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USA Sikh Temple In Texas Faces Razing Following A Court Ruling

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Jun 17, 2004
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Tags:sikh temple in austin|austin gurdwara sahib





HOUSTON: A newly-built Sikh temple in Austin may soon be razed or moved following a Texas appellate-court ruling that it violated zoning laws, resulting in an outcry from members of the community.

The temple was completed in April to replace a mobile home that the congregation of about 60 families in central Texas had been using as a place of worship since 2003.

But, the congregation says it was unaware of the subdivision's restricting covenants stating that only single-family dwellings can be built on the lot and that they must be used as housing.

The group purchased the 2.75-acre property where the new temple sits in 2003 in a subdivision of the Austin suburb of Bee Cave and set up the makeshift temple in the 1,200- square-foot mobile home, which was already on the property.

Two years later, the congregation started plans to build a temple on the property and obtained all necessary permits from the city, said Harnek Bains, president of the Austin congregation.

Sikh organisation Austin Gurdwara Sahib said it cost $350,000 to build the temple, and it paid $100,000 for the land.

The court ruling has resulted in an outcry from members of the religious group, some of whom claim discrimination is at the heart of the case.

"There is a great amount of grief that a religious house of worship is being destroyed," said Amardeep Singh, director of programmes at the National Sikh Coalition, a civil-rights organisation.

Bains said the congregation faced no opposition until 2008, when the Bolliers moved into the neighbourhood and filed suit while the temple was under construction.

"We were shocked and stunned," Bains said. The Bolliers said in a statement: "We did not bring this suit until AGS violated the single-family dwelling restriction by beginning construction of a large, pre-fabricated aluminum commercial building on its lot".

The dispute began when a couple, John and Leslie Bollier, living in the neighbourhood filed a lawsuit on the grounds that the temple violated the subdivision's rules restricting construction to single-family dwellings.

"It isn't about religion, but rather the construction of a building that could bring down property values in a residential neighbourhood".

The trial-court judge sided with the Sikh group in March 2009, saying while it was in violation of the subdivision's covenants, the Bolliers were barred from seeking court action on use of the property in large part due to the expiration of a statute of limitations that requires citizens to file suit within four years of an alleged violation.

 

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