Another historic church is up for sale

NICOLE SMITH FILE PHOTOGreenport United Methodist Church

Another historic local building could soon change hands.

The 162-year-old Greenport United Methodist Church building and a surrounding .75-acre property are on the market for $1.95 million.

The property’s listing brokers are Thomas Uhlinger and Kristy Naddell of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, which handled the sale of the former Southold United Methodist Church.

The sale of the Greenport church is one more step in a plan to consolidate United Methodist churches in Southold Town. To date, the Cutchogue, Southold and Greenport congregations have joined to form North Fork United Methodist Church. Congregants currently meet in the Cutchogue church building.

“A lot of these churches are going up for sale,” said Ms. Naddell. “They’re consolidating and building one church in Southold. While the denomination is strong, there’s no need to have a church in every [hamlet].”

The Southold church building sold this summer for just over $1 million, closing July 30 after nearly a year on the market. It was purchased by former opera singer Anne-Julia Audray, executive director of the Long Island Opera Company, and her husband, Oliver Chazareix. The couple plan to transform the structure into a classical music concert and performance hall by next spring.

But the Southold church was a lot easier to market than its Greenport counterpart, according to Ms. Naddell, because it sits in a business zone. “That zoning allowed for subdivisions, so that was a no-brainer,” Ms. Naddell said.

The Greenport church property is in a residential zone, as is Cutchogue United Methodist Church, which has been on the market for more than a year.

“There may be a chance to do a commercial sale, if the site plan is approved by the town, obviously it would have to go through Greenport [Village],” said Ms. Naddell. “Some of the things that we have been talking to potential investors about are if they can maintain the integrity of the building and have something that would benefit the town.”

“We’re hoping that whomever becomes interested in the Cutchogue property, the town will continue to make way for preservation of the building through the creation of the floating zones, which was a very proactive piece of legislation,” said the Rev. Tom McLeod, pastor of North Fork United Methodist Church. “We want to be able to preserve these structures, at least from the exterior.”

Legislation approving “floating” zones was passed earlier this year. A floating zone, called a Historic Preservation District, allows a historic building to be adapted for other purposes as long as the exterior is maintained and not altered.

Both the Rev. McLeod and Ms. Naddell cited the 2008 sale of the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church as a success.

“They took the church and turned it into a gorgeous house,” said Ms. Naddell.

“Sag Harbor was very proactive and I have to say to date our town has been very proactive,” said the Rev. McLeod. “Look at Jedediah Hawkins [in Jamesport]; some big mansions that are occupied by commercial businesses are certainly an enhancement to the neighborhood and not a detriment.”

There is still one remaining holdout: Orient United Methodist Church has not yet joined the consolidation plan.

“There’s been an invitation, but as of yet Orient has not come to the decision that it would be best to join rather than to try to grow within the community of Orient,” said the Rev. McLeod. “I am the appointed pastor in Orient and it is my hope that they would eventually join us in this merger. It really has to come from the lay people, from the congregation themselves; they have to vote.”

According to the Rev. McLeod, North Fork United Methodist Church is currently in contract to purchase 2.45 acres at the intersection of Horton’s Lane and Route 48 in Southold and is seeking a special exception to build a new church on that property, which it is zoned for light business.

“We’re imagining a new beginning for much of the church,” said the Rev. McLeod. “We’re hoping that by the end that we’re not only in a better location, but these churches are better preserved by the people who will ultimately have the resources to do that. It’s going to take a person with imagination and the town’s cooperation to hopefully repurpose these churches into an honorable use.”

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Photo credit: Nicole Smith, file