Back Nippen Road in Buxton might seem like an odd place for a Cambodian Buddhist temple, but, as the chairman of the Watt Samaki temple’s board has explained, the wooded eight acres where it sits is not such an unusual choice.

“People like to meditate in forests,” said Pirun Sen, who was born in rural Cambodia. “It’s a place to focus. It lifts their spirits up.”

However, the Cambodian Buddhists who worship there have found that getting a quiet place to focus isn’t as easy as they had initially believed. For months, the temple has been seeking permission from the town to hold religious celebrations at the temple, and so far members of the temple have been unable to get that from the Buxton Planning Board.

Representatives from the temple plan to go before the board once again Monday. Unless there is some good reason this temple should not be allowed there, it’s time for the town to grant these people permission practice their religion in peace. The Planning Board has been meditating on this project long enough.

The temple is allowed on the rural road under the town’s zoning, but does require a conditional use permit. The temple’s most recent attempt to obtain a permit began in January. At a public hearing, neighbors said they were concerned about parking and increased traffic on the road.

At a public hearing in February, Planning Board members said the temple’s plan needed to include a stormwater pond to collect runoff from the parking lot. The temple was also asked to resubmit its plans for the 67-car parking lot because the spaces were 6 inches short of the 9-foot width required by town ordinances.

Each time the temple returns, the board seems to find new problems with the plan. This Monday, the board is planning to open the project to public concerns once again. We hope that’s not an indication the board will have to make more changes to the plan.

At this point, it would seem as though the plan has received its fair share of scrutiny. The temple is not applying to do something that is not allowed under town ordinances. The temple’s overall plans have not changed, only the details to meet the town’s requirements. If there are more changes that need to be made, the temple should have been informed of them by now.

This is not the first time the temple has come before the town. In May 2006, a monk came before the boarding seeking a permit to hold gatherings at the temple. At that time, the board didn’t issue a permit because the monk did not provide paperwork the board had requested. In October of that year, the town accused the temple of holding a gathering without a permit. The town ordered the temple to halt the gatherings or face a $2,500 fine.

The temple is now once again seeking permission to hold religious gatherings at the temple. Unless Planning Board members have some reason to deny them a permit to do so, they need to let these people practice their religion in peace.

Brendan Moran, editor


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