Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Neighbors on Edge over Plan

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Neighbors on Edge over Plan

Article excerpt


An obscure spiritual group is seeking approval to build a large worship center in an eastern Manatee County neighborhood amid fervent opposition from nearby residents.

A second hearing was held Monday morning in the Shien Deh Temple's quest to obtain a special permit to construct a 9,750- square-foot building to use as a place of worship and meditation. A rehearing was granted by the county after the group's original request was denied April 17.

Hearing officer Jack Hawkins has up to 20 days to decide on the special permit.

Residents say they are concerned with safety, road and drainage issues, changes to the character of the neighborhood and a decrease in property value should the structure be built.

Robert Lincoln, an attorney for the spiritual group, says the proposed two-story structure would be compatible with other structures in the neighborhood.

The spiritual group currently worships in the living room of a residence in the 6900 block of 18th Ave. E., about a mile east of Morgan Johnson Road.

They have used the house since 2001.

The residence is in a district zoned suburban agriculture.

At the hearing, Lincoln pointed out other buildings in the neighborhood of similar size to the proposed worship center and said they were used for business purposes.

Opponents said the structures are necessary to house items such as lawn equipment and trucks that are used on the large lots of the subdivision.

Lincoln said that the proposed worship center would generate less traffic than other businesses in the area, including a landscaping company and a day-care facility.

"If he (Hawkins) applies the standards so it is more restrictive on a church than it would be if it were a school or other assembly uses, that can create problems with federal law," Lincoln said.

"We're not looking for a fight. We're hoping he's going to look at this and come to a better decision in favor of the church's proposal. …

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