It’s battle time for the Buddhists.
The civil lawsuit against New Braunfels only Buddhist temple kicked off Monday morning with jury selection.
Slated to run through Wednesday, the trial could determine if the temple and its resident monk will be allowed to remain on its current Guadalupe county property.
“Today’s process went well and we have our 12 jurors — I am very happy with our jury,” said Michael Morris, the lawyer defending the temple and Hung Van Nguyen. “I think they’ll be attentive and interested.”
Monday’s jury selection process lasted until 5 p.m., due to substantial questioning by the attorneys, Morris said.
“It overall went smooth,” Morris said. “We have a solid case and solid position.”
Complaining the temple is not following property restrictions, neighboring resident of Ashby Acres Subdivision Gerry Meyer is suing Dao Tam Buddhist Temple and its venerable monk Hung Van Nguyen.
Meyer, a resident of one of the five lots on the Ashby Acres subdivision, filed the suit stating the number of people who attend events at the temple disrupt him and his family, and the structures on the temple’s land violate the lot’s use restrictions.
“They’re the nicest people — only have a few little events a year,” Paula Brewer, another resident of Ashby Acres Subdivision, previously told the Herald-Zeitung. “We live right next door to them, and their festivals are always done by 8 p.m. “You’d think if it bothered anyone, it would be us since we’re right next to them, but they’re not a bother at all.”
According to the petition filed by Meyer’s lawyer, Paul Fletcher, Meyer believes the Buddhists are using the property outside of allowed uses — which include residential, limited agricultural and limited commercial. The petition also states one of the structures — a public restroom — violates the water and septic tank systems restrictions.
“The property shall be used for residence purposes; however a limited commercial and agricultural use may be made of the property so long as the same is subordinate to the primary use of the property for residential purposes,” the declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions for Ashby Acres reads. “Such subordinate commercial use allowed would be that conducted in conjunction with the occupation of the owner.”
In the petition, Meyer asks the court to require the temple be removed from the property, and the Buddhists remove all “other structures in violation of the restrictions.”
Should Meyer win the case, he is requesting the temple and Hun Van Nguyen pay him back for legal fees. In the temple’s response to the petition, Morris seeks the Buddhists be paid back for their legal fees, should they win.
“When the main hall was built (around 2015, 2016), Mr. Meyer came over to help dig where the main statues would go in,” Morris formerly told the Herald-Zeitung. “Does that sound like someone who’s opposed to the temple?”
Meyer argues in his petition and deposition that the temple breaks lot restrictions, which limit “no more than one mobile home may be placed or constructed on (the temple’s lot),” and “no more than one framed residential structure may be placed on (the temple’s lot).”
“(The Buddhists) have at least five structures on their property — two trailers / mobile homes, one structure is a temple, another structure contains an altar to worship the dead and a third structure contains public restrooms,” the petition states.
Meyers other complaints stated he believes the temple is lowering his property value and too many people use an easement road on his property to get to the temple.
However during his deposition given in April 2018 Meyer states his property value has gone up over the last four years, and there are not restrictions on the shared easement road.
In a response statement, Morris states the monetary relief sought by Meyer also breaks several codes including the Texas Religious Freedom Act.
The temple is located at 1410 W. Klein Road, New Braunfels. For more information about the temple, visit www.daotambuddhisttemple.com.