Neighbors fight plan to build Hindu Mission

hinduFORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A Hindu Mission’s plans to build a spiritual retreat center in south Forsyth County is meeting opposition from neighbors.

Chinmaya Mission of Alpharetta won approval from the Forsyth County Commission to build a 35,000-square-foot facility on Pittman Road, but some neighbors have appealed the decision.

“It’ll have classrooms, where we can do teaching on Sunday afternoons,” Mission volunteer Arvind Malhotra told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik.  “It will have an assembly hall, where the group can meet and go to their respective classrooms.  It’ll have a yoga, meditation room, and it will have a library.”

The Mission purchased land that once held a church, so it’s already zoned for religious use, Malhotra said.

He said the Mission started some 15 years ago in a member’s basement, but has grown to teach nearly 600 area children.

“Over time we need our own property,” he said.

The homeowners’ association of an adjacent neighborhood has asked the Forsyth County Commission to reconsider its decision, which will happen after the New Year.

In an emailed statement, President Kris Darnell said:

“The  Polo  Golf  and  Country  Club  Homeowners  Association,  Inc.,  (“Polo”)  is  made  up  of  the homeowners  who  live  in  the  Polo  Golf  and  Country  Club  Community.   The community is governed  by  a  Board  of  Directors  which  determines  policy  and  makes  decisions  for  the Association.   The  Board  of  Directors  is  a  diverse  group  of  individuals  with  minority representation reflective of Polo.  Polo has  appealed the decision by the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners to approve the location  of  a  35,000  square  foot  facility  on  Pittman  Road  in  unincorporated  Forsyth  County, which  location  sits  directly  across  from  one  of  the  entrances  to  Polo.   The appeals (two  have been filed) are upon two grounds. First, Polo contends that, contrary to the application submitted to  Forsyth  County,  the  facility  is  not  going  to  be  used  as  a  “church”  “worship  center”  or “temple.”   Instead,  the  uses  of  the  property,  which  will  include  things  such  as  yoga  classes, language classes, cultural classes, and other activities with a focus on personal improvement, fall within the category of a “personal service establishment” or a “school” instead of the purported church, worship center,  or temple.  Personal Service Establishments and Schools are prohibited on the property as zoned, and as such Polo has appealed the County’s decision until the matter is treated in a way which is in accord with the actual proposed use.

Second, Polo has appealed the decision of the Forsyth County Commission because of failures during the public participation plan and process required by the Unified Development Code of Forsyth County. More particularly, Polo should have received written correspondence regarding this  development  as  part  of  the  property  owner’s  public  participation  plan.   However, the County’s records and the materials submitted by the property owner all confirm, unequivocally, that no such correspondence was ever sent to Polo.

Importantly, Polo is disturbed and saddened that some people appear to have cast Polo’s decision to  appeal  and  require  adherence  to  the  Unified  Development  Code  as  being  motivated  by religious or race related issues. This is absolutely not the case. Quite to the contrary, Polo has offered its support to the landowner to use the property for the landowner’s intended use at a size double  that which  is  currently  placed  on  the  property  (which  facility  was  formerly  used  for church and worship purposes). However, the potential for a facility for the intended uses on the significant  scale  that  the  landowner  proposes  is  simply  not  compatible  with  the  surrounding residential area.   Such  is  why  Polo  requires  that  the  project  be  evaluated  for  its  actual  use (Personal Service Establishment or School) and that the public participation process required by law be adhered to.”

Malhotra said the Mission has addressed traffic concerns the group already raised.

“We’ve addressed it in multiple ways.  We’ve limited the parking, limited the number of people who will be there,” he said.  “We are willing to pay for a traffic lane.  We’re willing to pay for cops to be there to ease the traffic.”

Volunteer Kirtan Patel said he believes the appeal is merely a delay tactic that will have no bearing on the final decision.

“We’re willing to listen to all sorts of people.  However, the commission has granted us what we think has been rightfully granted following all the rules,” he said.  “This is the changing face of Forsyth County.  I understand that people would like to live in a place where they would love to have it exactly how it has been, but the demographics of Forsyth County are changing.”