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After Initial Rejection, Fresno Sikh Temple Gets Approval



Fresno County Supervisors gave the green light to a Sikh temple and community center at 1501 N. Brawley Ave. (GV Wire/David Taub)
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The Sant Zora Singh Lopon Charitable Trust wanted to build a Sikh temple and community center on the outskirts of Fresno. They sought a place where 50 families could meet and pray.

Things seemed to be on the way for a routine approval. Staff reports supported the project. There was no opposition from neighbors.

Nonetheless, the Fresno County Planning Commission said no.

The Board of Supervisors disagreed. At Tuesday’s meeting, the board overrode the commission’s decision, granting an appeal with a 5-0 vote.

“We have many churches of varying faiths. I don’t know why it didn’t pass the planning commission, but as (Supervisor) Nathan (Magsig) alluded to, we’re the ultimate deciding voice is here. Staff recommends the project. I don’t see anything of issue with the project. And I would make the motion to accept staff’s recommendation and move this idea forward,” said Supervisor Brian Pacheco, who represents the area of the proposed temple.

Members of the temple did not want to speak on the record, but they expressed happiness over the decision.

A ‘No’ at Planning Commission

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife expressed concern that building a Sikh temple might affect the Swainson’s hawk (CDFW)

Already owning the property at 1501 N. Brawley Avenue, just north of Olive Avenue, the trust required a conditional use permit from the planning commission.

In a filing with the county, organizers of the Sikh temple said they would meet once or twice a month on Sundays. The temple would use amplified sound, but only indoors. Up to 100 worshippers, traveling up and down the Central Valley but mostly from Fresno, would attend. Parking would be available for 50 cars.

But a letter from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife may have influenced the planning commission to say no. While the CDFW did not outwardly object to the project, it did express concerns over the proposed temple’s effect on the Swainson’s hawk and burrowing owl.

In a letter to the planning commission, Julie Vance, regional manager with CDFW, recommended several mitigation measures if the project moved forward. They included surveys conducted by biologists to determine “that the birds (hawks) have fledged and are no longer reliant upon the nest or parental care for survival.”

Other measures included replacing raptor nest trees and creating a half-mile no-disturbance buffer zone.

On a 5-3 vote on June 10, the planning commission rejected the temple’s permit request.

Planning staff speaking to the Board of Supervisors said commissioners made comments about the proposed metal building and where the worshippers would travel from.

“There was no testimony in opposition to the application and no discussion regarding the late correspondence from the California Department of Fish
and Wildlife,” a county staff report said.

Temple Appeals and Wins

The temple appealed the decision on June 21 and finally had its hearing on Tuesday.

“The appearance of the outside of the building was one thing that was a concern to some of the commission members. But the inside of the building is going to be fully articulated, fully finished out. It’s going to represent a Sikh facility. It’s going to be a place where these families could come worship,” architect Michael Dhanens — representing the Sikh group — told the supervisors.

Temple members attended the meeting, but they didn’t speak at the hearing.

Magsig said the metal building or where the temple members came from were immaterial. He voiced his support for the project.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email