Last month, the Washington County Planning Commission heard a request for a conditional use permit (CUP) for a Buddhist monastery to operate near Fort Calhoun.
After the request was met with opposition, the commission recommended to deny the permit.
At the Washington County Board of Supervisors meeting Oct. 12, the request was tabled until potential changes could be made.
Kumar Gurung, chairman and CEO of Triratna Foundation, explained to the board that the residence, which is located at 2488 County Road 45, would be used to house two to four monks for religious purposes. The residence will not be open to the public and any events that occur would be by invitation only.
The property includes 10 acres of land, with 2.5 acres being used for the residence and 7.5 acres that are undeveloped.
Neighbors expressed their concerns, including traffic issues. A couple of events created parking problems after guests parked on the county road.
Gurung admitted that was a mistake and it would be corrected.
Another neighbor's complaint of a flag that blew on to his property during a storm seemed petty.
If this CUP is approved, the property would come off the tax rolls as it would be used for religious services and the organization is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.
None of these issues should prevent the county board from approving this CUP.
All churches within the county now are tax exempt. While they may not pay taxes, many religious organizations in this county give back to the communities they serve.
What would make this monastery any different?
Anyone who owns property has the right to do with it as they please within the law. That means if an individual wants to host a graduation party and invite 50 to 100 people they can.
These Buddhist monks could host a gathering and as long as guests park on the property and not along the road, they are abiding by the law.
Gurung has publicly said he would not host events and gatherings that would disrupt the neighbors.
A monastery is meant as a quiet space for the monks to worship and live.
In fact, Gurung noted that the monastery would “undoubtedly help to keep the neighborhood peaceful, silent, clean and beautiful.”
Neighbors and county officials need to keep an open mind and approve the CUP for this monastery.
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