The organization is seeking preliminary site plan approval, but action on the plan was delayed pending completion of an engineering report and the resolution of issues that include making sure proper screening is provided, according to Jordan and Planning Board Chairman Robert Campbell.
But five North Policy Street residents spoke against the project Tuesday, citing its overall impact on the neighborhood and whether it could be considered a church, which is a permitted use.
They include former Planning Board member Gene Bryant, who is worried the temple will become a distraction in his neighborhood. He questions whether it is truly a religious organization deserving of a zoning exemption.
“I challenged their right to the waiver,” Bryant said yesterday. “Are they really a church?”
Christine Davis, a mother of four, said she doesn’t object to the nonprofit group’s beliefs. But she doesn’t want the additional traffic, noise and an 18-space parking lot to be built next to her home.
The organization would renovate and use a barn on the 5-acre property, Kenson said. The house was last used as a private residence before the group purchased it in September for $420,000.
“I don’t have a problem with their study of witchcraft, it’s with the traffic and everything else,” Davis said.
She said she is concerned lights from the parking lot and use of the temple seven days a week until 10 p.m. will keep her children awake at night — never mind more cars driving past her home.
When the project was first proposed last month, Selectman Everett McBride Jr. said he received a few emails from people who worried about having the Temple of Witchcraft in their neighborhood.
Kenson, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, has said neighbors have no reason to worry. He said the “nature-based” organization has been in Salem for two years and holds peaceful rituals on a regular basis at the Masonic Temple, he said.
“They have absolutely nothing to be afraid of,” Kenson said. “We’re certainly not a threat to anyone. We believe very strongly that our practice isn’t for everyone.”
Campbell said the proposal could be back before Planning Board as early as December.