There were moments of tension at a recent meeting regarding a planned Hindu temple and neighborhood on Kelly Mill Road.
On Monday, March 15, a public participation meeting held at the Midway Park Community Building brought together more than 75 residents to discuss plans for adjacent plots on Kelly Mill Road near Bethelview Road: the rezoning of 41.8 acres for the Agriculture (A1) and single-family residential neighborhoods from family redistribution (R2R) to single-family residential (Res3) for a proposed neighborhood and a conditional use permit application to operate a temple with a priest’s residence on 18.1 acres.
The rezoning application, filed by the applicant Kelly Mill Consultants Cooperation, provides for 64 detached single family homes with a minimum area of 14,750 square feet, 1.5 units per acre on 6.4 acres of open space.
The proposal calls for the construction of houses for the Sri Ram Gardens neighborhood on both sides of Kelly Mill.
On the south side of the road, the houses would be built on 26 acres adjoining Ashlind Street and Red Barn Court.
Across the road, homes would be built on 16 acres just west of the homes in the Odle Field Chase subdivision and adjoining property owned by the Hindu Center in Atlanta.
The Sri Bhadradri Rama Temple in the United States and the proposed priests’ residence would be on the north side of Kelly Mill adjoining the west side of the planned neighborhood and is proposed with a main temple building totaling approximately 65,000 square feet, a priest of 15 000 square feet houses a 2,025 square foot auxiliary building and four 30 foot high landscape statues.
According to Forsyth County property records, development landowners include Sri Sam Samsthan Inc., SRC Builders LLC, Sushil Prem.
The proposals raised concerns among neighbors, who heavily attended the meeting, and created a Facebook group called the Kelly Mill Coalition with more than 500 members and circulated an online petition opposing the developments, which garnered over 1,100 signatures at press time. time.
During the meeting, residents shared several concerns, including concerns about the amount of traffic and noise generated by the development, impacts on local schools, whether the design of the project would be allowed under county rules. , how developments might impact property values and concerns about large gatherings.
“I am more concerned about the traffic problems that are going to be created by worshipers and new neighborhoods,” said one commenter.
Another speaker raised concerns that the planned houses – which are offered with flat rather than sloping roofs – were meant to appeal to people of Indian descent, with whom the speaker said they didn’t have a problem, but felt the developers weren’t being honest about the reasoning for wanting the style.
“The point is that the architecture is designed in such a way that it attracts only [the Indian population] because the typical American living in the Forsyth County area will find the houses unattractive and will not want to move into them, so it is an end to racial segregation by making the houses unattractive, ”said the speaker.
During the meeting, Ethan Underwood, a zoning lawyer with Miles, Hansford and Tallant who represents the developer, touched on some details of the project, such as the priests’ residence being for four priests and their families, the total height of the temples. being about 85 feet – about 60 feet for the actual structure and an additional 25 feet for the temple domes – and sharing the designs of the residential parts.
Underwood said any festivals so large that they would need off-site parking would be required to have shuttle services.
Perhaps the liveliest part of the meeting came when it was revealed that the temple would measure approximately 64,000 square feet, instead of the 31,890 square feet shown on documents submitted with the request due to a second floor not counted.
“This is something I have to review and watch… My presentation is [based on] what we tabled and that’s what I understood, ”Underwood said at the meeting. “It’s my mistake, and I’ll fix it.”
The developers said the property would be used for two to three major festivals per year, yoga and other classes, weddings and other uses.
Forsyth County District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent, who represents the area and attended the meeting on Monday, shared a Facebook post discussing the demands, saying he “must be aware of everyone’s rights, to include not only the community, but also those of the applicant. “
“As such, it is my duty to listen to all of your concerns and comments, as well as those of the claimant, and to keep an open mind until the matter is referred to the Council of Commissioners,” said writes Levent. “Also, because this zoning involves the use of the property for religious purposes, this is another consideration that I must take into account. There is a federal law called RLUIPA (which stands for “Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act”) that provides additional legal advice regarding zoning for religious purposes.
“Because of this extra layer of federal authority, I will be working closely with the county attorney on these two zoning issues to make sure my decision making is the best it can be; and compliant with all the different laws that control – to include the Unified County Development Code, the Comprehensive Plan, State Law, and Federal Law that I mentioned earlier. “
Levent went on to say many concerns were practical, said community concerns would be factored into the decision, and asked the community to be patient with the county throughout the zoning process.
The project will be discussed at a working session and a regular meeting of the county planning council before going to the county commissioners for a final decision. The dates for these meetings have not been fixed.