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Court Orders Destruction Of Sikh Temple In Texas, USA

Jan 6, 2005
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Court orders destruction of Sikh temple in Texas, USA

Punjab Newsline Network

Saturday, 17 July 2010

AUSTIN(Texas): Sikhs are shocked and outraged at a ruling by a Texas Court of Appeals ordering that the only Sikh Temple (Gurudwara) in Austin, Texas be torn down.

Austin Gurdwara Sahib (AGS), a non-profit, Sikh organization purchased land in West side of the Greater Austin area in 2003 to start the first permanent Gurudwara in the Capital City. For years, religious services were hosted weekly in a manufactured home located on the property. In 2005, to improve the facilities, AGS, with the congregation’s support, decided to build a more contemporary building. In this regard, AGS applied for, and was granted, all the necessary permits from the city. The approval process from the city included meetings with Planning & Zoning committees as well as the City Council at large. AGS also met with and provided full disclosure to the neighborhood association.

The construction commenced in late 2007, and the members of the Austin Sikh community celebrated laying the initial foundation stone of the first Sikh temple of its kind in Austin. However, the festive mood came to an abrupt stop immediately after the foundation had finished in Feb 2008, when the Bolliers filed for an injunction against the construction. John and wife Leslie, who is an attorney, were relative newcomers to the neighborhood arriving about 3 years after AGS had been using its property for religious services. Citing to the deed restrictions, the Bolliers argued vehemently against the construction of the Sikh Temple on the grounds that it would be an eye-sore and a traffic magnate, and would lower their property’s value.

By agreement, AGS and the Bolliers agreed to cease construction until the issue was resolved by the trial court. In March 2009, the case was heard by Honorable Judge Susan Covington in the 353rd Judicial District in Travis County Texas. Over the course of several days, the court heard evidence presented by both sides, and rendered an informed decision denying Bollier’s request for an injunction and further ordered them to pay 80% of the associated court costs. In fact, the plantiff, Leslie Bollier, was cited for inequitable conduct in connection with the AGS use of the property.

After the trial court’s favorable ruling, AGS proceded to complete the Temple construction over the next few months. Meanwhile, not satisfied with the trial court’s decision, Bolliers filed an appeal. In July 2010, months after the construction of the Temple was complete, the Appellate Court reversed the lower court’s ruling. In fact, it went so far as to order the completed structure to be torn down! Sikhs around the world and shocked, saddened, and flabbergasted by such an unjust ruling.

The AGS spokes person said that they intends to vigorously appeal and ask the court to reconsider its decision. A website www.SaveGurudwara.com has been set up to provide updates on the matter as well as to collect donations for the legal fight.
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http://www.punjabnewsline.com/content/court-orders-destruction-sikh-temple-texas-usa/22123
 

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spnadmin

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Soul jyot ji

Does anyone have any information about the "deed restrictions' mentioned in the article. I find this very strange.
 

spnadmin

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I found this news stub, that may answer my original question. The land had a "restrictive convenant."

Sikh Temple Must Be Removed For Violation of Restrictive Covenant

In Bollier v. Austin Gurdwara Sahib, Inc., (TX App., July 9, 2010), a Texas appellate court held that building of a Sikh Temple violated a subdivision's restrictive covenant that limited land use to single family dwellings. The Temple originally operated from a mobile home, but a new $150,000 building was constructed after the trial court rejected a challenge to it. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and remanded ordering entry of a permanent injunction barring construction of and ordering removal of the newly constructed Temple. Punjab Newsline Network today reports on the decision, saying that Sikhs are "shocked and outraged" at the order requiring the only Sikh temple in Austin, Texas be torn down.


So this raises another question. How was the restrictive covenant missed at the zoning level when permission was originally given? And how was this missed at the first trial?
 

Tejwant Singh

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I found this news stub, that may answer my original question. The land had a "restrictive convenant."

Sikh Temple Must Be Removed For Violation of Restrictive Covenant

In Bollier v. Austin Gurdwara Sahib, Inc., (TX App., July 9, 2010), a Texas appellate court held that building of a Sikh Temple violated a subdivision's restrictive covenant that limited land use to single family dwellings. The Temple originally operated from a mobile home, but a new $150,000 building was constructed after the trial court rejected a challenge to it. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and remanded ordering entry of a permanent injunction barring construction of and ordering removal of the newly constructed Temple. Punjab Newsline Network today reports on the decision, saying that Sikhs are "shocked and outraged" at the order requiring the only Sikh temple in Austin, Texas be torn down.


So this raises another question. How was the restrictive covenant missed at the zoning level when permission was originally given? And how was this missed at the first trial?


Narayanjot ji,

Guru Fateh.

I think the quickest and the cheapest way is for the city/county to change the zoning from residential dwellings to the one where the Gurdwara can be built. Zoning changes happen all the times all around the US.

After all, the fact remains that the zoning to construct a Gurdwara was approved by the city/county, so it is their responsibility and I am sure it can be done.

Tejwant Singh
 

spnadmin

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Tejwant ji

What you are saying is true...I had forgotten that. This could be something that needs to be sent to the sangat -- otherwise they are spending their money on expensive litigation at the higher level.

On the other hand, if the zoning was changed later to suit the whims of couple who protested, there could have been some people playing a game of dirty pool. That could be hard to prove at the local level.

I think they need to do both. Petition the higher court and also go back to the zoning board to find out what occurred between getting permission, the first trial and now this tragic episode.
 

spnadmin

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I have also uploaded the court decision that came with my earlier reply.

And now...this is nutz! I quickly read through the decision of the appeals court. The judge concluded that the Austin Sangat violated the Structure Restriction - meaning they are not permitted a non-residential building on that lot. But he also concluded that the sangat did not violate the Use Restriciton - therefore, they may hold services on the empty lot. This decision is so technical it makes me think this is going to be a long appellate procedure.
 

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