Last Saturday, one car after another rolled down a short, dark street called Prairie Lane in Limestone Township, near the top of Farmington Road's hill. The temple's efforts to resolve a fairly simple dilemma, alleviating traffic for the 20 or so residences along Prairie Lane, is turning into development plans with as many plots, subplots and players as a Bollywood musical
Last Saturday, one car after another rolled down a short, dark street called Prairie Lane in Limestone Township, near the top of Farmington Road's hill.
The parking lot at the Hindu Temple of Central Illinois begins where the lane ends and in less than a quarter of a mile, a dark street lined with small houses opened into a majestic, brightly-lit, copper-domed structure illuminating the night sky.
The temple's celebration of Diwali, or Festival of Lights, generated 500 people and heavy traffic. Volunteers monitored traffic in the parking lot closely, directing the overflow of cars to a gravel area where they made sure parking space was used wisely.
Devotees at the Hindu Temple are sensitive about the parking lot and traffic on Prairie Lane because tolerance of people and places is the essence of the religion.
"The road was intended to serve a few people, not to take the kind of traffic going to the temple," says Prakash Babu, chairman of temple's board of directors since its inception in the late 1990s.
Babu and the temple's efforts to resolve a fairly simple dilemma, alleviating traffic for the 20 or so residences along Prairie Lane, is turning into development plans with as many plots, subplots and players as a Bollywood musical. But all proposals - which include a new meditation center on temple property and a private condominium development on adjacent land - hinge on building a new road from Kickapoo Creek Lane through the bluffs and up to the temple.
The proposed road is short, only about a half-mile long, but think of getting it built as an exercise in the long and winding road to good karma.
Devotees searched a long time for the right location to build a temple according to Hindu principles. It needed to be on a hill, in a serene setting, with a river nearby and water running east to west.
"This is a very unique place, a sacred place," Babu says.
The land was zoned for agricultural use so they got a special permit from Peoria County to build the temple, which opened in 1999. Even then, they realized traffic flow would be an issue, but the Illinois Department of Transportation intended to make improvements on Farmington Road that would have eliminated the problem.
With IDOT's plans on hold, Babu says, they had to search for other solutions. Originally, they approached Limestone Township about widening Hilltop Road and Prairie Lane, the two small roads that lead to the temple. But that wasn't a practical solution for property owners along those two roads, he says.
The bottom line was if temple devotees wanted better access to the temple, they would have to build a new road - and building a new road would not only require raising money but jumping through an increasingly complicated series of governmental bureaucratic hoops to get the land rezoned - including the unusual, but legal, moves toward annexing land to West Peoria, though it's not within West Peoria's boundaries.
A new road, Babu says, would allow practical access to the temple, taking traffic off Hilltop Road and Prairie Lane. It would also benefit residents throughout the area with improvements to water, sewer, and fire-protection services to the entire area. Finally, it would allow development along the bluffs of Kickapoo Creek Road, which would help offset the estimated cost of $1.7 million for the road and infrastructure improvements.
Obviously, the temple would benefit from a new road. They would proceed with plans to build a meditation center, priests' headquarters and lakes needed for certain worship ceremonies on 25 acres of land owned by the temple. But helping the temple cannot be the only justification, Babu says.
To those ends, he and his wife, Ratna, bought the adjacent 25 acres, where they want to build a 129-unit condominium complex designed to accommodate baby boomers as they age. The concept, known as aging in place, would provide the amenities for empty nesters who want to remain independent as they age. But it would also provide revenue to help build the road and additional tax revenues for the area without burdening the school district, Babu says.
The land has sat vacant for decades because of its land-locked situation, he says.
"Some people say this has been saved for God's home for a long time," Babu says.
Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, takes center stage during Diwali, which celebrates the coming of a new and prosperous year, especially for businesses.
But lately, Babu jokes, he's spent a lot of time praying to another Hindu deity, Ganesha, the elephant-faced god of knowledge. "He removes obstacles."
Pam Adams can be reached at (309) 686-3245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.