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November 14, 2012

Salem OKs Hindu temple

Hindu center OK'd; witchcraft move pending

SALEM — Construction of a Hindu temple will begin next spring on Lowell Road, but the Temple of Witchcraft’s proposed move awaits approval.

Both projects have raised the ire of neighbors, concerned about increased traffic and noise.

Residents opposed the two proposals during public hearings Tuesday before the town Planning Board. The board approved the Hindu temple, but is awaiting an engineering report for the Temple of Witchcraft.

Engineer David Jordan is handling both projects. He said his client, Dr. Deepak Sharma, expects to begin construction of the Hindu temple in the spring.

Abutters of the proposed 17,000-square-foot temple have objected to its size, saying the additional traffic it would attract will disrupt their quiet neighborhood.

Neighbors also opposed the building height. The Zoning Board of Adjustment granted a variance in May that allowed the temple to be 45 feet high — 10 feet higher than zoning allowed. Spires on the roof would be 77 feet high — compared to the maximum height of 80 feet for a steeple.

Residents first voiced disapproval at two public hearings last spring, winning their quest for a rehearing. But the ZBA’s decision was upheld. Three people objected to the Hindu temple Tuesday, Jordan said.

Jordan and Steve Kenson, Temple of Witchcraft co-founder and minister, said they are confident it will only be a matter of time before the temple receives approval to move from its current home at 2 Main St. to a two-story, 19th-century home at 49 N. Policy St.

The temple’s leaders want to use the first floor to teach classes in witchcraft; the second floor would be home to three of the organization’s ministers, Kenson said.

The group’s teachings are based on neopaganism, Kenson said. The temple has about 100 to 150 local members, and approximately 300 to 400 worldwide, he said. Many take the organization’s online courses.

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