition. Even on the Buddhist celebration days there is no traffic nor parking issues that effect the neighbors. They are great people. That hater making this such a long thread is actually what made me find this great Temple. So thanks for that Mr "why don't they go back where they came from".

    ReplyDelete