Amherst's Sikh community has grown out of its existing place of worship on Main Street and plans to construct a $1 million building next door to its current home.
The Sikh Cultural and Educational Society of Western New York has held services, community events and classes for children in its place of worship, known as a gurdwara, at 6569 Main St., between Transit and Youngs roads, since 1993, said Mohan Devgun, the society's president.
The Amherst-based society plans to tear down a 1,700-square-foot building at 6571 Main that it purchased in 2012 for $161,000, according to Devgun and county real property records, and replace it with a new, 8,500-square-foot building at the site.
The existing gurdwara building at 6569 Main will be converted to a community center, while the new building will serve as a gurdwara, with room for a worship hall, kitchen, classrooms, meeting space and accommodations for overnight guests, Devgun said.
A site plan application filed with the town Planning Department also calls for construction of additional parking, utility improvements and landscaping. Devgun said the congregation would spend just over $1 million on the project, and construction would take about one year once it begins.
Because the building has a religious use, the zoning of the property is not a factor, said Ellen M. Kost, an associate planner with the town. The town's Zoning Board of Appeals and its Planning Board will need to review aspects of the project.
The Sikh society in Amherst is one of three that operate gurdwaras in the area, with the other two in Niagara Falls and Clarence. There are about 250 Sikh families who worship at the gurdwaras in Amherst and Clarence. The gurdwara in Niagara Falls is larger than the Amherst gurdwara, but the Amherst gurdwara is growing at a faster rate, Devgun said, and that's why its members need more space.
"Especially for the next generation, so that they can keep up the tradition," Devgun said.
Sikhism was founded in the 15th century in the Punjab, a region now divided between India and Pakistan. The World Religion Database estimates there are about 25 million Sikhs worldwide.
One of the most important Sikh holidays is Vaisakhi, which local Sikhs celebrated Friday. It marks the founding of the Sikh faith, it is the festival of the spring harvest in India and it is the start of the Sikh new year as well.
Neighbors of the Amherst gurdwara have accepted the Sikhs who worship there, and members of the gurdwara have opened their doors by, for example, participating in celebrating Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, said Devgun, a professor and chair of the department of engineering technology at SUNY Buffalo State and a former Williamsville School Board member.
"We are very well-supported by the neighboring community," he said in an interview. "We have no issue with any of the neighbors."
The society also owns a nearby house at 10 Amherston Drive that serves as the residence of the gurdwara's priest and his family.