An Allegheny County judge overturned a Monroeville council decision to block a Hindu temple's plans to expand on its property, despite municipal officials' fears that the construction could boost the risk of landslides.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James approved applications Sri Shirdi Sai Baba Temple submitted to the municipality seeking permission to expand temple facilities on its Abers Creek Road property, according to a decision released Wednesday.

Temple attorney Tom Ayoob filed an appeal because Monroeville council voted 3-2 in November to reject the applications.

Municipal Manager Tim Little wrote in a letter that council rejected the application because the proposed development is located in the general area of landslide prone soils and relatively steep slopes.

Little and municipal Solicitor Bruce Dice could not be reached for comment.

The temple was seeking permission for a cut-and-fill operation of 24,800 cubic yards of earth to expand. It also requested special permission to build on a slope.

During public meetings, residents from nearby Turnpike Gardens said they feared the plans would cause landslides. Ayoob wrote in the appeal that council favored this speculative and unfounded lay testimony over that of experts from the temple as well as municipal engineers who had said that the project would not violate zoning restrictions as long as engineers used retaining walls and other safety measures outlined in their applications.

Denying the two applications prevented temple leaders from moving forward with plans to construct a 13,140-square-foot building, a 1,466-square-foot addition to the existing building and a 264-square-foot connecting wing along with four meditation gazebos, even though council approved a site plan in a separate vote.

Gideon Bradshaw is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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Judge overturns ban by Monroeville council on temple expansion

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