Planning Commission rejects plans for temple, triggering appeal by congregation

The site of a proposed temple at Front Street and Funston Avenue.

The site of a proposed temple at Front Street and Funston Avenue.

NORWALK – After a temple’s proposal to open a campus on underdeveloped Front Street was rejected – without explanation – by the Planning Commission, the congregation is now turning to the City Council for help.

The congregation of Anoopam Mission purchased 12182-86 Front Street in May 2017 with hopes of opening a temple. Anoopam Mission describes itself as a “unique Swaminarayan-based organization.”

The congregation later purchased neighboring 12177 Front St. to satisfy the city’s parking requirements.

The temple’s proposal to open on Front Street was supported by city planners on a number of conditions, including that the congregation provide a crossing guard during services and that the temple’s prayer rooms not be used as sleeping quarters.

Norwalk’s Planning Commission heard the proposal at its July 10 meeting but denied the project on a 2-2 vote. The commissioners who voted against the temple’s plans – Victor Juan and Rosa Barragan – gave no reason for the votes.

Commissioners Kim Apodaca and Linda Lopez voted in support of the project and commissioner Scott Collins was absent.

The congregation appealed the Planning Commission’s denial; the appeal will be heard by the City Council on Tuesday night.

“Given that there are two churches across the street from this property, we are zoned to allow a house of worship on the land, we have enough parking and no one from the community was opposed to the idea of having a temple; we are still in a state of shock as to why our application was denied,” Bobby Patel wrote in a letter to the Norwalk city clerk on behalf of the congregation.

“We are well funded; we want to highly upgrade the main building and the dilapidated lot that has been sitting empty for several years,” Patel continued. “We are willing to do anything it takes to move forward with this project.

“If there is anything in the application that is to your dislike, we ask that you bring [it] to our attention and we can modify the plans but please don’t deny us the privilege of having a wholesome space for our children to learn the spiritual teachings of our religion.”

Eric Piercefeatured