Norwalk approves new Sikh house of worship despite neighbor pushback

Norwalk Planning and Zoning Commission has approved an application to build a new Sikh house of worship called a gurdwara on Richards Avenue after months of debate.
Neighbors wrote dozens of letters and assembled a petition with hundreds of signatures to try to block the plan.
"We have no problem with the Sikh community being here, they're good people. It's just too much building on too small a parcel," said Ross Tiefenthaler.
Tiefenthaler is one of 600 residents who signed a petition to Norwalk Planning and Zoning seeking to deny the application to build a Sikh temple on the site.
"That's definitely a larger contingency on petitions, and there was, if you saw any of the videos or the correspondences, there were a lot of people that were interested in the topic," said Norwalk Planning & Zoning Director Steven Kleppin.
Despite the controversy, Norwalk Planning and Zoning approved the proposal in a 5-1 vote last Thursday.
"They have to look at the facts as presented to them, and then make a determination as to whether the application in front of them is compliant or noncompliant, and that's really all they did and what they do on every application," said Kleppin.
Residents say they're not concerned about more traffic on Richards Avenue, as it's already pretty heavy with the schools and churches up and down the road. They say the new development won't have enough parking spaces for the number of people who are planning to use it.
"For 265 people, they'll have 65 spaces - which is, they'll have to come five to a car. That's what the code says," said Tiefenthaler.
Tiefenthaler says while Planning and Zoning isn't beholden to public opinion, they are supposed to protect house values and neighborhoods.
"The code states that they are to take into account surrounding property values, the density of the project and is it in keeping with the neighborhood. And they wouldn't even discuss it," Tiefenthaler said.
City officials say they expect the controversy to die down once the gurdwara is actually built.
"That's what we hope is the case, and we hope that the neighbors and the gurdwara can sit down and hash out these differences and become good neighbors. From a city side, that's what we would hope would happen," said Kleppin.
News 12 reached out to the foundation building the gurdwara for comment but have not heard back.