WEST ORANGE, NJ — A Hindu house of worship on Laurel Avenue is still under construction, amid safety concerns from neighbors surrounding the project. The single-family dwelling at 23 Laurel Ave. originally on the property was demolished in 2016 by its owners, Sun King Private Limited, a Dubai-based and British Virgin Islands-incorporated company that is allowing West Orange-based nonprofit Sai Hira Ram Trust Inc. to build the temple.
Controversy surrounded the project in 2016, when Sun King Private Limited failed to tear the house down within the mandated 90 days after its destruction was approved by the West Orange Zoning Board in October 2015. The board decided in April 2016 that the organization would not be penalized and construction began.
According to West Orange Zoning Official Geniece Gary-Adams in an email to the West Orange Chronicle on July 6, there have been no zoning violations in connection with the property. Township public information officer Susan Anderson told the Chronicle in an email that the construction in ongoing and should be completed by fall 2018.
But some neighbors surrounding the property — many of whom opposed the construction back in 2016 — have told township officials via email that they are concerned about the site, saying that safety measures are lacking and equipment is not protected. Specifically, they are concerned that there is no fence around the site in order to keep curious children away.
Anderson said fencing is not required for all construction sites in West Orange.
“There is an existing chain link fence or block wall around a substantial portion of the property, which is being maintained and in some areas supplemented,” she said. “Fencing around a construction site is not required unless there is an open excavation, in which case orange construction fencing is installed.”
In order to maintain safety, the township encourages anyone who sees a trespasser at the construction site to call the police.
“West Orange police have a 24/7 directed patrol plan in place for months now to address allegations of trespassing and early startups,” Anderson said. “No violations have been observed and all reports from neighbors have been after the fact by a day or more and via email, despite repeated requests to report violations immediately to WOPD.”
Anderson said the township is in contact with the owners.
“We are in contact with the construction managers of the project on a regular basis as part of our construction observations of site improvements on behalf of the township,” she said.
Despite multiple attempts to reach Sun King Private Limited and the Sai Hira Ram Trust, neither could be reached for comment before press time on July 10.