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Bonsall Sponsor Group hears of Buddhist temple situation

The proposed Buddhist temple in Bonsall wasn’t an action item on the Bonsall Sponsor Group’s January 5 agenda, although sponsor group chair Margarette Morgan informed the group of a December 11 county Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) letter and of Morgan’s response to DPLU.

“They don’t seem to understand that it is not to the scope and the scale of our community,” Morgan said. “People in the community do not want it.”

The Dai Dang Meditation Center would include 22,796 square feet of building area consisting of a 6,196 square foot main hall, a 7,664 square foot meditation hall and an 8,936 square foot monk residence hall. An existing building on the site in the 6300 block of Camino Del Rey would be demolished to allow for a parking lot with 81 spaces.

The two-story residence hall would include 12 double-occupancy bedrooms, a communal bathroom on each story, a laundry room, a locker room, three multi-purpose rooms totaling approximately 900 square feet, an isolation bedroom with a private bathroom, a library, a 325 square foot kitchen connected to a 1,055 square foot dining room and a 450 square foot office and reception area. The accommodations would provide for approximately 30 monks at any time.

The meditation hall would be a partial two-story building with architectural features creating a height of up to 29 feet. A large main room would have an altar at the east end for congregational assembly and meditation, and approximately 1,725 square feet would be used for a multi-purpose room which would also serve as a weekend food warming kitchen and weekend dining hall. The second floor would include a conference room measuring approximately 2,430 square feet. Both stories would have restrooms.

The main worship hall building would be 35 feet in height, and a steeple over the altar area would extend the height to 40 feet. In addition to a large room for congregational assemblies, the main worship hall would include daily administrative use office space and restrooms on both stories, and the second story would have approximately 1,440 square feet of study and private meditation area.

The grading of 14,400 cubic yards of cut and 13,400 cubic yards of fill would create an export of 1,000 cubic yards, and the relocation of the driveway to meet County of San Diego sight distance requirements would involve movement of 3,400 cubic yards of cut and 4,900 cubic yards of fill.

A 24-foot-wide paved driveway from Camino del Rey would serve as the main access while emergency access would be provided from Wrightwood Way at the site’s northern boundary. The 81 parking spaces would include six handicapped spaces.

The monks do not drive cars, and no visitors would be allowed after 5 p.m. The center would operate between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and Buddhist holidays; normal weekend meditation activity would occur approximately 45 times a year and would attract up to 300 people.

Four special religious events each year, based on Buddhist holidays, are expected to attract between 300 and 600 people, and three annual events associated with Buddhist holidays or a visit from the Headmaster would attract up to 1,000 people.

Amplified sound would be used in the interior of the buildings, but not in any exterior areas, during special events. In order to monitor and control the number of visitors and parking spaces, the Dai Dang Meditation Center would set up a Web site and require that all who attend the special events pre-register on-line.

The Web site would not only register the total number of people for each event, but would also assign parking spaces to the visitors. All guests would be required to print out a parking pass or permit prior to arriving at the site, and no visitors would be allowed to enter the site by automobile without such a pass or permit.

If the number of guests is projected to exceed 300 people, privately-contracted passenger buses would be utilized and staged at the parking lot of the Bonsall Union School District, which is approximately 1.75 miles west of the site. The facility would not have a gift shop or other retail sales.

The septic system has been sized to support 100 guests, 30 full-time residents, four volunteers and the two existing dwellings. The Major Use Permit would require portable toilets for any event attended by more than 100 people.

On December 11, DPLU issued a letter stating that the project’s Community Character Analysis has been accepted by DPLU’s Project Planning Division with minor changes. The required changes to the stormwater management plan, drainage study, conceptual grading plan, and traffic study caused the application to be deemed “incomplete” according to the California Environmental Quality Act, but the general acceptance of the Community Character Analysis was not what the Bonsall Sponsor Group desired.

“They are likening this church to the size of a barn that we have,” Morgan said.

At past Bonsall Sponsor Group meetings which have addressed the proposed temple, Morgan was given the authority to communicate with county staff if timeliness was desired. Morgan’s letter in response was thus mentioned at the January sponsor group meeting and did not draw any objections but was written in her capacity as sponsor group chair rather than as an official sponsor group action.

“The sponsor group has asked me to respond in a timely fashion,” Morgan said. “I did not want to wait until January at our meeting in order to respond.”

Morgan also gave sponsor group members the opportunity to review the letter prior to the meeting.

“As soon as I wrote the letter I sent it to every member on the sponsor group,” she said.

Morgan’s letter to DPLU included a letter from the Bonsall Union School District superintendent noting that he could not extend the parking lease for special events due to potential conflict with children’s activities at the school site.

“I could not figure out where they were going to park 80 buses plus cars,” Morgan said.

The reference to 80 buses was based on the four events attracting approximately 1,000 visitors. Morgan also noted that the portable toilet facilities would likely eliminate parking spaces.

The temple site is in front of a curve with a boulder.

“This is a 24-foot-wide narrow windy road,” Morgan said.

The original application for the Dai Dang Meditation Center was submitted on April 2, 2004. Three drafts of initial studies preceded the draft environmental Negative Declaration, which was advertised for public review in October 2007. The response to

public comments on that draft Negative Declaration was completed in May 2008, and the public review was followed by submittal of a visual study and submittal of the first draft of extended initial studies following the public review. The first draft of initial studies following the public review was submitted on November 18.

A second draft of initial studies will be followed by another draft Negative Declaration, which is expected to be released for public review in early March. DPLU is expected to make a final staff recommendation on the project in mid-May, after which the project will be docketed for a Planning Commission hearing.

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