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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Zoning board defers decision on Gallows Road temple

The temple at the corner of Gallows Road and Trammell Road in Annandale. 
The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals, following a public hearing on Feb. 13, voted to continue the discussion on a proposal for a Buddhist temple at 3528 Gallows Road in Annandale until March 25. That will give the applicant and staff more time to reconfigure the proposed parking area and transitional screening.

A handful of people spoke at the hearing and were evenly split between those in favor of the special permit and those who opposed it, reports Brandon McCadden, a staff coordinator with the Department of Planning and Zoning. The public can submit comments to the BZA until March 24.

The Van Duc Tu Temple is seeking a special permit for a place of worship in a single-family house on a property that is zoned for residential use.

An attached garage had been converted to a place of worship in 2018 without a permit, and the property was found to be violation of the zoning ordinance.

The application for a special permit says the temple would be used for personal prayer by individuals or small groups for informal worship or meditation. It would be open seven days a week, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Services would be held on Sundays, and there would be larger gatherings on holidays several times a year. The staff and applicant agreed to a development condition calling for special events to be held offsite and to limit events at the property to 25 people, including the two monks who live there.

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

In response to a request from staff, the temple agreed to close an entrance to the property on Gallows Road and limit ingress and egress to an existing entrance on Trammell Road. Among other development conditions: The temple must provide 16 paved parking spaces, ban parking on unpaved surfaces, and provide transitional screening adjacent to other residences.

At a community meeting hosted by Lafayette Village Jan. 29, several community residents expressed concerns about overflow parking on Trammell Road and that the temple had been operating before it was granted a special permit by the county, reports HOA President Donna Jacobson.

The monk attended the meeting along with a translator. A Lafayette Village resident who speaks Vietnamese said the monk did not feel that he could turn anyone away who came to a service at the temple. “I can understand that, since many religious leaders would feel the same way,” Jacobson says.

“What Lafayette Village would like to see is for the Board of Zoning Appeals to take the time to understand the situation and the differences in cultural norms before rushing to approve the special permit,” she says. “At this time, a solution that will prevent excessive traffic and parked cars around the intersection of Trammell and Gallows Road is necessary in order to prevent a possible contentious relationship between the surrounding communities and the temple.” 

3 comments:

  1. Have they been fined for operating before getting a permit?

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  2. The county is fine with allowing any house in a single-family neighborhood be turned into a religious temple, housing for 6-10 senior-citizens with memory problems, or homes for 4 to 6 juveniles with mental issues living. The people who start these temples, etc., move in without consulting the surrounding neighbors or the county. When the neighbors report it to the county, the county throws its hands up and has a multitudes of reasons why they can't regulate them. Consequently, it's a fait a comple (sp?) and the neighbors have to make the best of it. This county is so bad at even trying to enforce the regulations it has on the books, so now the county's solution is not to tighten the regulations but to make them more general so that they are totally unenforceable. That is what they are currently doing with the revision of all the zoning ordinances. It's bad and going to get a lot worse for single-family neighborhoods.

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  3. This happened years ago in my neighborhood and recently, the single-family home is being replaced with a huge multi-story structure complete with a parking lot for tour buses bringing/taking people to/from the temple. Many single family homes now have backyards adjacent to the temple and parking lot. Not exactly the view they were counting on when they moved to a mostly single-family neighborhood. The county, despite protests years ago from neighbors, did nothing. Apparently, it is just fine to start a house of worship in your single-family home as long as you don't ask permission first.

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