Richfield BZA denies proposed Hindu temple
By Jeff Gorman
RICHFIELD TOWNSHIP — The Richfield Township Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) voted May 21 to deny a request for the construction of a Hindu temple at 3095 Boston Mills Road.
The Sree Venkateswara Temple of Cleveland, along with current property owner William Sobecki, sought a conditional-use permit to build a temple on the 18.5-acre property. They also asked for a variance to allow two residences on the land, which is located in the R-1 (Residential) district.
The BZA denied both requests. BZA members Bob Lucas, Mark Salopek and Frank Aveni voted against approving the request. BZA members Ingolf Nitsch and Mike Fremon voted in favor of it.
The hearing took place at Fellowship Hall, which was mostly filled. A previous hearing April 16 drew a standing-room-only crowd to the township service garage.
Four residents spoke at Fellowship Hall against the project, bringing the total number of opponents to 22. The BZA also received a total of 17 letters and e-mails opposing the temple plan.
Resident Nick Perrotto, who lives
across the street from the proposed temple site, said
he was worried about the
temple’s effect on the surrounding houses’
“There’s not enough
surface area to gather enough water,” said Perrotto.
“It’s going to hurt everyone else in the
area. All of the neighbors will have to invest in multiple
wells. It will turn into a water war that nobody will
Dr. Ramakrishna Bandi, a representative
of the temple group, said the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) advised him not to dig wells yet. He said
the sale of the property was contingent
on an adequate water supply.
“I think the concern over
water is valid,” said Aveni. “We have authority
to protect the welfare of the community.”
He suggested the temple group
have a cistern in place as a backup to the well water
system. The temple group replied that they are open
to the idea.
Lucas read the resolution to
deny the application. In order to gain approval, the
temple would have to be adjacent to a park, school or
other approved nonresidential property. It would
need to be on a major road or intersection, and it would
need adequate landscape buffering. He said the temple
did not meet any of those requirements.
“If the temple is to be
used by 250 people,” he said, “most of those
vehicles will be coming at peak time frames. That is
far in excess of an acceptable amount of traffic. Also,
there is a lack of visibility on Boston Mills Road.”
After the previous hearing, the
temple group responded to the questions and
criticism by submitting four alternative site plans.
However, none of them met the BZA’s approval.
Two of the plans called for two
dwellings on one lot. Another had a duplex, while the
fourth had inadequate landscaping, according to Lucas.
“To approve two dwellings
on one lot for no reason would set a dangerous precedent,”
Before the vote, Fremon said
the BZA needed to be consistent with its treatment of
the temple compared to other religious institutions.
“Very few other religious
institutions are adjacent to schools or parks,”
he said. “The same goes for being close to a major
intersection. As far as landscaping and staying consistent
with the neighborhood, we can impose conditions to cover
Salopek said the project still
needed much more work.
“Before I would consider
approval, I would ask for a lot more homework,”
he said. “I’d like to see landscape drawings
and well testing. I think you should
recalculate the indoor capacity. I would also like to
see an engineered site plan with the EPA that addresses
water and septic issues.”
Nitsch attempted to refute some
of Lucas’ points. He questioned whether Black
or Boston Mills roads qualified as major roads. He also
said the temple group did not fail to provide the landscaping
details the BZA requested.
After the BZA’s denial
vote, the temple group declined to comment on their