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Buddhist temple faces road-block to development in Greenfield

Planning panel wants city to keep land for future street

Sept. 12, 2012

Greenfield - The Greenfield Plan Commission decided Tuesday that the city should keep the land it had set aside for a future road, rather than allow a congregation that wants to build a Buddhist temple incorporate the space into its building plans.

That decision dealt a blow to the proposed temple, which some panel members and neighbors see as too big for the site. But an official of the congregation said after the meeting that it would be back with scaled-down plans.

"We'll change it a little here and there to make it perfect," said temple representative Andy Tram.

The Phuoc Hau Buddhist Temple of Milwaukee has proposed an 8,100-square-foot temple on 1.5 acres in the 4400 block of Edgerton Avenue in Greenfield.

Useful city land

The temple owns one acre and was hoping the city would vacate the half-acre it has been saving to eventually construct a new road, West 44th Street. The city originally acquired that right of way from the parcel that the temple now owns.

But no one on the Plan Commission was ready to give up the city's road right of way.

Even if 44th Street is never built, the land could still serve as a driveway or path to the small city park located adjacent to the temple land, said Mayor Michael Neitzke.

Also, the land would maintain city access to a large water main that will eventually need major work, Neitzke said.

Architect Kevin Schulz countered that there is city right of way to get to that 54-inch water main.

Development issues

Even if the temple comes back with modified plans, it will need a zoning change - from residential to institutional - and for the city to approve a change in its master plan, along with the normal scrutiny development plans receive.

Also, the mayor warned the congregation of several other problems the commission and neighbors have with the plan at this point.

Some feel the proposal presents a crowded scenario.

Between parking and an 8,100-square-foot building, the site would be overwhelmed, with our without the city's 60-foot strip of land, several people noted.

"It seems like you're trying to put 6 pounds into a 2-pound bag," said commission member Frederick Hess. "Everything's jammed together."

The building would be large compared to homes in the area that range from about 1,200 to 1,800 square feet, Neitzke added.

Parking problems too

Even a bigger potential problem is parking, though city and temple officials differ on that issue.

City code parking requirements differ depending on how seating is arranged, which affects how many people can be expected. Using the code's gross calculation based simply on square footage, 67 spaces would be needed for the proposed worship space of 2,000 square feet. The plans provide only 44 spaces.

But Tram said on average, only 30 to 35 cars come to services. And architect Schulz said he based the 44 spaces on a total of 80 people attending.

When the temple comes back with modified plans, it will be clearer as to whether parking meets city code.

Such parking issues are not unprecedented - in fact, the city need only point down the block, to cite one example.

The Muslim temple at 43rd and Edgerton seriously overflows its parking lot, city officials say. They and temple officials are trying to find a solution.

Even if parking is sufficient for the Buddhist temple, Neitzke noted that its parking needs might grow, as happened with the Jehovah Witnesses church in the city. It had nestled comfortably into its neighborhood for years but now is badly overflowing onto surrounding streets, he said.

Indeed, the Buddhist temple came to the city originally in 2008 saying it was looking for a site for a new building for 150 people, not 80, according to Plan Commission background information.

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