Deerpark — The religious community of Dragon Springs is in the midst of $14.3 million worth of construction while a second group associated with the Falun Gong Buddhist sect has invested more than $2 million in roughly 189 acres on Galley Hill Road next door.
Da Tang Development LLC, which is not part of Dragon Springs but shares its religious faith and many of the same investors, hopes to develop its property as a mixed-use site in the same Tang Dynasty style as Dragon Springs.
The land is not zoned for mixed-use, however, and a proposal by former Supervisor Mark House in 2007 to change the zoning to accommodate the proposal failed to gain political traction.
Dragon Springs did not return phone calls, but town documents reveal a massive complex with its own water system, three temples, drum and bell towers, 6,400 feet of paved roads, a 132-foot-high pagoda tower, a 4,800-square-foot greenhouse, a 4,000-gallon oil storage tank and four dormitories.
The group is completing the pagoda tower, a multi-purpose building and a residence and reflection hall for $14.3 million.
The site is on 427 acres; 397 acres in Deerpark and 30 acres in the Town of Mount Hope. But the building is clustered on 17 acres.
The approved site plan says there will be 100 permanent residents at Dragon Springs and 100 visitors during the weekend.
Much of the construction is being done by volunteers, and Dragon Springs is funded through donations.
In addition to its 427 acres, which are tax exempt, Dragon Springs owns 25 acres on Guymard Turnpike that are on the town's tax rolls.
New Jersey importer Alan Adler has been buying property on Galley Hill Road since 2005 under the name of Da Tang Development.
Adler says he wants to create a "synergy" between his developments of a Tang Dynasty-style village and Dragon Springs. His proposal includes a new hotel and spa, shops, town houses and an international school.
Adler says that he's providing needed commercial development that would fatten the financially strapped town's tax revenue.
Under current zoning, the Da Tang land could only be used for single-family homes. The trouble is, says current Supervisor Gary Flieger, homeowners in the area worked hard to get the restrictive zoning to preserve a quiet way of life.
Adler says that some of the resistance to his project comes from the cultural differences between developers and the town and the fear that Da Tang would claim religious tax exemptions and become an extension of Dragon Springs.
This is something Adler says he has no intention of doing.
Flieger and House both point to other parcels of land in town they say would be perfect for multi-use development, but so far the Da Tang proposal languishes as Dragon Springs continues to build.