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Riverhead’s Family Community Life Center will pay taxes, builder says

It’s been about five years since First Baptist Church of Riverhead’s proposed Family Community Life Center came before the Riverhead Town Board.

That hiatus ended last Thursday, when the church and builder Georgica Green Ventures updated the board on the status of the plan, parts of which date back to 1988. 

The proposal calls for construction of a community center as well as 80 affordable apartments on 13 acres of land the church owns on Northville Turnpike. Board members voiced mostly support for the project last week, but also asked a number of question. 

Councilman Tim Hubbard asked about “the elephant in the room” — whether the applicants would pay taxes, which was an issue in the past, when officials where unclear about whether the church would be required to pay taxes. 

Dave Gallo, president of GGV, which became involved in the project in 2009, said they would pay taxes. 

Councilman Frank Beyrodt asked about the potential impact on the Riverhead school district if the project were to bring in additional school children.

Mr. Gallo said most of the units will be small one-family units, which will not have a lot of school children. 

“Our church has been an active part of this community for a long time,” said Charles Coverdale, pastor of First Baptist Church for the past 41 years. “When I became pastor, we began to look at what we could do for the Riverhead community. It’s my belief that churches should do more than just marry people and preach the gospel.” The church also offers services like worship and counseling for inmates, as well as feeding the needy through its Open Arms Care Center food pantry. It’s been trying to build a Family Community Life Center on its property for more than 35 years.

The current housing proposal calls for the construction of 80 affordable apartments on Northville Turnpike and five affordable “for sale” homes. The proposed rentals homes will comprise 48 one-bedroom units and 32 two-bedroom units. Previous versions of the plan had proposed more than 100 units. 

In addition, 20 units will be set aside for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. 

The housing component of the plan would be done in conjunction with Georgica Green Ventures, which built the 116-unit Riverview Lofts affordable apartment complex on East Main Street and is currently working on another project, on the Railroad Avenue. 

The proposed Family Community Life Center will also have youth sports and educational programs, according to an overview of the plan submitted by the applicant. . 

The Community Center building will be 10,000 square feet and will include a gym and multi-use space, according to plans. There will be a gym for after-school sports and an athletic dome for year-round activities. The proposed building also includes space for work force and career development events, such as job readiness and training programs. 

The church has been planning the proposed community center for several years, and annually holds a Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast as a fundraiser for the project. 

“We are a community-based, nonprofit that was started in 1988,” said Shirley Coverdale, president and CEO of the Family Community Life Center. 

She said that early in the formation of the life center concept, a study was done to document the needs of the community and it found that Riverhead had a large underserved population. 

Pastor Coverdale said the Family Community Life Center is intended to serve the entire community, not just members of the church. 

The property is currently zoned RA-80, which is two-acre residential zoning. However, the Town Board created a Community Benefit District overlay zone in 2016 to allow increased the density on the land along with frontage on a major highway and connection to the town’s water and sewer districts. 

The overlay zone allows one unit per acre, but allows the number of units to be increased if the applicant buys farmland development rights. 

“I was here in 2016,” said Mr. Hubbard. “I supported the program then and I still support here today. Mr. Gallo has proven to us the work that he can do in this town.”

“This is going to be spectacular,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said. “This is exactly what we want to do in Riverhead.”