Wednesday, June 14, 2023
The Rajdhani Mandir Temple in Chantilly’s Pleasant Valley community wants to build an expansion, and it recently presented details of its plan to the joint land-use committee of the West Fairfax County Citizens Assn. (WFCCA) and the Sully District Council.
To make the project a reality, this temple at 4525 Pleasant Valley Road must amend its existing special permit. In addition, it’s seeking a new permit so it may build a community center on property across the street and on the south side of Herndon Road. This parcel of land is zoned residential-conservation, and the surrounding area is developed with residential neighborhoods, plus several houses of worship.
“Rajdhani Mandir is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Northern Virginia,” said Dr. Rajeev Khanna, president of the temple’s executive board. “But we need to expand our area to better serve our community. We used to serve a population of 10,000-15,000, but there’s been a huge population increase.”
The temple serves members in Fairfax, western Loudoun and Prince William counties. And, explained Khanna, “Unlike other places of worship that serve just one [denomination], we have 21 different Hindu ethnicities attending. However, we don’t have a proper kitchen, classroom or place to get together, so we bought some land around the temple.”
Hamid Matin, the project’s civil engineer, said the existing temple is 8,323 square feet on 5-1/2 acres. The entrance is via a left turn from Pleasant Valley Road, and the exit is via a right turn onto Pleasant Valley. The additional land is some 9.7 acres, and the proposal calls for adding a right-turn lane into the new site from Pleasant Valley.
The project would be done in three phases, with work being performed as funds for each phase are raised. It would start with improvements to the existing temple, including an increase in seating. The current occupancy is 250 people, but the enlargement would enable it to accommodate as many as 700 members.
And although Rajdhani Mandir has sufficient parking to serve the additional seats, its stormwater capacity would be increased by construction of an underground stormwater-management facility. Here’s what’s planned:
* Phase I: Remodeling/renovation of the existing temple building, expansion on two sides of the existing prayer hall, and the addition of an administration wing and classrooms on the north side of the existing building. The work would provide an extra 10,556 square feet and bring the temple building to a total of 18,879 square feet.
* Phase II: The addition of a small auditorium, new kitchen facility and partial lobby area on the east side (back) of the existing temple building. It would add some 11,329 square feet for a total building area of 30,208 square feet.
* Phase III: This phase would add a senior center, auxiliary facilities and lobby area on the southeast side of the existing temple building. It would add 3,000 square feet for a total building area of 33,208 square feet. The work would also include improvements to the exterior, outdoor-activity areas.
A future fourth phase, said Matin, would be construction of a 13,600-square-foot community center on the nearly 10 acres of new land the temple new owns across the street. It would have 132 parking spaces and serve a maximum of 300 people.
After all three phases are completed, the normal weekend attendance at the temple is expected to be 330 people. However, rituals are staggered, so the usual maximum is anticipated to be 150 at any time, with people spending an average of 15-20 minutes per visit. On the nine major holidays, some 700 people may attend – but not at the same time.
Matin noted that there’d be no change to the temple’s hours of operation – Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 4:30-9 p.m.; and Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
“We don’t expect extra people to show up – the people are already there,” added Khanna. “And we’re not adding more activities, but we need more classrooms to provide more room for them. I don’t see phase one starting for another year; and after we do it, we’ll still have to raise money for the rest.”
WFCCA’s Steve Chulick worried about people crossing the street from the temple to the community center, but Matin told him, “We’re proposing a crosswalk for pedestrians. But people wouldn’t be walking back and forth because the community center would be used, for example, for weddings and receptions, independent of the temple.”
Speaking for the joint land-use committee as a whole, Sully District Council President Jeff Parnes then told the Rajdhani Mandir representatives, “We have no objections, and we look forward to hearing more as this [proposal] develops.”