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Concerns raised about proposed Buddhist temple

Jan. 19, 2010

Greenfield — A proposal for a Buddhist temple in a heavily residential neighborhood is in its early stages, but it already faces several challenges as it tries to win city approval.

Phuoc Hau Buddhist Temple of Milwaukee, which has purchased a 43,000-square-foot parcel in Greenfield near 44th Street and Edgerton Avenue, wants to build a facility that would hold about 80 people and possibly include living quarters for a clergy person/family.

The group, now located in Milwaukee near 15th Street and Oklahoma Avenue, has hired Wauwatosa-based SchultzWerk Architecture. A rendering has not yet been released.

The architect has asked the Greenfield Plan Commission to delay taking up the proposal until Feb. 9, said Chuck Erickson, Greenfield planning and economic development director. But commission members have already, albeit briefly, discussed the proposal, and some issues of concern have emerged.

A homey neighborhood

The land is between two houses on Edgerton Avenue and adjacent to a park. Besides the possible difficulty of a religious temple fitting in with the rest of the neighborhood, the parcel would have to be rezoned from residential to institutional.

Edgerton Avenue is not equipped to handle the traffic such a facility would bring, Mayor Michael Neitzke said during a Jan. 12 commission meeting.

It may work better on a main thoroughfare, said Neitzke, who also said Phuoc Hau did not present any plans to the city prior to purchasing the site.

Tax-free facility

Because it is a religious institution, the group would not have to pay property taxes. However, city officials and Phuoc Hau have discussed a Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, agreement.

Phuoc Hau is open to such an arrangement but differs with the city on how to calculate the property's value, Greenfield officials said in a report to the Plan Commission.

Representatives from Phuoc Hau and SchultzWerk did not respond to requests for comment.

The land was assessed at $103,900 in 2009, according to online city records.

Altering street plans

The city would have to vacate a portion of two as-yet unbuilt city roads - 44th Street and Holmes Avenue. As a result, it's possible those roads would never be constructed there.

Reaction from neighboring property owners would be a critical factor in the decision to vacate and generally for the project going forward, officials said.

A neighborhood informational meeting would have to be held prior to a final vote.

THE NEXT STEP

WHAT: Greenfield Plan Commission

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 9

WHERE: City Hall, 7325 W. Forest Home Ave.

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