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Monday, January 7, 2019

Board of Zoning Appeals will consider whether a house can be used as a temple

The Goddess of Heaven Temple. [DPZ]
This story has been updated. Scroll to the end.

The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled to consider at its Jan. 9 meeting whether the Goddess of Heaven Temple, a Buddhist place of worship, should be allowed to remain in a converted residential structure at 3309 Magnolia Ave. in Bailey’s Crossroads.

A staff report from the Department of Planning and Zoning says the temple is consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan and meets the standard for permits – as long as it complies with certain development conditions:
  • The maximum seating capacity of both buildings on the property should not exceed 32. 
  • The hours of operation should be limited to 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. 
  • Luncheons should be limited to twice a month and should be limited to a maximum of 32 people. 
  • Seminars and workshops should be limited to four times a month and no more than eight people at any one time. 
  • There can be no more than two special events, parties, or festivals a year, and the number of people at those events inside the buildings cannot exceed the fire marshal’s capacity limitations. 
The Department of Code Compliance ruled in March 2017 that the owner of the property, David Quang, violated the zoning ordinance by operating a place of worship in an R-3 (residential) zoning district without a special permit. 

Quang had applied for a permit in 2015 but it was incomplete and thus was not accepted by the county. Rather than resubmit a permit application, he withdrew the application and applied for building permits to add a second level to the house and expand the detached workshop without stating the property would be used as a place of worship. Those building permits were approved.

A complaint was filed with the Department of Code Compliance (DCC) in January 2017 alleging that a place of worship was in operation and that 30 to 40 vehicles were parked on the property.

A code inspection in February 2017 found the buildings were being used for religious purposes and drew about 30 to 60 people on twice-monthly lunar celebrations on weekdays and more than 100 on weekends. Both buildings were also used for education, yoga, and tai chi.

The inspector found three altars, a collection box, and a table set up for prayer and guidance in the temple (the former garage). The living room in the former residence was set up with tables and chairs with seating for 60 people. The two building permits were subsequently revoked as it was determined that the proposed construction would be used for commercial purposes, rather than residential uses as the applicant had stated.

Subsequent inspections by the DCC found the temple was continuing to operate and 77 people were on site on July 8, 2017.

The applicant appealed the revocation of the building permits to the Fairfax County Board of Building and Fire Prevention Code Appeals, but the appeal was denied on October 11, 2017.

The current application requests the Board of Zoning Appeals legalize the existing converted residential structures as a place of worship. 

The application says an on-site caretaker, already living on the premises, will provide security and will open and close the facility for visitors. Quang also agreed to widen the driveway and have at least eight parking spaces.

UPDATE, Jan. 11: The Board of Zoning Appeals voted Jan. 9 to approve a special permit for the Goddess of Heaven Temple, with a few minor modifications, reports Brent Krasner of the Department of Planning and Zoning.

The temple had previously agreed to provide satellite parking at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church during twice-yearly festivals. If those festivals occur on a Sunday, the temple must provide parking at an alternative site.

The temple cannot operate as a place of worship until it gets new building permits that meet the county’s commercial standards and the buildings pass inspection.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Such roudy Buddhists* with all their silent meditation. Compassionate presence is so disruptive. ��‍♀️

Writing as a Buddhist, calling this a house of "worship" is a gross misunderstanding of Buddhism. Buddhists practice together as a way of fostering community among people with similar beliefs and also to learn about the teachings. But Buddhists do not "worship" anyone.

What's disheartening is that there is very little space in our community for new organizations like this to establish within the expected developmental plans, much less grow. Property is very expensive. It's really sad that the county can't find a way for religeous practioners who don't have the big coffers of the mega churches to find a place of peace to practice.

Anonymous said...

We have building codes for good reasons, to keep people safe. It the building burned down and there were fatalities everyone would be pointing fingers at the County for failing to do their job. There are plenty of vacant storefronts in Mason, move the temple to one of those locations. This is not a third world country, I wish these recently settled immigrants would stop trying to make it one. Its this kind of behavior that grows dissent amongst long term American citizens and metastizes into Trumpism. And that is not a good outcome for anyone.

Anonymous said...

This is where I have a problem.
Rather than resubmit a permit application, he withdrew the application and applied for building permits to add a second level to the house and expand the detached workshop without stating the property would be used as a place of worship. Those building permits were approved.
Of course they were approved! He lied about what he was doing!

We can not continue to allow this to happen! Rules and codes are put into place for a reason. DENY!!

Anonymous said...

Where are all of these disciples parking? 100 people? Oh hell no. The BZA is a complete joke, but I really hope that they will deny this one.

Anonymous said...

Can I call my residence a house of worship and then not pay property taxes too?

flemingo said...

I've seen this happen before - getting a negative reply to a proposition that was incomplete (did he "forget" to say what the building was to be used for?), then circumventing the process by submitting another application but lying. Now trying to get grandfathered in since it has been built. NO!! That is what codes and regulations are for. And if is approved it will set a precedent. He should be heavily fined and made to cease and desist using it as a place of worship.

Trinigurl said...

Live by the rules. I certainly would not want to be their next door neighbor. Denying this permit is the best decision.

Anonymous said...

Let me reiterate, move your temple to the vacant GH Greggs where there is an abundance of parking. This is totally disrespectful to the neighbors. What kind of Buddhist is this that he had no regard for the folks that live around him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for the racist (git out r countree!) point of view. Now for some reasonable alternatives.

Anonymous said...

This is not racist nonsense. Your comment however is hateful and scapegoating an individual that is not following the laws. Any good church/temple abiding citizen would know better. In my mind that calls into question the sincerity of his faith and this temple of worship.

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