Peterborough

Meditation Center gets OK to build temple

Zoning Board approves special exception and variance, so two-story project can move forward

PETERBOROUGH — After a weekend visit to the site of a proposed Buddhist temple near the former Temple Mountain ski area, Zoning Board of Adjustment members on Wednesday approved a special exception and a variance request, allowing the Temple Mountain Buddhist Meditation Center to move forward with its plan for a temple that could accommodate up to 75 people.

In 2011, the meditation center received approval to hold occasional events on the site, with the condition that no more than 30 people or 15 vehicles be there at any given time. Since then demand for the services has grown among the Vietnamese community, with many people coming regularly from the Nashua area and Massachusetts for Sunday meditation sessions.

According to plans presented at the start of the Zoning Board meeting earlier in July, the 3,200-square-foot, two-story temple, with a raised porch on all four sides, would be built on a flat section of land where a garage now sits at the top of the driveway that leads from Route 101 into the site. The garage would be torn down and an 18-space gravel parking area would be built nearby.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Dawn Tuomala of Monadnock Survey Inc. in Wilton, who has been doing site planning for the meditation center, told the board that the entrance road will be widened to two lanes and will be 24 feet wide, according to draft minutes of the meeting. Tuomala said that change came about as a result of the site visit the ZBA members made on July 12.

During discussion of the special exception for use as a religious institution architect Len Pagano said the meditation room, which is the primary space in the building, would be just under 2,200 square feet, according to the draft minutes.

“It is the size of a modest house. It is not a huge building,” he said.

The Buddhist center’s attorney, Thomas Quinn of Milford, said the center would expect to have about 75 people attending Sunday meditation sessions and would have four retreats a year. Up to six resident monks would live in a house on the property, and the temple would have space to provide lodging for up to 25 people during the retreats.

During the discussion, Board Chair Jim Stewart asked Quinn how Peterborough would benefit from having the center.

“Well, first and foremost, it promotes diversity,” Quinn said, adding that the center is a valuable use of the land, a permitted use, and would not create any negative impact.

Stewart said his only concern about granting the special exception was the width and length of the driveway, but because the driveway would be widened, he was in favor of the request. Other board members agreed, except for Sharon Monahan, who said the access location was poor, that previous approvals had not allowed overnight lodging, and that the changes in the landscape would be visible from Miller State Park and the state land at Temple Mountain.

Board members voted 4-1 to approve the special exception, with Monahan casting the dissenting vote.

Board members then unanimously approved a variance to allow portions of the temple and the parking lot to be within a 50-foot wetlands buffer. Monahan said she had been impressed during the site visit with the way storm water drainage would be managed.

“I now understand why you placed the temple where you did,” Monahan said, according to the minutes. “Given the steep slope of the lot, that is the only place you really could put it.”

The meditation center’s next steps will be to have plans reviewed by the Fire Department and approved by the town’s Planning Board.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com.

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