Church wants to build apartments, community center

TIM GANNON PHOTO Rev. Charles Coverdale (center) speaks to the Riverhead Town Board Thursday.

First Baptist Church of Riverhead is proposing construction of 132 apartments and a Family Community Life Center that will provide athletic facilities, day care and senior care space on acreage surrounding its church building on Northville Turnpike.

The church has been proposing such a facility, on and off, for more than 20 years.

“When we did a study, we found that the greatest needs in this town are for a recreational center and for workforce housing,” said the Rev. Charles Coverdale, the church’s pastor for the past 28 years, told the Riverhead Town Board at a public work session last week.

“He hit it right on the nose when he said the biggest need for the town is a recreation center,” said Councilman George Gabrielsen. “I’ve been driving for that for years. This is a win-win for the town.”

The project needs a hookup to the town’s sewer district and changes in zoning to allow the various uses over the 12 acres.

The town has considered creating a zone for life-care centers, and has created Planned Development Districts in the past that allow for a variety of uses on one property.

Rev. Coverdale said the church owns all of the land and plans to retain control of the apartments, which would be mostly rentals aimed at providing workforce housing.

The proposed apartments would be located north of the church in six new buildings, three of 21,600 square feet each and three of almost 16,000 square feet each. The three larger buildings would have a total of 75 units and the three smaller ones a total of 57 units.

The proposed three-story, 60,400-square-foot Community Life Center building would have an indoor basketball court and gymnasium, an indoor track, a fitness room, lockers, a performing arts center, a six-lane indoor swimming pool and space for classrooms, administrative offices, child care and computers, according to the proposal.

The plan also calls for three 2,000-square-foot professional office buildings on the southern portion of the property, and a 2,800-square-foot storage building.

The proposed office buildings would extend as far south as the intersection of Northville Turnpike and Middle Road, while the proposed apartments would back off Northville Turnpike, but would abut part of Midway Drive, according to drawings presented to the Town Board last Thursday.

“I love it,” Supervisor Sean Walter said. “I’m tired of talking about it. Let’s get it done.”

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said her main concern is how the project would be taxed, given the church’s nonprofit status.

Mr. Walter said state law would determine that.

While a nonprofit organization would be exempt from paying taxes, Ms. Giglio asked if the group would be willing to make a payment in lieu of taxes.

Cleveland Johnson Jr., executive vice president of a company called Strategic Fundraising Inc., which is working with the church on the project, said afterward that if a payment in lieu of taxes is required by the town, they will find a way to fold that cost into the budget.

Mr. Johnson said it’s too early to estimate the overall cost of the project, but he said it will be paid for largely through fundraising and grants.

Mr. Walter asked the Rev. Coverdale to present the town with a proposed zoning he feels would accommodate all of the mixed uses proposed in the project.

He said the town may also want to create a zoning district for facilities such as this. He noted that Timothy Hill Ranch and Little Flower Children’s Services also do not fit into existing zoning categories.

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This post was originally published Oct. 21, 2010