Former St. Thomas to become Buddhist Temple

A building that once housed Indianola's St.Thomas Catholic Church and is currently owned by Simpson College will soon become a Buddhist temple.

An incomplete site plan has delayed a change in designation for the previous St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church and its potential sale to the Karen Buddhist Association of Iowa.

The Oct. 6 agenda of the Indianola Board of Adjustment included a request for a special use permit to use the property as a religious organization.

The property, which has been owned by Simpson College since 2012, is currently designated educationa. Previously, it had been designated as a religious site when it operated as St. Thomas.

“The site plan they submitted to us was lacking quite a bit of information,” explained Charlie Dissell, Indianola director of economic and community development. “So we sent them a letter prior to the meeting just saying hey, like there's stuff that you have to show us here before we can actually consider this.”

Dissell said that board had tabled the change until it received more information.

A memo from the board to the Karen Buddhists asked, among other things, for a stormwater management plan; additional information on the parking lot, including how many spaces are required; a landscaping plan for the site; how the building meets building design standards and information on any lighting planned for the site.

The site is currently owned by Simpson College, which uses it primarily for storage. The college purchased the property in 2012 and recently put it on the market, said John Woell, vice president for academic affairs. The Association offered to buy it, although the purchase is contingent on the change in designation.

About half a dozen people spoke at the board of adjustment meeting, said Dissell, with some asking questions about the proposed change and others voicing support.

Dissell said that if the group can update its site plan and submit it within the next couple of weeks, the issue likely will be on the board agenda for its Nov. 3 meeting.

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