Hindu temple proposed in Lyon canton raises land use planning questions
Architect Doug Necci has been involved in the design of several Hindu temples since his first in Troy in 1980.
Now he hopes to build one in the canton of Lyon.
Necci presented plans for a new 65,840 square foot Sri Bhaktha Hanuman temple at the June 28 meeting of the Township of Lyon Town Planning Commission.
“Much of this is dictated by priests and sculptures in India,” Necci told the commission. “It’s fascinating to have learned (about) and to have been able to do it. I know these buildings are unusual, and it’s not uncommon for the public to fear the unknown.
The temple would indeed be one of the most extraordinary structures ever built in the township and is proposed for a residential area on 11.67 acres at the northwest corner of 9 Mile and Napier roads.
The proposed building would include seven towers, the tallest of which is over 83 feet. As a religious institution, these arrows are exempt from the obligation to comply with ordinances on the height of buildings.
Religious installations are permitted in residential areas, although special land use is required. The project as proposed needs a gap for land coverage, as it far exceeds the ordinance maximum of 25% of the total land space.
City planner Brian Keesey said the lot coverage proposed by the project is 39%, or 46% if a reserved right-of-way is not included. The average height of the building (excluding the towers) is also about two feet higher than the 25-foot limit of the ordinance, but the commissioners seemed willing to grant this waiver, as the building’s parapet would conceal the HVAC equipment located on the roof.
Keesey noted that there were also no traffic issues from the Oakland County Road Commission regarding the project.
Vijayaraghavan Rengachary, founder of the Sri Bhaktha Hanuman Temple in Farmington Hills, applied for the special land use permit to build a temple on the 22675 Napier Road property in May. The applicants own the land.
In a letter to the township, Rengachary explained that the site is geographically well centered for the communities he hopes to serve with a “very unique and modern temple that will be a sacred place for the community to come together and enjoy religiously and spiritually. “.
He added that he was confident that some of the 5,000 enrolled devotees at the current temple would even consider moving to the temple premises and noted that the floor plan includes several religious idols that will appeal to the wider community in as a “one-stop-shop”.
The facilities would provide a place of prayer, as well as teaching / learning facilities for all ages and a banquet hall. The building would be constructed for a maximum capacity of around 900 worshipers. The highest attendance is expected on three separate Indian holidays, including Diwali, when a shuttle to the site is scheduled.
Sri Bhaktha Hanuman temple member Sadashiv Mallya told the planning commission that over the past four years in Farmington Hills, the congregation has grown too large for two existing small buildings.
“We need a plan that can accommodate all Hindus and people of all faiths,” he said. “We want to serve the whole community regardless of their beliefs and welcome everyone with the same love and warmth… Our vision is a new temple with all the magnificent deities, a unique travel destination for Hindus and non-Hindus all over the country. “
Necci said that in his plans for the building he followed Vastu Sastra, ancient temple design principles, to which the geometric rules are followed as closely as possible.
In India each statue would have its own building, but in Lyon it would be Americanized, with 12 deities contained in the temple, seven of which would have a tower above them. One of the statues, currently in the Farmington Hills Temple, will be placed on a pedestal, reaching 21 to 23 feet in height. Necci said three more statues have been ordered from India and are expected to find a home in the new temple as well.
Before that happens, the lot coverage issue needs to be resolved. A virtual public hearing is scheduled for July 12, after which the town planning commission could take action.
The coverage of lots was cited by town planning commissioners as the main problem. A few also cited minor issues that might be easier to fix, including fewer ornamental trees and more deciduous trees, as well as sidewalks running the length of the frontage of the property.
Commissioner Ron Pennington agreed the coverage of the grounds was a problem, but called the building magnificent, as did several of his fellow Commissioners.
“It’s cool. You don’t see a lot of things like that built anymore,” he said.
Commissioner Branko Mitkovski agreed with this opinion.
“The building is magnificent,” he said. “I lived next to the one in Canton. It was still calm. My only concern is the coverage of the lots.
Township commissioner and treasurer Patty Carcone said she had done a lot of research on the religion to be practiced at the temple and called it “interesting and revealing.”
She suggested that reducing the 301 parking spaces to the 287 required by the ordinance could help cover the land. She also cited several mega churches in the region, notably in Brighton and Oak Pointe in Novi.
Attorney Carol Rosati advised the planning committee towards the start of the meeting to keep in mind the RLUIPA, the Law on Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons, which prohibits them from making decisions that ” significantly impede or discriminate or treat other facilities unequally. “
“RLUIPA forces you to dive into a much more in-depth analysis than you would for any other land use application,” she said. “Recognize that RLUIPA exists and when you make a decision… ask yourself if you are substantially hindering their ability to exercise their religious beliefs. We cannot choose as a community what is a legitimately religious belief or part of a religion. “
After the meeting, Necci said he believed any issues, including the coverage of the lots, could be resolved. One possible solution is the purchase of three additional acres by the applicant, which is currently under discussion.
The architect said it was not possible to reduce the size of the building.
“The floor plan requires a certain amount of space around each of the deities,” he said. “We designed it to be the size it needs to be and nothing more… We don’t want to argue, we want to do our best and hope they will recognize that there is no church around. which will only get 25 percent because of their parking lot, it’s more like 40 percent.