Buddhist group files lawsuit over road issue with shrine

FONDA – An Auriesville Buddhist group is seeking an injunction against the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs Inc. and its director over the alleged paving planned on a disputed road.

In a lawsuit filed in Montgomery County on June 13, the Western Supreme Buddhist Temple Inc., located at 174 Shrine Road, asks for a preliminary, and permanent, injunction to prohibit the shrine from starting any paving work. The group also wants an order issued so the disputed section of road will remain unpaved.

The filing also asks for the shrine to pay court fees, legal fees and costs.

The road in question, named Friendship Road, links Shrine Road and Ripley Road near the Jesuit retreat house owned by the Buddhist group since 2006. The World Peace and Health Organization’s offices are at the temple.

When the Buddhist group purchased the Jesuit retreat house, the agreement required the group to build its own access road to the temple by 2007. The group built the $40,000 access road, Friendship Road, in 2009.

About 10 feet of the Friendship Road lies on shrine property. The temple claims the former director of the shrine allowed them to use part of the shrine’s property for the road because the incline from Shrine Road to Ripley Road was too high.

In the recent filing, the temple claims it received a letter from the shrine’s director, Father George H. Belgarde, S.J., who is also named in the complaint, on March 7 requesting Friendship Road be paved before April 1. The temple replied with a letter on March 25 explaining it wouldn’t pave the road until the dispute over it is resolved, and asked that they meet with Shrine officials to discuss repairing Shrine Road instead.

The suit claims that on April 2, red paint was sprayed along the property line and stakes were planted on Friendship Road. On April 15, three members of the temple attempted to hold a meeting with Belgarde to discuss and negotiate the issues with the road, but were refused, the complaint said.

On June 12, the temple claims it found the curb of Friendship Road was partially removed and a new road was being constructed that would connect the shrine’s road with Friendship Road.

In its complaint, the temple alleges the former shrine director verbally agreed to let them use the disputed portion of Friendship Road in 2009, and claims it should be considered a gift from the shrine to the temple.

In April 2013, shrine employees created a barricade of cut logs at the end of the Shrine Road, according to the complaint. This blocked the road leading to the Western Supreme Buddha Temple.

“No dispute occurred after the Friendship Road was built, until the road barricade issue in 2013,” the lawsuit states. “The friendship between neighbors was damaged.”

After the barricade was constructed, a complaint was filed in May 2013 against the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs, Belgarde and Larry Steiger, the shrine’s maintenance worker, by Yik Cheng of the Western Supreme Buddha Temple demanding that the road barricade be removed.

That lawsuit was dismissed on Sept. 24, 2013.

“The plaintiff temple believes that the defendant shrine should not start any paving work unilaterally before the dispute over the Friendship Road has been solved,” the lawsuit states.

The Buddhist group and shrine attorney Carmel Greco could not be reached for comment.