Board Approves Buddhist Monastery Expansion in Bonsall

July 25, 2012 | 5:50pm

County supervisors voted 4-1 Wednesday to approve a permit to expand the Dai Dang Meditation Center, a Buddhist monastery in Bonsall.

The San Diego County Planning Commission voted 7-0 in April to approve the expansion. However, Bonsall’s community planning advisory group appealed that decision to the Board, saying the expansion did not fit in with Bonsall’s rural character, that it would hurt agriculture, strain septic systems and create traffic problems.

The Board of Supervisors rejected those arguments Wednesday after listening to several hours of testimony from both sides.

The Major Use Permit will allow the monastery to increase the number of people living at the nine-acre site Mondays through Fridays from 12-14 monks to 30. The permit will also allow the monastery to have up to 300 visitors (residents included) on weekends and on four, one-day special events each year. The monastery will also be able to build a new main worship hall, a two-story meditation hall, and a new residence quarters with a kitchen and library.

Supervisor Bill Horn — whose fifth supervisorial district includes Bonsall — Board Chairman Ron Roberts and supervisors Greg Cox and Pam Slater-Price voted to approve the permit. Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who suggested Dai Dang’s monks and the neighbors continue to look for a compromise solution, voted against approving the permit.

Horn, who is also an organic farmer, made the motion to approve the permit. Horn said he didn’t agree with the fears expressed by an avocado farmer living next door to the monastery who said the expansion would put his grove too close to monks and visitors for him to safely spray pesticides.

Officials from the San Diego County Farm Bureau and California Avocado Association also said approving the monastery’s expansion could hurt agriculture regionally.

Horn said the County had approved projects in the past where farmers had raised similar fears and that those fears had not come true.

“I don’t think there is a harm here to agriculture in the area, I really don’t,” Horn said.

“I appreciate everybody’s input,” he added, “and I’m very sympathetic to ag (agriculture), but at the same time, I don’t have the fear that meditating Buddhists are going to put avocados out of business … I think these monks are going to be tremendous neighbors.”