New Braunfels’ only resident Buddhists make for quiet and kind neighbors and don’t seem to be breaking any rules, the immediate next door neighbor testified in the civil suit against the Dao Tam Buddhist Temple on Wednesday afternoon.
Next-door Ashby Acres neighbor Paula Brewer took the stand Wednesday, testifying the Buddhists and the temple are peaceful and thoughtful neighbors, whereas the neighbor suing the temple, Gerry Meyer, is not so much.
“(The Buddhists) are quiet, they’re peaceful,” Brewer said. “They are very, very nice people … (When I said I didn’t want to sign) the HOA papers, Gerry’s response to me was ‘We’ll see about that.’”
Meyer has put up speed limit signs, dug ditches and put drains in around a shared easement road without permission of fellow residents, Brewer said.
“My daughter notified me (Meyers had) ripped up the front of our driveway and sent me photos,” Brewer said. “He’s called me to complain about how the (school) bus has to come up directly to our house (on the shared easement road) because my granddaughter is special needs.”
The suit centers around allowed lot use granted on the deed restrictions. Meyer is suing the temple and its monk Hung Van Nguyen, believing them to be in violation of the lot uses specified on the deed restrictions.
The deed restrictions limit lot use to residential use, with limited commercial and agricultural use. Meyer’s argument against the temple was that it breaks the deed restrictions by operating primarily as a commercial facility, rather than a residential lot.
Michael Morris, who is defending the temple, argued most of the monk’s time on the lot is residential, a statement Brewer backed up Wednesday.
“My understanding was the way the property is zoned, so long as the resident lives on the land and their business is directly related to the resident, it’s allowed,” Brewer said. “It sounded like it’d be run like any church, and be limited commercial.”
Brewer was one of seven people who took the stand Wednesday before a jury of Guadalupe County residents.
During her second time on the stand Wednesday, Anh Dang, a member and representative of Dao Tam Buddhist Temple, said the monk and temple can’t live or function without the other.
“If our temple is torn down, this impacts everyone sitting over there,” Dang said pointing to the dozen or so temple members sitting in the audience. “This land was blessed by some of the highest ordained monks in the world — it’s not just like we can go buy more land and move, this land is sacred to us.”
It’s because of this, Morris argued, that the lot is primarily being used for residential reasons — maintaining the land and temple are residential for the monk.
Other witnesses testified on the structures around the land, on the temple and monk’s place in the New Braunfels community, and stating that Meyer has broken some of the very rules he is now defending in court.
“I’ve seen his company vehicles coming up and down the road for years,” Brewer said. “I know he lived in town for some of that time, but his son was living on the land … and those vehicles still came and went.”
Being outside of city limits but within Guadalupe County, Dem Anh “Annie” Van said when she purchased the land to give to the monk, she’d also met Meyer and told him from the beginning they wanted to build a temple.
“We made him some egg rolls and went over and introduced ourselves as new neighbors,” Van said. “We told (Meyer) we wanted to build a temple. (Meyer) didn’t say anything about restrictions until much later. He told me the land we bought was in the county. He said he built his own house without city permits and said we could build whatever you want without permits.”
Tai Lai Nguyen said, thinking they may need permits, she’d driven the monk to New Braunfels and then Seguin to help him get the permits for the temple. Upon discovering no city permits were needed, just county fire inspections needed to be met, the fire marshal inspected the property without issuing any warnings or fixes.
“I have better English, so the monk asked me to help,” Tai Lai Nguyen said. “I went to see the fire marshal Patrick (Pinder) one block from here. I met Patrick several times, he came in for inspections and did a final pass.”
The case will continue into Thursday in front of District Judge Dwight Peschel in Seguin before a jury of five women and seven men decide its merits.
Should Meyer win the case, he is requesting the temple be removed and that 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.
The temple is at 1410 W. Klein Road, New Braunfels.