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Hearing set for Riverhead church's community center 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

A proposal by a Riverhead church to create a multimillion-dollar Family Community Life Center was praised Monday by a broad range of elected officials before about 100 people.

The town will hold a Nov. 6 public hearing on a proposed Community Benefit District, which would allow construction of Riverhead First Baptist Church's 86,830-square-foot center on 12 undeveloped acres on Northville Turnpike.

As proposed, the long-planned center would include 132 one- and two-bedroom apartments, adult and child day care, classrooms, a 250-seat auditorium, offices and a sports complex with an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Walter said the project has already developed wide community support, and he predicted the town board would approve the special zoning before the end of the year, and that construction could begin in 2014.

"I will do everything in my power to get this zoning adopted by the end of the year," Walter said.

Because the designs are not yet completed and no contracts have been put out, there are no solid cost estimates. But planners envision a half-dozen residential buildings and a large multipurpose facility designed around a central atrium, with a library and media room.

Church officials say the complex could cost about $3 million, and that about a third of that has already been raised.

Town Councilman John Dunleavy also spoke at the breakfast rally.

"We used to do a lot for senior citizens, but because of budget cuts we had to cut them out . . . an Alzheimer's center and children's programs," he said.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) noted that it is difficult to find money for new projects in Washington, but promised to get whatever aid he could. "This is a project worthy of investment . . . it will pay dividends for years to come," he said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone praised the "vision and perseverance" of the church and its members in supporting the center. Church volunteers have been talking about the project for three decades, and it has changed substantially over time.

"It's an amazing project . . . it completely fits with the county's economic development plan," Bellone said.

Walter said the county had already helped by giving the town a $7 million grant to expand and upgrade its sewage-treatment plant. "That makes this project possible," he explained.

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