SALEM — The Salem Planning Board unanimously approved last week a site plan for a new 5,700-square-foot community center at the Temple of Witchcraft located at 49 North Policy St.
The board also approved a revised site plan for the next phase of a townhouse development on the northern end of Tuscan Village, with a vote of 5-2.
During the Tuesday meeting, the board approved plans to build the new community center at the site of an old barn to be demolished and rebuilt, with 11 conditions. The applicant first presented the plan to the board in August.
“The changes from the plan are really not that dramatic,” Town Planner Ross Moldoff told the board.
He said parking calculations were revised slightly, a new floor plan was included and some overflow parking was added for the right side of the building.
There are no wetland or flood plain issues on the site, but traffic and parking remained a concern for board members, given the existing traffic patterns in that residential area of town.
The Temple had asked for a waiver for two parking spots, believing 35 spaces was sufficient, but the board declined that waiver since there was enough space to meet the requirement of 37 spaces.
The new community center will have a fire-safety capacity of 163, but Temple leaders say they will limit services to 100 people at a time.
Engineer David Jordan represented the applicant at the meeting, and said services are generally held every Saturday plus during nine annual holidays. He said parking-area lights will be in use during those services but will be turned off by 10:30 p.m.
“They want to be a good neighbor here and not adversely impact or inconvenience the neighbors,” Jordan said.
Board member Beverly Donovan said she noticed a new retaining wall being built in front of the property when she drove by the site recently, and noted it was not part of the plans.
Temple President Alix Wright told the board the Temple was building the retaining wall in response to board concerns in August over vegetation height and sightline issues for motorists. Jordan said the wall will be within property lines and that it will be added to the plans before they are signed.
The board required a parking monitoring study within one year of occupancy.
Co-founder and high priest Christopher Penczak told the Union Leader that construction won’t begin immediately. Having board approval, the Temple plans to now launch a capital fundraising campaign.
“The Temple of Witchcraft community is very pleased with our site plan approval for our community center and appreciate the support we have received from the town of Salem,” Penczak said. “Now, we begin the process of obtaining bids from construction companies and coordinating our fundraising efforts based upon those estimates.”
Penczak said Temple services are centered around healing and nature.
The board also approved on Tuesday a revised site plan for the next phase of a Black Brook Realty townhouse development — a phase that includes 30 units at 11 Central St. The original site plan was approved in March 2017 for a total of 96 townhouse units.
Developers requested some additional pedestrian lighting, some additional stone walls and some tweaks to the architecture.
Three existing townhouse owners spoke at the meeting, complaining about problems with the developer.
“To say it’s been a nightmare might be an understatement,” resident Ed Murphy told board members.
Murphy said he had problems with air conditioning, heating equipment and leaking roofs.
One resident named Steve Bailey said his family was the second family to move into the development, which is a sub-development of Tuscan Village. He cautioned the board not to accept any promises made by the developer because of “significant and unresolved issues” with the first phase of the construction.
Bailey described general workmanship issues, missing design elements, and a roof drainage issue that he said has worn a hole in the shingles.
During the meeting, Moldoff said the town can hold off on granting final occupancy permits pending the completion of some of the missing design elements, but he said many of the workmanship issues need to be dealt with between the residents and the developer.
Ultimately, the board approved the plans with 11 conditions, with Chairman Keith Belair and member Bob Gibbs voting against approval.