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Proposed Riverhead Islamic Center reduced in size, requires ZBA variance

The proposed Riverhead Islamic Center, planned for 1.24 acres on Harrison Avenue, has been reduced in size and will need a variance from the Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals in order to move forward. 

The application was first proposed in 2016 for an abandoned house across from Riverhead High School and initially called for a 747-square-foot addition to the existing 1,576-square-foot house and a 34-square-foot addition to the second floor. 

The project received preliminary site plan approval in June 2019, by which point the project had been expanded to 3,357 square feet on the first floor with a 3,200-square-foot addition to the second floor. 

However, that preliminary site plan approval has since expired, and the applicants are reverting to the original plan, while restoring the existing building. 

“We ran into a bunch of hurdles with storm drainage and it was too much,” project architect Brian Fisher told the Riverhead Planning Board last Thursday. “It became a drainage job more than anything else.”

The plan now calls for a 783-square-foot expansion of the first floor, a 34-square-foot expansion on the second floor and a change of use from single-family residence to place of worship and a residence for the religious leader. 

“We believe that there is a great potential of growth in the Muslim community in the Town of Riverhead,” Dr. Iqbal Khan, a trustee of the Riverhead Islamic Center, wrote in a letter to town in 2018. 

Speakers at a public hearing that year also backed the mosque. 

“We have a lot of Muslim people who have moved into Riverhead and Flanders,” said Yousef Mohamad, who has lived in Flanders for 20 years. “For the past 10 years, I take my kids all the way to Selden to the mosque there, because there is nothing close here to teach them the language and the religion.”

The Planning Board voted last week to classify the application as Type II, meaning it will not require further environmental study. 

Planner Matt Charters said the application will need a variance from the town ZBA because it proposes 28% impervious surface, while the zoning allows only 15%.