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DANVERS A Danvers-based church is operating a firewood processing business on Andover Street (Route 114). According to an engineering company hired by the town, this operation is in violation many safety, environmental and zoning regulations.

Officials from the town are now attempting to meet with the pastors of the churches to resolve the issues. However, they say they reserve all rights to take legal action if safety concerns are not addressed.

Between September and November, the engineering firm Weston and Samson visited the Great Rock Church thrift shop and firewood processing facility. They also spoke with local officials and abutters.

Multiple violations of the towns zoning regulations, the Wetlands Protection Act and Occupational Safety and Health regulations were found. This information was detailed in a 19-page report that The Salem News obtained through a public records request.

Calvary Fellowship North Shore moved the church to a new site at 250 Andover St. in 2017. The building is heated by an outdoor wood boiler. 352 Andover St. was the former site of a church. It was converted into a thrift store and a firewood operation.

Rose Court, a condominium complex of 71 units, has received complaints from residents who claim that noise and infestations of rodents and insects started when the logging began.

In an interview last month Pastor Mat Nadworny stated that the logging/firewood operation provides wood to make the new church’s boiler and income to support church missionary work. It also provides employment for men in recovery.

Nadworny said that he believes that the work is protected in a state law known by the Dover Amendment. This law exempts places for worship and religious schools form restrictive zoning requirements.

However, town officials claim that the law does not prohibit enforcement of health safety and environmental regulations. Weston and Samson reviewed the case and found many violations.

  • Residential R-3 zones are not allowed to have retail uses such as a thrift shop or commercial logging operations.
  • A timber pile that exceeds 16 feet tall and is not properly stacked is in violation OSHA and fire safety regulations. Engineers stated that the piles’ height creates hazards such as tripping, fire, explosions, or pests.
  • The timber pile is located at a low point on site, where it could pollute stormwater runoff. It is also within a 100-foot buffer zone for wetlands, which is without a permit.
  • The pile is also on lot line of adjacent property (the condominiums). It is encroaching onto the condo association land and violating fire safety regulations regarding piles close to buildings.
  • The site does not have the necessary screening, such a wall, dense vegetation, or other protection from abutters and the general public.
  • Wood operations take up multiple parking spaces. There are no designated areas or hours for loading or unloading.
  • State regulations prohibit the use of chainsaws and log splitters that produce excessive noise levels.
  • Numerous fire safety issues were present, including the lack of fire extinguishers for the construction vehicles that moved the wood, improper storage with gasoline cans, piles made of combustible materials, such as sawdust and bark, and no smoking. There were also no trespassing signs or enclosures to stop trespassers.

Steve Bartha, the town manager, said that he asked Nadworny for a meeting with officials of the town to discuss how to address the situation as soon as possible in January.

Bartha stated that while the report identified land use issues that need further investigation to determine whether the Dover Amendment applies. However, the report did identify some life safety issues that require immediate resolution. We hope to discuss these issues with the pastor in January.

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Bartha stated in a letter to Nadworny that health, safety, and fire code concerns need urgent attention.

The letter stated that the town is willing to work with Nadworny in a good faith, but also stated that it reserves all rights to take further action if the issues are not resolved.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis

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