By Kiera Hay / Journal North Reporter on Wed, Jun 15, 2011
After hearing more than six hours of testimony Tuesday night, the Santa Fe County Commission tabled its review of a controversial application to build a religious temple in Arroyo Hondo.
The meeting lasted until nearly midnight, and both advocates and opponents pulled out the big guns: witnesses included dueling hydrologists, scientists and attorneys.
Local members of Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal (UDV) are seeking master plan and preliminary development plan approval to build a 4,660-square-foot temple with a 540-square-foot covered portal, a yurt, a utility room and a storage building on a 2.52-acre property at the intersection of Arroyo Hondo and Brass Horse roads.
UDV is a Christian-based religion that uses Hoasca tea, which is made of hallucinogenic plant extracts, as a sacrament. The temple would host services two Saturdays each month, from 8 p.m. to midnight, as well as two other services per month.
Many Arroyo Hondo residents object to the group’s plans. Their arguments have included that members might leave services while still under the influence of hoasca, potentially making them reckless drivers, and that the use of hoasca could contaminate the area’s water supply.
Among the primary claims made by opponents Tuesday were that UDV’s application underestimates potential water use and availability and offers a bad wastewater plan. They also said the temple is fundamentally incompatible with the surrounding “long-established and rural residential neighborhood.”
UDV representatives maintain their application is complete and legal. They said church members are family-oriented and safety conscious and noted the group met in a yurt at the same location for over a decade with no complaints or problems.
County staff is recommending the project be approved. The County Commission will take the matter up again July 12.