British Columbia·Photos

Controversial Buddhist temple expansion project could get green light

After a decade of fighting the community, the Ling Yen Mountain Temple's plans for expansion are finally moving forward.

Ling Yen Mountain Temple scaled back its expansion proposal by 53 per cent

The Ling Yen Mountain Temple in Richmond, B.C. scaled back its plans to expand by 53 per cent but it will still triple in size. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

After a decade of fighting the community, the Ling Yen Mountain Temple's plans for expansion are moving forward once more. 

The Buddhist temple in Richmond, B.C., has scaled back its expansion proposal by 53 per cent, and city council unanimously approved the scaled down version on May 23. The new plans were being discussed at a public hearing on Monday night.

"We are very happy with this compromise. It works well with the neighbours and also works well with the city," said Scott McMyn, a long-time volunteer and educator at the temple. 

The temple is on No. 5 Road in Richmond. It is among other churches, mosques and temples. The stretch has been dubbed the 'Highway to Heaven'. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Previous designs faced strong opposition because they were deemed too extravagant by residents and they encroached on city bylaws. 

The temple — which sits on No. 5 Road, along with a number of other religious institutions on what is referred to as Highway to Heaven — is located on agricultural land.

The city has a No. 5 Backlands Policy, which allows religious institutions to build on Agricultural Land Reserve as long as the structures are less than 110 metres wide. 

The proposal that caused controversy was nearly 250 metres wide, leading some to call the design a 'Buddha Disneyland.' 

Richmond city councillor Carol Day was opposed to the project before her time on council, she was the founder of the group Committee Against Ling Yen Mountain Retreat. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Richmond City Councillor Carol Day was opposed to the expansion, but welcomes the new design. 

"We were never against Buddhism. We were never against the temple. We were only against the size of the proposal," she said. 

The temple said it needs more space to meet the growing demands. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Growing congregation

The temple said it needs extra space to meet growing demand. It has a large congregation, holds retreats and is the first stop for many immigrants. 

"There is about 70 per cent of local Chinese — who are Buddhist — that do come to this particular temple. Families are growing and our education groups are brimming and we need more space," said McMyn. 

The temple is a first stop for many immigrants and it needs more space for its growing congregation, McMyn said. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

New architect steps in

The long battle over the proposal made headway after the temple switched architects in October 2014. 

"This design is 53 per cent smaller in area from the original plan. It's not as high. It is 85 feet high, the other one, I think, was about 100," said Randy Knill, partner of DA Architects. 

The parking space will be beneath the new temple structure and was cut back from 456 to 385 spots.

Randy Knill, partner at DA Architects + Planners said the project was one of the more challenging ones he has dealt with because usually they don't inherit a project with such strong feelings behind it from opposition. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

About the Author

Tina Lovgreen

Video Journalist

Tina is a Video Journalist with CBC Vancouver. Send her an email at tina.lovgreen@cbc.ca

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