NORTH BRUNSWICK – An application to build a Hindu temple on Route 130 in North Brunswick will continue in September, when more information is needed about the relocation of Sai Pariwar.
The congregation is currently located near the MainStreetNB transit village at 2300 Route 1, a 5,000-square-foot house of worship that began in 2001 and currently has 140 members.
The applicant is seeking Zoning Board of Adjustment approval to demolish three existing residential structures at 2351, 2353 and 2355 Route 130 and to build a new 14,000-square-foot, two-level building with a basement, which would include a prayer hall, dining room, library, study rooms, meditation area, warmup kitchen and lobby. The property is in a general office zone.
Civil engineer and professional planner Michael Junghans said the 3.99-acre property is bordered by trees all around, Mae Brook at the south, wetlands, high density residential to the west, and the commercial corridor of Route 130.
Attorney Peter U. Lanfrit said the organization is only seeking a use variance at this time and not site plan approval, since there are traffic and environmental issues that must be resolved first.
According to the current plan, the hours of operation would be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 4-8:30 p.m. on weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. Thursday is the holiest day of the week. There are 11 holy days observed during the year, about one per month. Generally, congregants come to pray, worship and then leave, without having a formal, organized prayer service.
The temple expects about 15 visitors on weekdays, and about 115 over the course of a weekend. Holy days could include extended family members.
Babu Gowba, a congregant who is a certified civil and traffic engineer, said the larger space is needed despite a slow growth in membership because the current building does not have a separate room for meditation or yoga, there are not separate bathrooms for men and women, and there are no shoe racks.
When Gowba said there could be activities outside of worship, such as meditation and yoga, or an informal Sunday language class for children, board members asked for clarification, since the original testimony stated there would be people coming in, praying and leaving, and not staying an extended period of time for organized services.
Lanfrit said he would gather more information before the next meeting.
Another issue is the parking situation: 67 parking spaces are approved, although 86 parking spaces are required. Lanfrit said the applicant is consulting with the Department of Transportation regarding some issues, so that could change.
Board Chairman Mark McGrath asked the applicant to identify similar temples with the proposed square footage to determine what their parking requirements are, and said perhaps they could establish some type of norm in New Jersey to compare.
Gowba said a formal traffic study will be submitted at the time of the site plan application.
In terms of the interior of the building, architect Kishor Joshi testified that congregants offer food to their gods and goddesses, and do not eat until after, so food would be brought down to the dining hall.
However, the kitchen would only be for warming up food, not preparing and cooking. There would be no wedding, funeral or other life cycle events, nor would there be the sale of any food. The basement would be for storage and equipment only, and not inhabitance.
Zoning board attorney Lawrence Sachs confirmed there is only one full-time clergyman and said that individual does not live on-site. No living quarters are proposed in the new building.
The building would be 35 feet high up to the roof, but 59 feet to the highest point of the dome. Joshi said the dome would not be illuminated.
The next zoning board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sept. 18 in the municipal courtroom, 710 Hermann Road, North Brunswick.
More testimony and public comment are expected at that time. Residents who live within 200 feet of the property will not receive another notice about the project prior to that meeting.
Contact Jennifer Amato at email@example.com.