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Opposition to a Sikh prayer temple in Rio Linda echoes a similar situation recently in Galt.

A second Sikh temple faces opposition in Sacramento County

Published: Sunday, May. 25, 2014 - 10:25 pm

A second proposed Indian temple is facing community opposition in unincorporated Sacramento County, and questions of racism are again part of the debate.

Sri Guru Ravidass Temple wants to replace its existing Sikh prayer hall with a 12,000-square-foot building with gold domes in a rural neighborhood near Dry Creek Road and G Street in Rio Linda. Neighbors have twice shown up before a community planning board to oppose the project, citing concerns about drainage and parking, among other things.

The Community Planning Advisory Council is scheduled to hear the proposal for a third time at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Rio Linda Depot Visitors’ Center. The council will make a recommendation on the project, with the final decision coming from the county Planning Commission or zoning official.

Opposition in Rio Linda comes only a month after residents near Galt persuaded the Board of Supervisors to reject construction of another Indian temple, Mishra Gathering Place.

Temple supporters in both communities question whether race has played a role in the opposition, especially since other churches have had relatively few problems getting projects approved in the county.

Project opponents and county officials deny claims of racism in Rio Linda or the Galt area. County officials say the complaints raised by project opponents are not unusual when development is proposed in rural areas.

Ramesh Banger of Antelope said he has wondered about opponents’ motives since applying for county approval of the Rio Linda temple in 2011. He said he has repeatedly met the county requirements, only to be told of new ones.

“When someone keeps complaining without reason, then you might guess that racism is the reason,” Banger said.

Charlea Moore, a member of the Community Planning Advisory Council, said neighbors have legitimate concerns about the project, but she said she thinks they can be resolved. Residents raised complaints about how the temple would use properties adjacent to the prayer hall, so the council asked project supporters to return with a plan for all their land. The temple complied.

At a subsequent meeting, neighbors complained about drainage on the temple property, because flooding is a perennial concern in Rio Linda, Moore said. They also asked how parking would be handled.

The project’s supporters have since addressed those concerns with plans for a detention pond and shuttle bus service when large events are scheduled, said Tricia Stevens, principal planner for the county.

Neighbors in Rio Linda don’t appear to be as opposed to the temple as those near Galt were, Stevens said. Rio Linda residents seem focused on fixing the project, instead of outright opposing it, as was the case near Galt, she said.

The Community Planning Advisory Council responsible for the area near Galt recommended denial of Mishra Gathering Place. The Planning Commission, however, unanimously approved the project, only to have the advisory council appeal the project to the Board of Supervisors.

The board held a contentious hearing lasting more than five hours before rejecting the project, calling a compromise plan fashioned by the Planning Commission unworkable. During the meeting, about 120 Indian and Fijian backers of the temple sat on one side of the chambers, and about 40 white opponents sat on the other side. Supporters repeatedly accused opponents of racism; opponents said the temple was loud and clashed with the rural environment.

In the last 15 years, churches have occasionally faced neighborhood opposition when proposing expansions, according to records on the county planning division website.

But of the 22 projects receiving a final decision, only two have been rejected – Mishra Gathering Place and Missionary Gospel Church.

Like the Indian temple, Missionary Gospel Church faced opposition to its planned expansion in Rio Linda. The Community Planning Advisory Council, citing problems that would come from large church events, recommended denial, and the Board of Supervisors supported that decision when the church appealed.

Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.

Read more articles by Brad Branan

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