SALEM, N.H. — The Temple of Witchcraft is expanding its community space. The temple’s plans include razing the current barn on the property and building a similar-looking three story building.
The goal to expand the temple, which was approved for non-residential use about six years ago, is in the process of coming to fruition.
The current building was deemed “infeasible to rehabilitate and bring up to code,” and the proposed plan would “basically be the same footprint,” explained David Jordan, an engineer land surveyor with Greenman Pederson representing the temple to the planning board.
Currently worshipers do not use the barn for community events, he said.
The application brought to the Salem Planning Board in late August was the first part of the process, explained Planning Director Ross Moldoff. Board members’ questions centered around the traffic to the temple in the mostly residential North Policy Street that is heavily traveled in the summer because of Canobie Lake Park.
The community center could accommodate about 50 to 100 worshipers as described by Christopher Penczak, high priest and cofounder of Salem's Temple of Witchcraft. Worshipers for large events tend to sit in a circle, instead of rows of chairs, which makes the events smaller, he explained.
The proposed renovations include expanding the paved parking lot to 31 spaces, Jordan said. That is 2 spaces fewer than the required 33 spaces according to local zoning, so the project will need a waiver. There are also four additional parking spots on the other side of the property for people who live in the current home there.
Board members were concerned about the potential of people needing to park on the street or cross the street from the nearby park and ride. Neighbors like Gene Bryant also pointed to that problem
Asked about potential late-night noise in the residential neighborhood, Penczak said that events end by 10:30 p.m. He lives at the home on the same property, and reassured the board that respect and quiet were priorities.
"The type of community we have, because we've historically been persecuted, we are very respectful and fairly quiet," Penczak said at the Aug. 27 meeting. "We do have strong etiquette in our tradition, and that's very important to us."
The Witchcraft Temple’s project is not yet scheduled for a planning board meeting because the board is waiting for information to answer their questions, Moldoff said.
No one from the Witchcraft Temple could be reached for comment by press time.