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Hearing held on Riverhead church plan

Charles Coverdale, far right, pastor of the First

Charles Coverdale, far right, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Riverhead, looks over an illustration of how the Community Life Center will look during a meeting at the Culinary Arts Institute on Main Street in Riverhead. (Oct. 21, 2013) (Credit: James Carbone)

After a two-hour public hearing on an ambitious plan by the First Baptist Church of Riverhead to build a Family Community Life Center on 12 acres next to the church on Northville Turnpike, the Riverhead town board closed its public hearing, but allowed people to file written comments until Nov. 15.

The rezoning needed for the project could be voted on as soon as the board’s Nov. 19 meeting, town officials said.

More than 50 supporters of the proposed project came to the hearing, from bankers and local businesses to construction unions, the Long Island Housing Partnership and Peconic Bay Medical Center.

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No architectural plans for the center have been submitted, but its proposed design calls for 132 units of workforce housing, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, 24-hour adult and child day care and a small theater, as well as classrooms and community meeting facilities.

Most people at the hearing spoke in favor of the project, although some questioned whether the facilities should be exempt from taxes.

The undeveloped church-owned property is already exempt from taxes, and plans call for an independent not-for-profit group formed by the church to operate the facility once it is built.

The Rev. Charles Coverdale, who has been working on the proposal for more than a decade, gave the town board a petition signed by 1,700 people who support the project. He said the public hearing had gone well. “I left with the feeling that the people in authority finally got it,” he said.

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