Three residents who live close to land owned by the Thai Buddist Temple on Steele Road told the Spalding County Board of Appeals just that on Thursday.
Troy Hulon, who lives across Steele Road from the site, said, “We feel this country temple is a tornado of sorts to us,” because of the expansion and increased traffic. “How can it be a country temple if they keep building?”
Terry Sweatt, who lives on 30 acres adjacent to the temple, said “no one’s very happy about this in the Birdie community.”
Sweatt said the community accepted it, but residents are not happy.
“I think the five acres they have is sufficient for what they say goes on out there,” Sweatt said.
Andy Finley said the temple “is not something anybody in this community wants.”
The temple has asked to expand the special exception allowing for a place of worship from the current five acres approved in 2007 to two other adjacent tracts for a total of 17.563 acres.
The Board of Appeals recommended approval of the special exception.
Attorney Michael Goode said the temple is looking to combine the three tracts into one tract for a place of meditations and worship. He asked for the same treatment as any other place of worship and said the group “was absolutely committed to compliance.”
Hulon, Sweatt and Finley each cited instances where building was done without permits or was not in compliance, including a pavilion, storage building and outside lighting as well as complaints about increased traffic, the number of people actually attending services and onsite parking.
They said the objections were not about religion, but about not following the rules.
“I’d feel the same way if it was a Baptist church,” Sweatt said.
They were also concerned that most of the traffic they see is from outside Spalding County.
“Our rights collectively,” Finley said, “should be more than what this group wants to do.”
Community Development Director Chuck Taylor said there has been expansion from what was approved, but said “it was comparable in scope to what we see in churches around this county.”
He said some of the violations have been addressed, including the lighting and use of the storage building as an assembly hall. The storage building cannot be used for an assembly hall until the special exemption is approved and a certificate of occupancy is issued.
The other violations were addressed in the stipulations for approval of the special exception including moving or tearing down the portion of the pavilion built in the buffer area or getting another special exception for the pavilion.
Any outside lighting will have to avoid glare and keep the light only on the property. He also recommended a site plan for any additional building on the site.
The issue will come before the Spalding County Board of Commissioners at the next zoning meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 30.