11/06/13 2:33pm
11/06/2013 2:33 PM


The Riverhead Town Board held a public hearing today on its proposed 2014 budget and on the proposed overlay zone that’s needed in order for First Baptist Church’s proposed Family Community Life Center on Northville Turnpike to proceed.

The board also held a public hearing on requests for federal Community Development Block Grants, which the town allocates to local charities and nonprofit organizations.

The meeting started at 2 p.m. and News-Review’s Tim Gannon reported live.

The meeting was moved to Wednesday, from the customary Tuesday time, because Town Hall was closed for Election Day.

Click below to see what happened.

November_6,_2013_-_Agenda.pdf by Riverhead News-Review

November_6,_2013_-_Packet.pdf by Riverhead News-Review

09/27/13 5:00am
09/27/2013 5:00 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Community Life Center supporters showed up at Town Hall Thursday.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Community Life Center supporters showed up at Town Hall Thursday.

A little-known Suffolk County program could serve as a life-line for the First Baptist Church’s long-proposed Family Community Life Center on Northville Turnpike.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | First Baptist Church on Northville Turnpike in Riverhead.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | First Baptist Church on Northville Turnpike in Riverhead.

That program, called the Suffolk County Workforce Housing Transfer of Development Rights program, would allow development rights taken off land that the county has purchased for open space preservation to be used, at no charge, to allow additional development on affordable or workforce housing programs that meet county guidelines for such housing.

Those guidelines include a requirement that 100 percent of proposed units be affordable, and that the units remain affordable. The program was created as part of a countywide voter-approved “Save Open Space” bond act in 2004.

The only other way the project could be approved as planned — under a draft zone change for the church property that the Town Board also discussed  at its work session on Thursday — would be for First Baptist to purchase millions of dollars in transferred development rights from farmland within town, something church leaders say they can’t afford.

The Family Community Life Center, which would be built on the church’s 12-acre Northville Turnpike campus, would include, among other things, a gym, indoor pool, fitness center, community center and 132 “workforce housing,” or affordable, apartment units.

The Town Board in the past has balked at creating new zoning that would allow the number of apartment units the church is seeking, which would amount to more than 10 per acre.

And the Long Island Farm Bureau had argued earlier this year that to allow that kind of building density increase without requiring the applicant to use transferred development rights purchased off farmland would circumvent the purpose of the TDR program, which was to preserve farms while higher density would be allowed in more suitable areas.

The TDR program allows developers to buy development rights from farms to increase the amount of commercial development they can build in areas like Route 58. The farms from which the credits came could only be used for farming once the development rights are purchased.

The farm bureau has maintained that the as-of-right density, in this case one unit per acre, should remain in place and any additional density should require the use of TDR.

In this case, in order to get 132 units, the Family Community Life Center developers would need to purchase 121 TDR credits, which at an average of $65,000 per credit, said to be an average for TDR rights, would come out to about $7.8 million.

“That will almost surely kill the project,” Cleveland Johnson Jr. of StrategicFundraising Inc., which is working with the church on the project, told the Riverhead Town Board earlier this year.

The Rev. Charles Coverdale, the pastor of the church, who has been planning the Family Community Life Center project on and off for almost 30 years, said this week that there’s no way the church can afford to buy that many TDR credits.

He said the church is hoping the county program can help.

The income from the apartments is meant to subsidize the other uses in the complex, Mr. Coverdale has said.

Meanwhile, the town is drafting a proposed Community Benefit Zoning Use District that would permit the project, but would also allow similar projects in other areas of the town that have 10 acres of land, at least 800 feet of frontage on a county or state highway, and public water and sewer connections.

The Town Board has tentatively planned a Nov. 6 hearing on the measure.

“The [Town Board’s] biggest issue from my perspective is concerning the density of the dwelling units,” deputy town attorney Bill Duffy said in discussing a draft of the proposed zoning code at Thursday’s Town Board work session, where officials and representatives from the church discussed the issue and the room was filled with supporters of the project, none of whom spoke.

The draft zoning code maintains the property’s one unit per acre as-of-right zoning, but states that additional units could be built if the developer uses development credits from the town’s TDR program or the county’s Workforce Housing TDR program.

The county’s Workforce Housing TDR program would allow the project to use TDR credits from the county for free, according to both Guy Germano, the attorney for the church, and Rick Hanley, the town’s planning director.

Mr. Hanley acknowledged afterwards that he was not familiar with the county program before this week.

Councilman George Gabrielsen questioned how many credits the program had.

“Is that reality?” Mr. Gabrielsen asked of the plan to use the county program.

He also said afterward that he was not familiar with the program before this week.

Mr. Hanley said the county had an inventory of development rights taken from land within Riverhead Town which were purchased for open space, adding that the program has a land bank for development rights credits.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio expressed concern about the possibility of using development rights taken from open space purchases outside of Riverhead Town.

“It doesn’t make sense to take rights from property in another town,” she said.

Mr. Duffy said he was unsure if the county program identifies where the rights came from.

It was unclear how many credits from the county program would be needed  for one project as its envisioned.

Town Board members also said they planned to include buffering requirements in the proposed new zoning district, and informally agreed that a 25-foot minimum buffer should be required between any project and its neighboring properties.

“We’ve had the occasion to tick off some neighbors recently and we don’t want to do that anymore,” Supervisor Sean Walter said, alluding to the clear cutting of trees the town allowed at the Costco development on Route 58, which abuts two large residential communities.

The draft of the proposed Community Benefit Zoning Use District discussed Thursday also includes a requirement that at least 40 percent of the site be reserved for vegetated open space.

Permitted uses in the proposed zone would include residential uses, owner-occupied single-family dwelling units with attached professional offices; a Community Center, day or nursery school; recreational uses including parks and playgrounds, swimming pools and outdoor sports facilities; and houses of worship. The proposed zone requires a combination of the permitted residential and non-residential uses.

In addition, the proposed zone requires all facilities within the community center to be available to the general public and limits fees charged for use of those facilities to be limited to those necessary to defray expenses.


07/11/13 9:25am
07/11/2013 9:25 AM


The Riverhead Town Board 0n Thursday discussed new regulations regarding tree clearing and excavating for commercial developments in town.

Those issues have become a hot topic in the wake of the clearing of three large commercial properties on the west of Route 58, all of which received Planning Board approvals.

The board also discussed First Baptist Church’s long-proposed Family Community Life Center at the board’s work session in Town Hall.

The meeting started about 9:30 a.m. and News-Review reporter Tim Gannon reporting live.

Click the blog box below to see what happened.


July 11 2013 Ws Agenda by Riverhead News-Review

04/11/13 5:00pm
04/11/2013 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Runners navigate the muddy Survival Race course last year.

The Riverhead Town Board on Thursday met with organizers of the “Survivor Race” 5K who are hoping to hold an event in May similar to one they ran last September in Riverhead.

The event is planned for property off Sound Avenue this spring, with another in September

But Supervisor Sean Walter warned that the organizers should have approached the Town Board months ago about the event, which could draw up to 5,000 people. Events of that size require a county mass gathering permit, which isn’t that easy to come by, Mr. Walter explained.

Town Board members suggested limiting the size of the event.

Tim Gannon reported live from the meeting.

Click below to see what happened.


April 11, 2013 – Agenda by rnews_review

03/11/13 10:38am
03/11/2013 10:38 AM

An artist rendering of the main atrium at the proposed Family Community Life Center’s recreational and other facilities.

The First Baptist Church of Riverhead’s Family Community Life Center has been in the planning stages, in one form or another, for more than 20 years.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | First Baptist Church on Northville Turnpike in Riverhead.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | First Baptist Church on Northville Turnpike in Riverhead.

The proposal — which calls for a gym, indoor pool, fitness center, community center and 132 “workforce housing” apartment units, among other things, on the church’s 12-acre Northville Turnpike campus — was discussed before the Town Board last year, but board members raised concerns about the number of housing units proposed and whether the project would be tax exempt.

Town officials never made any decisions.

Now, the church is planning to take the issue to a higher authority.

On Saturday, March 16, First Baptist Church officials will hold a prayer vigil in support of the proposal, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

“If you believe that prayer changes things, please come out and show your support,” state a press release announcing the vigil from Shirley Coverdale, the wife of the Rev. Charles Coverdale.

The last time the issue was discussed at a public Town Board work session was in October, at which time the issue of whether the project would be tax-exempt, and if so, to what extent, was discussed. Council members Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy were to meet with town tax assessor Lavern Tennenberg on that issue.

Ms. Tennenberg said Monday that they had one meeting, at which nothing was determined, and they never had a followup meeting.

She said the town was waiting for the church to provide some information on its tax exempt status.

Another issue town officials disagreed on was the number of housing units in the proposed apartments. First Baptist officials proposed 132 units, or 12 units per acre, but town officials said they would agree to no more than 10 acres per unit. This came after first saying nine would be the limit.

“Our figures showed 12, and the compromise I thought we agreed was 10,” Rev. Coverdale said in an interview in October. “I don’t know if it will work or not. I’ll have to go back to the engineering people who have the financial papers to see if it will work. It would be sorrowful if it didn’t.”

Ms. Coverdale said in an interview on Monday that nothing further has been determined on that issue either.

“That’s why we’re having this vigil, where we’re really hoping to get public support and prayerful consideration to bring this to the next step, because we’re really hoping to go to a public hearing on this,” she said.

The housing units are intended to offset the cost of the community center and recreational facilities, she said.

The project would need some Zoning Board of Appeals variances as well, such as a variance on the height of the apartment towers, which are proposed at 50 feet, 15 feet higher than Town Code permits.

First Baptist’s press release describes the project as follows:

“A destination open to the public for year-round use, the 68,830 square foot Community Benefit District will benefit countless numbers of children, youth, elders and families for generations to come. FCLC’s complex will be a comprehensive facility featuring a community of buildings that will include a media center/theater, a 24-hour childcare facility, a senior citizen wellness and daycare center, and a major sports and recreational compound. 132 one- and two-bedroom apartment units will frame the center complex, providing the community with critically needed workforce housing.

“All of FCLC’s facilities, including its pool, gymnasium, fitness center and indoor walking track, will be available for year-round use. FCLC’s Community Benefit District  will answer the many needs of the East End community by creating a hub where families can come together to learn, live, work and play.”

Supervisor Sean Walter aid in an interview Monday that he supports the project and hopes to move it forward.

“I think it’s a great project,” he said. “There’s a need for a community center and since we lost the YMCA, this is the closest thing were going to get to a YMCA in the short term.”

The Peconic YMCA group hasn’t officially given up its efforts to locate a facility in the Riverhead area, but that group’s c0-founder has said the group may consider doing so.

Ms. Coverdale said the church hopes to make the recreation and community center programs as affordable as possible, and she said she thinks the housing will be occupied by people who live in the area already, and will not impact school enrollments.


Read more about the Family Community Life Center plan.

12/10/11 2:00pm
12/10/2011 2:00 PM


Teaming up with  the First Baptist Church, the Riverhead Rotary Club  hosted its fifth annual ‘Toys for Tots’ holiday party and breakfast with Frosty the Snowman Saturday morning at the church.

Giannalynn Morales, 3, (center in red dress) of Riverhead was most enchanted with Frosty.

The groups collect donations and buy  gifts from Goldsmiths in Greenport.

This year 60 children and their families attended, enjoying bagels, hot chocolate, apple juice, coffee along plus face painting and coloring games. Riverhead High School Interact Club members volunteered their time.