Neighbors Hear Plans For Buddhist Learning Center

By SCOTT JACKSON

Residents living near the site of a proposed Buddhist learning center in Quincy Point raised questions about traffic and parking during a neighborhood meeting Wednesday.

The Massachusetts Budhi Siska Society has proposed building the Buddhist learning center on property it owns at 54 Massachusetts Ave. and 15 Glenwood Way. The proposal will go before the Planning Board at its next meeting on July 19 at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

Ward 2 Councillor Brad Croall and Ward 1 Councillor Margaret Laforest co-hosted Wednesday’s meeting inside the society’s Buddhist temple on Massachusetts Avenue, across the street from the site of the proposal. About two dozen people were in attendance – about half were members of the temple and half were nearby residents.

The learning center would be located behind the existing residential building at 54 Massachusetts Ave. and would stand four stories tall with 10,000 square feet of space total. The home at 15 Glenwood Way would be kept on site well; it and the home at 54 Massachusetts Ave. would be utilized by the society to house the visiting scholars who would use the learning center.

Rob Fleming, the attorney for the applicant, said the temple had originally sought to use the new building as a learning center for children but agreed to use it as a learning center for selected scholars after city officials balked at the initial plan. The building was also scaled down in size, from 12,000 square feet to 10,000.

Eight to ten scholars, plus one or two employees, will be inside the learning center at any given time, Fleming said, reiterating at several points during the hour-long meeting that it would not be a place where people would congregate.

“You’re not going to have 200 people coming in here using this facility,” Fleming said. “That wouldn’t be right. They couldn’t accommodate that.”

Under the current proposal before the Planning Board, the top two floors of the building would house an extensive collection of texts owned by the Rev. Shi Kuan Yin, which Fleming said is comparable to collections at Harvard and Princeton. The second floor of the building would mostly be set aside meditation space for the visiting scholars, and the first floor would house a lobby.

The proposal includes a total of 12 parking spaces – three in an existing driveway at 54 Massachusetts Ave. and nine that would be located in a parking area between the learning center and 15 Glenwood Way – to be used by the residential buildings and the learning center.

Fleming said the building should be classified as a religious institution – thus exempting it from certain zoning requirements, including those for parking. City officials, however, are determining if the building would qualify for the exemption; if not, up to 25 parking spaces would be needed for the learning center and residences under Quincy’s zoning code.

Parking and traffic were the main concerns for residents at the meeting.

Lisa Carinci, whose father lives near the site, said traffic is already problematic in the neighborhood – parked vehicles have blocked in her father’s driveway on several occasions, and emergency vehicles have difficulty driving through the area.

“The traffic is a big issue on Mass. Ave.,” she said.

Fleming said the learning center would not exacerbate the current traffic situation in the neighborhood. Some of the new parking at the learning center could also be used on Sundays during services at the temple, he added, which could provide some relief.

Croall said he was in favor of creating a learning center for the scholars, but was concerned about the size of the building and the parking.

“The concern coming out of the neighborhood is density – density and parking,” he said. “I understand mechanically the Sunday school, for lack of a better word, has been eliminated, but still it’s a really large structure.”

Croall asked if the temple would be amenable to tearing down the home at 15 Glenwood Way, or purchasing and tearing down another home nearby, to create additional parking spaces. Philip Chu, a volunteer with the temple, said the society would be open to doing so if the learning center proved problematic after one year, but several area residents said they would prefer the home not be torn down.

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