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Bedford Hills Church Mulls Affordable Housing For Old Properties

Antioch Baptist Church's old church building, which is located along Railroad Avenue in Bedford Hills. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Marion Blount (left), who is chairman of Antioch Baptist Church's trustee ministry. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. -- Officials at Antioch Baptist Church in Bedford Hills are exploring the possibility of converting its older properties along Railroad Avenue into affordable housing.

Antioch's properties include its old church building, a parsonage and an education building, Marion Blount, who is chairman of the trustee ministry, told the Bedford Town Board on Tuesday.

Antioch moved to its current location, which is at the corner of Main and Church streets, in 1977, Blount said. He added that the old church was used by the Bedford Central School District for nearly 25 years before moving out in 2013. The school district housed its ACES alternative education program in the building.

The old education facility was rented out as an apartment building, Blount added, with Antioch offering below-market rental rates under a program it offered.

Changes need to be made to the buildings, however.

“We have concluded that we cannot continue the current use of the buildings without significant investments," Blount said.

Blount also cautioned that it is still too early to determine what will ultimately happen.

“We are just at the beginning of this process and we do not have any specifics to share with you tonight," he said. "After sufficient study, if we decide that it’s feasible to proceed, we will use the community development cooperation model to implement the project.”

Jeff Osterman, Bedford's director of planning, said that there buildings are on three parcels along Railroad Avenue and that an adjacent piece of town-owned land could be used for septic. Osterman noted that the use of the properties is limited without septic-capacity expansion.

The Town Board voted to approve allowing an engineering firm to do tests on the town's property to assess septic potential.

Osterman also noted that the properties' current zoning - they are part of the Light Industrial (LI) district - does not allow for housing. The framework for allowing residential usage could be determined in the future and with input from the Planning Board, he added.

Antioch is getting support from Blue Mountain Housing Corp, a non-for-profit that is supported by the town

Tom McGrath, chairman of Blue Mountain's board, said at the Town Board meeting that his organization is working with the church to provide pre-development funds, which would be used for the septic testing and preliminary architectural work. McGrath added that the funding would come in the form of a deferred-payment loan.

Town officials expressed support for the idea of affordable housing on the properties.Supervisor Chris Burdick, for example, said he's “very happy to see this going forward.”

Town Historian John Stockbridge praised the plan and noted the historical significance of the old church building, whose history dates to 1894.

“It’s a great story. It’s a wonderful, wonderful story. It ought to be preserved.”

It has not been determined yet whether the affordable housing would count towards Westchester County's federal housing settlement, church replied when asked by Daily Voice.

The settlement, which was agreed to by the county in 2009, calls for the creation of 750 affordable housing units in predominantly white communities over a seven-year period.

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