There have been a lot of rumors regarding this plan. The owner of this property Sanjay Rawal wrote a letter to the community regarding his plans and I am printing it here for all to read. I hope this clears up all of the rumors. I applaud Mr Rawal's effort to communicate regarding this project. I urge anyone with questions to talk to him directly.
I can confirm much of what Mr Rawal says in his letter having talked to the zoning officer myself a while back at the request of some of the neighbors.
Here is what I know for a fact about the situation after talking to the town zoning officer, Warren Tutt. 1) Warren has been to visit the site where the statue will be placed and he told me that if you can see the statue that you are either trespassing on Mr Rawal’s property or you are in a plane/helicopter. We will NOT be able to see it from the road or another property. 2) Warren felt that getting people up to that spot would be difficult. He said he certainly didn’t think anyone could drive up (this addresses the rumor that people would be coming to visit it). 3) As Warren so eloquently put it, “there is no statute for statues” so Mr Rawal does not have to get any permits to erect his statue. And he is within his personal, constitutional right to erect it. There are plenty of other crosses, buddhas, stupas, etc on private property throughout the town that I viewed as one of the town assessors.
So read our neighbor Sanjay Rawal's letter below and contact him directly if you have any questions.
Hope everyone is well otherwise.
Your blog mistress
Dear Woodland Valley Neighbors and Friends,
I’m terribly sorry, as a neighbor, for any and all confusion (or misinformation) about my project on my property at 822 WVR. I’ve only been in Woodland Valley for 3 years now, but I’ve loved everything about it: from the warm friendship of my neighbors to the pristine atmosphere you all cherish and love. I’m grateful to be a part of the community.
Personally, I am a US Citizen, an Eagle Scout, and worked as a civilian contractor on humanitarian projects run by the Department of Defense and the State Department. I also worked on behalf of a number of charities as a consultant. I built water wells all across Africa, helped build a school for young girls in the Congo, collected and sent $30 million of medical equipment to supply maternity wards in the Congo, and worked on projects in Haiti, in East Timor and for Nobel Peace Prize winners like Desmond Tutu. I hope that my life can be judged for its productivity and service to our country and humanity.
First, I should make it clear that the project is not religious. The property upon which the project will sit is not even religiously affiliated. The property is owned by a non-profit that I run and manage: Illumine Service Foundation. We are a federally-recognized 501c3 organization dedicated to peace through art, sports and film. We are not a religious organization. We don’t have members. We don’t preach anything. We don’t have meetings nor do we congregate. In full transparency, while Illumine is entitled to tax exemptions from property taxes, we have never applied for one. I am grateful for the opportunity to have a property in the Valley and understand how tax dollars benefit everyone in the community.
Illumine primarily funds cultural and educational films through private foundations and donors. Most recently, these include films about indigenous/Native American running and two films in progress: one on Standing Rock and another about the Native American food system. I directed Food Chains, recognized by the British Documentary Foundation as one of the most impactful films of 2015, globally (we changed Wal-mart’s supply chain). It focused on migrant farm workers and was produced by Eva Longoria and narrated by Forest Whitaker. I’m proud that we screened Food Chains with the Woodstock Film Festival.
As part of Illumine’s activities, we also support art. We chose to build a statue that would be appreciated from an artistic point of view. Contrary to the contentions of the non-WV resident that contacted some folks, the statue will be 30 feet tall on a cement base (not 60 feet tall), and constructed out of hollow bronze (not stainless steel). Again, the statue will be built on private property, built to code, and will be completely invisible from the road or any adjacent home. It will not be an eyesore. The statue is totally compliant with the building code. My professional friends have found no basis for the argument that the statue will require any special permits or variances. I’ve learned that the legal term is that it is being built as of right.
The statue is not of any religious figure and has no religious meaning – not that this would be a bad thing. Even if the statue were interpreted by some as having some sort of religious meaning, religious symbols are allowed on private property. That’s an expression of the First Amendment right we all have.
This statue is of Sri Chinmoy, a meditation teacher, whom I knew well. Until he passed in 2007, he was very close to Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Muhammad Ali, Desmond Tutu, Mikhail Gorbachev, and many other people who did an extraordinary amount of due diligence before even meeting him the first time. I’m happy to share what I know (I made a film on him that played at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011). It is public knowledge that the Icelandic Parliament nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. There have been many well-researched articles about him and his activities by reputable media sources like the New York Times (he lived in NYC) and the Washington Post. He lived a very transparent and full life and received many accolades. Congressman Benjamin Gillman(R) from Middletown was a close friend, for example.
I appreciate dialogue and openness. In fact, I prize it and even require it in all the work I do professionally. I’ve just had a really busy last couple years on a few Native American films and have spent more time on Reservations than I have in Woodland Valley. But I’m easily reachable. Please call me with any and all questions. My cell is 347 866 3766. My email is email@example.com Happy to meet in person too.