Buddhists hope to remain in rural house

Daily Press, August 17, 2008

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (USA) -- Buddhist monks in Virginia Beach are hoping to continue to seek tranquility and worship with others in a nearly $1 million brick ranch home.

<< Vietnamese Monks, Chuc Thanh, left, and Chuc Hoi speak last year about the problems they are having in the Pungo community in Virginia Beach - Photo: Gary C. Knapp 

While the monks urged patience, for several Virginia Beach Planning Commissioners the clock had run out. In a 6-4 vote last week, the commission recommended that the monks shut down their temple in rural Virginia Beach. Now the City Council will be asked to decide in the next month whether they can continue to live there.

The Buddhist Education Center of America Inc. had requested a two-year extension to a permit issued last August that allowed the organization to hold worship services in the house. The master Buddhist monk lives in the house, along with some younger monks, and worshippers come there on Sundays and for three celebrations during the year.

The monks have unsuccessfully tried to find a new location for the master's house and temple. And selling the home in the current real estate market is almost impossible, said Morris Fine, an attorney representing the monks.

"What the Buddhists want to do is keep the status quo," Fine said.

Commissioner Eugene Crabtree said time is up, adding: "It makes no difference what religion they are."

Most residents said they had no problem with the monks, but some said the traffic that the Buddhist worship services bring to the neighborhood is a problem.

Louis Cullipher said the temple just doesn't fit with the city's land use for the neighborhood near Pungo or "the expectations of the residents."

He also said the monks haven't put up a "for sale" sign on the property despite the deadline.

The monks did explore two alternative sites in September and asked city planners whether the properties would accommodate a temple.