Orange County commissioners vote down ‘Temple on Hempel’

GOTHA, Fla. — After nearly eight months, Orange County commissioners voted 5-2 to turn down the proposed “Temple on Hempel” Tuesday.


On Tuesday, 48 people signed up to speak at the Board of Commissioners meeting on why the Hindu Temple should be built or why it didn’t fit the community’s look.

“We have met with the applicant a couple of times, and the only thing that we ask is to adjust the square footage of the building. There’s nothing in Gotha that could be comparable to size,” said David Boers, a Gotha resident.

The proposed project would have sat between the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall and a Nursey along Hempel Avenue on nearly nine acres of land.

Read: ‘Out of scale’: Gotha residents concerned about proposed 45K-square-foot Hindu temple

The applicant for the temple, Jim Willard, said this location would provide them with the space they need.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir or BAPS members said the congregation was outgrowing the current building on Oak Ridge Road in Orlando.

Temple leaders also said over 60% of their members live in this community.

Read: Board votes down proposed Hindu temple in Orange County neighborhood

In October, a condition of approval allowed Willard and temple leaders to return to the drawing board and redesign the structure to match the community footprint.

“If it was agricultural and outside the rural settlement, a religious institution would be a permitted use by right,” said Willard.

The original plan was for a 33,000 sq ft. two-story building with 800 seats in the main room and 312 parking spaces that opened daily for visits.

Under the conditions, the applicant revised the plans to modify the retention area, scaling back the parking spaces to 282 and modifying the hours of operation. No more than four advertised outdoor special events open to the public per calendar year, and the hours of such events shall be limited from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Schedule worship services between 2:00 pm and 8:00 p.m. on weekends together with five other major festival days per year.

On the days of the five annual major festivals, the applicant, at its expense, would need to retain an off-duty law enforcement officer to assist with traffic control on Hempel Avenue.

Read: Orange County leaders approve $400 million in tourism tax funds for Camping World Stadium renovation

During the commissioner’s meeting, members of BAPS said the event and worship service wouldn’t hinder traffic flow, and the building was out of sight from residents in the area.

“We do not have an adverse effect of traffic on Hempel Avenue,” said Willard.

Residents said the temple would have added to the already flooding problems the area is dealing with.

“Most of the people are there because we want to live in a primarily residential and low-impact community. Environmental open space that’s what we’re looking for,” said Bill Coan, Gotha resident.

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