Recordonline.com By James Nani
CUDDEBACKVILLE — Falun Gong retreat Dragon Springs Buddhist Inc. will need all new approvals from the Deerpark Planning Board after the retreat was found to have been running a college and high school on the grounds without town approval.
At a Planning Board meeting Wednesday, Dragon Springs representative Kaijin Liang said teaching began at the site in the first year it began operating – 2001.
“They mostly live on-site,” said Liang. “(About) 70 students live up there,”
Liang insisted that he had mentioned running the schools to earlier Town and Planning boards, but hadn’t added it to the site plan because the retreat hadn’t received accreditation from the State Education Department. Planning Board officials maintained they didn’t know about the schools.
Dispute over schools
At a November meeting, the Planning Board unanimously yanked Dragon Spring’s special use permit after finding out about the schools.
State Education Department records show the high school was first approved in 2007 and enrollment is about 200 students. Liang said students have to be Falun Gong practitioners.
Town engineer Al Fusco said Dragon Springs has submitted a new site plan, but needs to provide a more detailed narrative describing the school, including the number of students that attend. Once approved, a new public hearing would be held.
Fusco said that schools have different and often more rigorous inspection requirements than other facilities, such as more frequent fire inspections.
Deerpark Supervisor Karl Brabenec said the schools came to his attention via the school website.
“They need to come clean to what they’re actually doing,” said Brabenec.