FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A Hindu temple in southwest Forsyth County has won approval for expanding its footprint after the County Commission granted a conditional use permit for the site at its Oct. 22 meeting. Commissioners voted 3-0 in favor of the request, with commissioners Todd Levent and Molly Cooper absent.
With the approval, the Shirdi Sai Temple of Atlanta, located at 700 James Burgess Road, is set to add several accessory buildings and expand the existing temple.
A 20,000 square-foot function hall will be constructed near the existing temple, and a house on the site will be demolished and replaced by a 4,500-square-foot fellowship hall. The plan also calls for construction of a small meditation room, break/laundry facilities and two small outdoor storage spaces to hold guest’s shoes during worship.
The county had proposed conditions based on traffic control, with the peak use of the temple coming in the late rush hour. Commission Chairwoman Laura Semanson raised the issue that James Burgess Road will be used by residents coming home at that time and by commuters headed to Gwinnett County. She also noted its proximity to several schools.
But after discussions with Shirdi Sai representatives, those requirements were modified.
Originally, a condition would have required the temple to manage overflow parking and hire private security for traffic control each Thursday, the temple’s holy day, from 6 p.m. through 8:30 p.m. However, representatives with the temple said they wanted the flexibility to change their holy day, not just limiting it to Thursdays, and due to limited attendance amid the coronavirus pandemic, the temple did not want to have to pay for traffic control when it is not needed.
A representative of the temple said the traffic flow in and out of the site is not comparable to a Sunday service of other religious denominations, and that people will come and go at different times.
The conditions were changed to have the temple responsible for traffic control and to have “bona fide” off-site parking on any days or times it expects there to be a large gathering that would require traffic mitigation and overflow parking.
The Planning Commission had earlier recommended approval of the use permit and county staff were supportive.