UPDATE ON DONG HUNG TEMPLE IN VIRGINA BEACH USA
© April 13, 2011
A small community of Buddhist monks has been looking for serenity and permanency in Virginia Beach for almost four years.
The monks think they’ve found it in Kempsville.
Unlike the group’s previous home in rural Pungo, this site is surrounded by businesses and apartments, buffered by trees, and should not cause any conflicts with neighbors, said Jack Whitney, the city’s planning director.
On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved a permit to allow the monks to use the land off Davis Street as a religious facility. The vote was in stark contrast to the more contentious discussions that the council has had about the monks in the past.
Chuc Thanh said he felt “relief.” Dressed in a brown robe, he posed for photos outside the City Council chambers with elated congregation members and some of the city’s planning staff.
The monks with the Buddhist Education Center of America had to move out of their home in Pungo in 2009 after a bank foreclosed on their property. But their Pungo home had been at the center of controversy prior to the move.
The monks held festivals and prayer services at the house, causing neighbors to complain about traffic. City Council members denied the monks a permit to hold religious services in that home, and the monks contested the decision in a federal lawsuit claiming that Virginia Beach had violated their religious freedoms.
The council and the monks eventually settled the suit, but financial problems led to foreclosure. Since then, the monks have used a temporary location near Town Center.
The monks haven’t finalized the purchase of the Kempsville property and wanted to make sure that the council approved their permit first, said Nancy Miller, their real estate agent.
The congregation can now focus on fundraising and make plans for its new home, she said.
“We were gypsies,” Miller said. “We will have a home.”