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HomeNewsFlorida County Rejects Hindu Temple Proposal

Florida County Rejects Hindu Temple Proposal

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Hindu Temple
Source: hindu_temple_/Instagram

Hindu faithful who hoped to have a new 33,000-square-foot Hindu temple in Gotha have had their hopes dashed. On Tuesday, January 23, Orange County commissioners rejected the BAPS Hindu congregation’s request for a special exemption to erect their religious site. 

The commissioners, who voted 5-2 against the proposal, agreed that the temple construction would cause more harm than good to Gotha residents. As such, they could not overrule the zoning board ruling that called the proposed “Temple on Hempel” a “detrimental intrusion.”

Hempel was named after German immigrant H. A. Hempel, who founded the town in 1885. It’s the avenue the religious site would have been located if the proposal was granted.

According to the Orange County Board of Zoning Adjustment, the temple would have been Gotha’s biggest structure. But it would have also been contrary to the town’s development pattern. Dozens of Gotha residents agreed, saying the construction would trigger traffic jams and worsen their flooding problems.

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Another concern was that the planned temple would make the Nehrling Gardens (pioneering horticulturist Henry Nehrling’s botanical homestead) look too small. The proposed religious site would be about 300 yards from the Gardens. 

“If we now have a 35,000-square-foot temple here, what’s next? The next one, 50,000? Doesn’t seem like a big leap to go from there, and I think that’s a real issue,” said one of the people who spoke at the Board of Commissioners meeting.

“We have met with the applicant a couple of times, and the only thing that we ask is to adjust the square footage of the building,” a Gotha resident, David Boers, mentioned. “There’s nothing in Gotha that could be comparable to size.” Another resident, Bill Coan, said, “Most of the people are there because we want to live in a primarily residential and low-impact community. Environmental open space that’s what we’re looking for.”

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Jim Willard, the applicant for the temple, said that the location for the proposed project will give them enough space to expand. According to the congregants, their current temple on Oak Ridge Road in Orlando can no longer accommodate their growing numbers. Temple leaders also mentioned that most of their congregants live in the community.

In October, the temple leaders were told their plan would be approved if they redesigned the structure to align with the community’s look. Willard said, “If it was agricultural and outside the rural settlement, a religious institution would be a permitted use by right.” They reversed the original plan of 312 parking spaces to 282 and limited their hours of operation from 9 am to 9 pm.

ALSO READ: Police Arrest a Troubled Man For Firing Shots Outside a Jewish Temple

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Despite their best efforts, their appeal to the commissioners was futile. One of the BAPS Hindu Temple’s members, Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, said the congregants were disappointed with the commissioners’ decision. 

“I think a lot of the points brought up against us making our home there were mostly about the unknowns. Exactly what we do. How we practice our faith,” he said. However, he remained optimistic. “We still need a home here in Orlando, and we’re not going to give up just because of this one disappointment we had today,” the devotee told FOX 35 Orlando.

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