Hindu Center to open on Research Drive

A Hindu temple and cultural center received unanimous Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) board at its March 20 meeting to operate at 25 Research Drive.

Attorney Thomas Lynch said BAPS New Haven LLC is the contract purchaser of the property, which has a 17,184-square-foot building from 1975 on 1.77 acres of land in the Industrial District (ID) zone.

According to the city assessor, the property was appraised at $1.8 million in 2016. BAPS is a non-profit organization, so the new use would be exempt from property taxes.

The project needed and received a special exception and site plan approval. Lynch said the approval would allow BAPS to purchase the property. The current owner is Tri-State Joint Fund.

Lynch said there would be “virtually no work on the outside,” other than the recommendation from Gregory Pidluski, city engineer, to install more catch basins on the property.

One traffic island with a tree will be added to the parking lot, which Lynch said otherwise has about the right number of trees to comply with the city’s buffer requirements.

Lynch asked that the board defer Pidluski’s requirement for new sidewalks and driveway aprons to a future time when the center repaves the parking lot. He said the parking lot has 57 parking spaces, but the center is only required to provide 48.

The building would have interior renovations to add a kitchen, which must have a grease trap to comply with approval from the Sewer Commission.

Lynch said the Hindu center is similar to the Turkish cultural center the board unanimously approved two years ago at 9 Research Drive. He said these uses are in harmony with the office district because peak operation is on the weekends. He said from Monday to Friday, about 10 to 15 people would visit on an average day, commenting that no assemblies are held during the week.

Weekly assemblies will take place from 1 to 8 p.m. on Sundays with worship in the evening.

“It does not add to the traffic in the area since the other uses are primarily not open on Sunday,” said Lynch, who expects 100 to 125 people will attend on Sundays.

Reading from the project’s statement of use, Lynch said BAPS promulgates the Hindu religion, and is dedicated to religion, community service, peace and harmony. He said the organization has several places of worship in the United States, including a temple or mandir at 647 North Mountain Rd., Newington.

Lynch said a pujari or priest would live at the facility. He said zoning regulations allow residential use in the ID zone if the person is a caretaker or a site occupant, such as a priest.

The center would have children and youth activities, scriptural studies, music and language classes. Dinner would be served after the assembly, as a sanctified meal to promote family unity and values. The center plans to engage in charitable activities, such as conducting food drives, walk-a-thons, collecting clothing, and hosting career fairs, said Lynch,

Architect Sudhakar Nagardeolekar from Tolland said he was involved with the conversion of the Newington mandir from a Knights of Columbus Hall. He said the existing large hall would be used for prayer services, the loading dock would be converted into a dining hall, and other interior renovations would involve removing or moving walls.

“There will be no changes to the exterior, except as required by the code,” said Nagardeolekar, commenting that the building has no handicapped facilities, and this project will add accessible restrooms to meet the code requirements. Exterior garage doors would be replaced with windows.

The only person who spoke at the public hearing was Roshan Patel of Rocky Hill. Patel said he has been associated with BAPS since he was born, and was involved with the Newington mandir.

“It will be an asset to the community,” said Patel, commenting that the Newington Fire Department and the American Cancer Society have been beneficiaries of the organization’s walk-a-thons since 2006.

Patel said the Milford facility is needed because he said many people drive to the Newington location from the Stamford area, which is a long distance.