First Universalist Church, destroyed by fire in 2015, submits site plan for smaller church

The Southold Planning Board reviewed a revised site plan for First Universalist Church at a work session on Monday. 

The historic “church on the bend” on Main Road in Southold, built in 1837, was destroyed in a fire in 2015. Site plans for a rebuild were initially unveiled in 2017. The church reported on its website this past January that the designated building team has been working with Raymond Calamari, architect from deBruin Engineering, PC, and Brian Davis, appointed owner’s representative, on a “smaller, more compact design” for the church over the last few months. 

“We hope since the new building is smaller in scope, the site plans, which have been re-submitted to Southold Town, will meet with approval without significant delays,” the update says. “The Building Team is currently working on interior designs, furnishings, finishes and layout of the offices, classroom and kitchen to best serve our congregation and our community.”

Since the design team changed in October 2021, a revised site plan was submitted April 5 and a landscape plan was submitted April 14. The photometric plan is still being completed, according to the Planning Board. The revised site plan proposes a 4,446-square-foot place of worship, slightly reoriented on the site, with a 50-square-foot covered porch. Previously, the building size was 6,816 square feet, according to the Planning Board.

The site plan also includes two Fuji Clean Innovative/Alternative wastewater treatment systems required by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services; one to share between the parish hall and the church, and the second shared by an existing single-family dwelling and the church. 

Otherwise, according to a Planning Board staff report, there are no changes to the previously reviewed site plans, which include 34 parking stalls and rain garden recharge areas. The landscape plan has been updated for consistency with the relocated footprint.

This past February, the town Zoning Board of Appeals granted an extension of a special exception approval for the church until February 2023. Places of worship require special exception use permits from the ZBA.

The church is within a national historic district and a negative State Environmental Quality Review declaration was issued in December 2018. The plan still needs outside permits from the SCDHS and state Department of Transportation.

The Planning Board said it plans to refer the application to the town engineer for review and the building department for a use certification. The board also noted that the applicant needs a certificate of compliance from the Historic Preservation Commission.

New renderings and sketches have been posted on the church website under “Church Elevations,” although the church emphasized that the images “are still works in progress.”