Welcome to KingstonCitizens.org!

Established in 2006, KingstonCitizens.org is a non-partisan organization committed to nurturing transparency in local government through citizen engagement and participation.

Please subscribe to keep updated on the latest events concerning our community. (*required)

* indicates required



Unknown

 

PETITION: Kingstonian Project and SEQR – Positive Declaration and Scoping

 

 

SIGN the Petition
“We Support a Pos DEC in SEQR for the Kingstonian Project”

Kingston Residents can request a Positive Declaration in SEQR that would allow more input and studies on the proposed Kingstonian Project.

###

With the Lead Agency for the Kingstonian Project underway (READ: Kingstonian Project and SEQR: Lead Agency), we anticipate the Kingston Planning Board will secure that role for the Kingstonian Project SEQR process.  With a 30-day window for confirmation that began on January 24th, we expect confirmation by around February 22nd.

Once Lead Agency is determined, the next significant milestone in SEQR will be a 20-day window for Lead Agency to make a “Positive” or “Negative” declaration for the Kingstonian Project. 

With a project this large and significant, we are advocating for a “Positive Declaration” (Pos Dec) in SEQR and are currently putting together a coalition of partners to make that same request.  To assure that the public is involved in this request, we have also created a petition that we will submit with our coalition letter in a couple of weeks.

Please join us by signing our PETITION by Sunday, February 24th.

 

Why is this significant? 

A Positive Declaration is “a determination by the lead agency that an action may result in at least one potential significant environmental impact and so will require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before the Lead Agency decisions may be made regarding the action. The positive declaration starts the EIS process.”  

With the recent changes in SEQR Regulations, a “pos dec” immediately triggers a public scoping process which would be a great opportunity for our community to work on this together.

 

The Scoping Process in SEQR.

As of January 1, 2019, when there is a “Pos Dec” determination, scoping is automatically triggered. This is in the public’s best interest, as prior Jan 1 this year, an additional request  would have had to have been made.

A “draft scope” would be created and submitted to the Lead Agency by the applicant at some point in time that would then be released to the public (as my mentor, Kate Hudson, used to say, “Think of a draft scope document as a ‘table of contents’ for the project”).

Once it is received by the Lead Agency, approved and released – there is a 30-day window that occurs for the public to review the document and to make additional comments for study.  In our petition and coalition letter, we are requesting 90-days as well as a public meeting.  

The comments/questions of concern are ultimately sent to the Lead Agency to vet – and once approved,  a ‘final scoping’ document is created and sent to the applicant who is then required to answer each questions in what will become a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).  More on that later on. We need to achieve a pos dec first.

 

The Input of Citizens and Advocates is Critical for a Good SEQR Process and Outcome. 

There is no one better to do this work than the citizens who will be directly impacted (both negatively and/or positively) to a project like this with the support of advocates who have dedicated their life’s work on the range of issues that may arise.   We hope you’ll join us as we take our first step in preparing to ask the Lead Agency to issue a “Pos Dec” on the proposed Kingstonian Project.  If you live in the City of Kingston, please sign our petition to be delivered by or about 2/25/19.

 

REVIEW: The SEQR Cookbook

Kingstonian Project and SEQR: Determining Lead Agency

By Rebecca Martin

With the recent positive changes to the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center project, we can turn our attention to the Kingstonian Project and its SEQR process (State Environmental Quality Review) which is just getting underway.    KingstonCitizens.org is in the midst of organizing a new coalition of partners for this effort.  Our goal is to follow SEQR step by step and support the public and our elected and appointed officials to assure a clear, efficient and transparent process.

A Brief Description of the Kingstonian Project.

In the applicant’s (Kingstonian Development LLC and JM Development Group LLC) Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), it states that the Kingstonian Project “involves the redevelopment of the City of Kingston parking garages property, the Herzog’s Supply Co. Inc. warehouse property and the Uptown Grill property (also owned by Herzog’s Supply Co., Inc). The proposed project includes the following elements:  420 car parking garage, 120 apartment units, 32 room hotel, 8950 square feet of retail space, a pedestrian plaza area, and an elevated pedestrian link to connect to Kingston Plaza.”

The parcels of land include “City Parking Garage (1.43 acres), Herzog’s Warehouse (0.49 acres), and Uptown Grill (0.49 acres) along with portions of Fair Street Extension and a small pocket park owned by the City of Kingston.  The project further includes consolidation of several tax parcels (subdivision-lot line deletions)”

The City of Kingston Planning Board as Lead Agency.

On January 22nd, the City of Kingston’s Planning Board passed a resolution confirming the Kingstonian Project being a Type 1 Action in SEQR with a Coordinated Review and asking to be Lead Agency for the project.  The resolution was acknowledged by the Clerk’s office on 1/24 that starts the 30-day clock for all Involved Agencies to approve the request (more on that below).

What is a Type 1 Action and Coordinated Review?

A Type 1 action means “an action or class of actions that is more likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment than other actions or classes of actions.” Because of which, a full Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) must be submitted to the Lead Agency once determined, and the Lead Agency must always coordinate the SEQR review process with other involved agencies.

The applicant has submitted Part 1 of its full EAF where it was declared up front that the project would be a Type 1 Action in SEQR.  A coordinated review is required for all Type 1 Actions. The involved agency “initially receiving an application for approval” (the Kingston Planning Board) “circulates the completed Part 1 of the full EAF and any other information supplied by the applicant to the other involved agencies.”

There’s more to this that we can get into later on and as we move along, though it’s worth noting in this case that the Lead Agency, after reviewing the EAF,  may request an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) “after review of application documentation related to the proposed action (in the EAF) and decides that the action as proposed is likely to cause at least one significant adverse impact to the environment.”

What is Lead Agency in SEQR?

The purpose of having a Lead Agency is to “coordinate the SEQR process from start to finish so that when an action is to be carried out, funded or approved by two or more agencies, a single integrated environmental review is conducted.”  Also important is that the Lead Agency “is responsible for making key SEQR determinations during the review process.”  In other words, they control the process.

Being an Involved Agency.
(AMENDED: In the original post, there were seven Involved Agencies listed when there are ten.)

In SEQR, an agency is Involved when the determination is made that “the agency has or will have a discretionary decision to make regarding some aspect of the action” involving the project.   In the case of the Kingstonian Project, there are ten identified Involved Agencies and they are:

  1. Kingston Planning Board (for Site Plan Approval, Special Use Permit approval, SEQRA approval and Lot Line Revisions).
  2. City of Kingston Common Council (for closing of a City Street, Sale of Land or Easement Conveyance and Deviated PILOT Review).
  3. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) (SPDES Permit for Stormwater Discharges)
  4. City of Kingston Dept. of Public Works (Curb Cut Permit and Sewer Tap)
  5. City of Kingston Zoning Board of Appeals (for Area Variances for Floor Area Ratio and Height).
  6. City of Kingston Historic Landmarks Commission (Notice of Preservation of Action).
  7. Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (Deviated PILOT Agreement).
  8. City of Kingston Water Department (Water tap).
  9. City of Kingston Consolidated School District (Deviated PILOT Review)
  10. Empire State Development Corporation (Approval of Grants “Restore New York, Consolidated Funding Application and Downtown Revitalization Initiative).

Involved Agencies play a critical role at the very beginning of SEQR, as they choose the Lead Agency for the project.  Any one of the Involved Agencies can request to be Lead Agency and any one can reject those requests (just as long as they are willing to take on the role themselves. That is required along with any Involved Agencies ‘no’ vote).

It’s appropriate that the Kingston Planning Board be the Lead Agency of SEQR for the Kingstonian Project.   Although the Kingston Common Council as an Involved Agency could also request the role,  it’s in the public’s best interest that they remain free to advocate for their constituents, as the Lead Agency must remain impartial.

The Kingston Planning Board’s request went out to all ten Involved Agencies on January 24th where there is a 30 day window to approve or disapprove the Planning Board’s request. We expect the window to close in or around February 24th.

Next up:   Lead Agency to Determine a Positive or Negative Declaration in SEQR for the Kingstonian Project, where the public will have a chance to request a Pos Dec within a 20 day window.  More shortly.

###

WATCH:  At last week’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission as an Involved Agency in the Kingstonian Project, the commission discussed the Kingston Planning Board’s Lead Agency request.  Starts at: 19:47

Filmed by The Kingston News and brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

Coalition Partners Respond to Change in GlidePath Proposal from Fossil to Renewable.

READ: Town of Ulster’s Press Release “GlidePath to Submit Battery-Only Proposal for Lincoln Park Grid Support Storage Center in Ulster.”

READ: GlidePath’s Letter to the Town of Ulster with their new plans.

A controversial proposed power plant in the Town of Ulster will be re-sited and re-born as a renewable energy project, thanks to a partnership among many community groups and local governments.  Led by KingstonCitizens.org they include TownOfUlsterCitizens.org, Scenic Hudson, Citizens For Local Power, CAPP-NY, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Food and Water Watch, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Kingston Land Trust, Riverkeeper, Sierra Club of the Mid-Hudson Valley, Sustainable Hudson Valley and the Woodstock Land Conservancy.  The coalition helped to guide the public through each step of the State Environmental Review Process (SEQR) throughout Glidepath’s Lincoln Park gas-fired power plant proposed in the Town of Ulster. Today, the partners respond to and celebrate the good news announced by the Town of Ulster: 

 

“I couldn’t be more grateful to our group of dedicated coalition partners for their collaborative efforts to transform a fossil fuel project into a renewable one. They worked tirelessly to provide support to not only the public but also our elected and appointed officials for the past 16 months. The innovative and forward thinking approach advocated by our elected officials – and especially our County Executive Mike Hein – will benefit the Town of Ulster and County for years to come and, more broadly, communities across New York State who can implement similar localized collaborative efforts.”

Rebecca Martin
Director and Lead Organizer
KingstonCitizens.org

 

“The announcement by GlidePath to withdraw its original plan and replace it with a battery storage facility is welcome news to our town’s citizens, this fracked-gas and diesel power plant would have doubled the Town of Ulster’s carbon footprint if the plant became operational, but their new proposal for a storage-only facility is a way to keep our local environment clean and preserve generated power which would otherwise be lost to the grid. GlidePath has considerable experience with battery-storage plants, but they had no experience with burning gas and diesel for electricity.  This project is more in line with the values of Ulster County’s commitment to renewable initiatives. TownOfUlsterCitizens.org participated in the SEQR process for over a year and suggested a battery-storage facility in another part of town as a viable alternative to the fossil-fuel plant. Understanding all the details of this battery storage facility, we fully support GlidePath’s revised project proposal.”

Laura Hartmann and Regis Obijiski
Co-Founders
TownOfUlsterCitizens.org

 

“Today’s announcement that Glidepath will be withdrawing its plans for a gas-fired power plant and instead focusing on clean, renewable power generation is great news for Ulster and the entire Hudson Valley. Moving away from polluting fossil fuel plants that contribute to climate change and investing in renewable energy is a win-win proposition. This victory is a testament to the power of citizen engagement–informed and determined community members led the charge in fighting this project, and won. We look forward to reviewing the details of GlidePath’s new proposal.”

Hayley Carlock
Director of Environmental Advocacy
Scenic Hudson

 

“We welcome GlidePath’s decision to withdraw its proposal for a gas-and diesel-fired ‘grid support system’ in the town of Ulster and to propose, in its place, an all-renewables project. The move is in keeping with GlidePath’s history, since in the past the company has built only projects that combine battery storage with renewables – a potentially game-changing development that makes it possible to use the stored electricity to even out the variation in renewable electricity generation and to decrease the need for expensive build-outs of the electrical grid. The decision is a good one for the Mid-Hudson Valley, thanks to the vigilance and vision of local citizen groups, environmentalists, and elected officials, and to the wisdom of the company in withdrawing a bad proposal and returning to its roots.”

Susan H. Gillespie
President of the Board
Citizens for Local Power

 

“This new proposal shows the power of engaged citizens to change the shape of a conversation, an environmental review, a proposed project, and indeed, our future. Every community should be seeking desirable projects from companies capable of providing renewable energy generation and storage, and every community should mount opposition to fossil fuel projects that pose unacceptable risks to our air and water. We look forward to reviewing this new proposal from GlidePath, which starts out on a much better foot and offers potential benefits to our local towns and region, while potentially strengthening our entire energy system.”

Dr. Kathleen Nolan
Senior Research Director
Catskill Mountainkeeper

 

“CAPPNY sees this as a great day for people who are committed to moving away from dependence on fossil fuel.  The change in GlidePath’s plans shows the power of ordinary people and what can be accomplished by the determination and collective action of  people standing up and working for a safe and just community. This is an important step toward complete reliance on renewable energy.”

Sue Rosenberg and William Barr
Organizers
CAPPNY

 

“This is a critical victory not just for the guardians of air and water, health and safety in the Town of Ulster and Hudson Valley, but for climate defenders and water protectors across our state and region. This exercise of people power is a signal pointing to the Green New Deal to come. No new fossil fuel infrastructure, period!”

Iris Marie Bloom
Executive Director
Protecting Our Waters

 

“Thanks to the work of dedicated community members, community groups, and environmental organizations GlidePath understands that Ulster County, and New York State need a renewable energy future now. Riverkeeper is encouraged that Glide Path is withdrawing its fossil fuel project, in favor of a renewable energy and battery storage proposal. We look forward to seeing the details and ensuring that any new project does not exacerbate climate change, or threaten public health or the Hudson River.”

Jessica Roff
Director, Advocacy and Engagement
Riverkeeper

 

“Democracy works, and technology is changing so fast that it makes sense for all parties to be taking a fresh look at the kind of project that is cost-effective today.  We applaud the progress, and the validation that renewable power is a cost-effective investment today.”

Melissa Everett, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Sustainable Hudson Valley

 

“Members of impacted communities came out to participate in deciding the future of our energy infrastructure, and GlidePath listened. Clearwater is grateful to GlidePath for rethinking their project and shifting away from our long-standing dependence on fossil fuel to using renewable energy with storage and efficiency.  Given the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report calling for ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ to avoid disastrous levels of global warming — we must achieve 100% renewable energy generation by 2030.’ This is a huge step in the right direction.”

Greg Williams
Executive Director
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc.

 

“The Kingston Land Trust, as one of the coalition partners, has been a proponent of a more environmentally responsible operation as well as more conscientious sitting. We are so pleased to see this project moving in that direction, thanks to the work of dedicated citizens as well as a responsive company. We believe in the power of civic engagement to protect land and communities and we will continue to be active in this process as long as there is a need.”

Julia Farr
Executive Director
The Kingston Land Trust

 

“The Woodstock Land Conservancy commends GlidePath for listening to community concerns and stating their intention to withdraw their “Lincoln Park Grid Support Facility” application, in favor of a first in NYS-facility providing direct battery back-up, storage and grid support. We hope that the new proposal is a demonstration of Ulster County and New York State’s environmental and renewable energy and climate change leadership.  We owe great thanks to our coalition partners for their committed advocacy, and to County Executive Mike Hein for pursuing a thorough examination of the impacts of GlidePath’s initial proposal and pushing for a non-fossil fuel based alternative that does not contribute more greenhouse gas emissions, nor negatively impact the neighborhoods which surround it. And we additionally express our gratitude for the responsiveness of Supervisor Quigley and the Town of Ulster, for their work in facilitating this.”

Maxanne Resnick
Executive Director
Woodstock Land Conservancy

 

“The community has struck a blow against climate change by blocking GlidePath’s proposed fracked gas power plant.  New York needs to move off fossil fuels and rapidly shift to 100 percent renewable energy, and the company’s decision points us in the right direction. Governor Cuomo should take heed of this smart move and use his own authority to stop all new fossil fuel projects.”

Eric Weltman
Senior Organizer
Food & Water Watch

 

Uptown Pike Plan: Should it Stay or Should it Go Now?

An image from a 2010 petition where 90% of the building owners on Wall and North Front Streets in Uptown, Kingston were in favor of removing the Pike Plan.

By Rebecca Martin

For those who were not around during the most recent renovation of the Pike Plan (2008 – 2011 -ish), I recall the following article written by Steve Hopkins who at the time was the current (or outgoing) editor of the Kingston Times.   He did a great job capturing the essence of the feeling then.

With the Pike Plan being discussed by the council and, a recent Kingston Times poll, it seems like a good time to share some of the information we have from back then to provide some historical context.

POLL: SHOULD THE CANOPIES IN UPTOWN KINGSTON BE TAKEN DOWN? 

“As deputy director of planning for the county at that time,” says Jennifer Schwartz Berky, a Kingston city resident, “the building owners came to me to get advice about the canopies before Norman Mintz came to consult for RUPCO. They were concerned about the costs (they pay a special assessment), the leaks caused by the junctions with their buildings, and the lack of visibility for their businesses because of the canopy. I contacted the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and their experts told me — in no uncertain terms — that they consider these 60s and 70s canopies across the country to be, by and large, detrimental to the functioning of commercial districts. What began as a response to competition from malls ended up as blight, and they expressed surprise that we hadn’t taken ours down yet, citing numerous examples of business districts that revitalized in part BECAUSE they took theirs down. Norman Mintz understood this, and we still see one another occasionally as professional planning and urban design conferences. He was disappointed that his advice wasn’t taken. In the late 19th century, the design of the 20-and 25-foot span of storefront, with large plate glass windows, often with recessed entrances to add more surface area, was a costly innovation that brought light into the spaces and allowed for the maximum merchandising display. The canopies obscure this feature of the Victorian commercial districts in terms of a very significant aspect of their design. Look around at any vibrant commercial district: their storefronts and facades are critical to their character and identity. They are easier to remember, brand themselves, and can be found by visitors. It is a shame that we have to rehash this debate.”

Given what it would cost to fix the rehabbed Pike Plan – only a decade old and in many places already falling apart- and the costs of removing the canopies for the buildings and streetscapes to be restored to their original glory – I personally hope that the city will find its way to the latter.

Thanks to Steve Hopkins for allowing us to repost his article here.

###

Kingston biz owners conspire to derail $1.8 million canopy restoration

By Steve Hopkins
(This article is a repost that was originally in the Hudson Valley Chronic, Vol. 2, No.3, April-May 2009)

Read more…

VIDEO: “Kingstonian” Application Appears Before Kingston Planning Board.

By Rebecca Martin

At the recent City of Kingston’s Planning Board meeting, the proposed Kingstonian project gave its formal presentation and presented its application for the first time, starting what will be a very long process.

All of the documents and the presentation will be made available at the planning office.  Citizens are encouraged to schedule a time to review the materials by calling: (845) 334-3955. We’re asking that they be placed online, too, under the Planning Departments “Planning Project” page.  

Following the presentation, the board voted unanimously on the following;

  • The Kingstonian Project is a Type 1 Action in SEQR and a coordinated review must be taken. A full Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) will be required to determine any environmental impacts.
  • The City of Kingston Planning Board requests that it be Lead Agency of the project.  Their request will be circulated to all Involved agencies who will have 30 days to respond to either approve or deny their request.   (List of Involved agencies forthcoming).
  • In 30 days, the the Planning Board will ‘entertain’ the project at a regular board meeting and schedule a public hearing (more on this in the coming weeks). 

Please review video from last night’s planning board meeting. Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org and filmed by The Kingston News.

 

Leo Schupp
Special Permit 106 W. Chestnut Street
4:20 – 6:15

Bernie Redman
Special Permit 106 W. Chestnut Street
6:26 – 6:52

Alex Panagiotopoulos
Kingstonian Application
6:54 – 8:14

Abigail Frank
Special Permit 106 W. Chestnut Street
8:20 – 10:25

David Gordan
Special Permit 106 W. Chestnut Street
10:36 – 16:30

Rashida Tyler
Kingstonian Application
16:52 – 18:15

Callie Jayne
Kingstonian Application
18:22 – 19:30

Linda Seekamp
Special Permit 106 W. Chestnut Street
19:36 – 20:44

Barbara Stedge
Special Permit 106 W. Chestnut Street
19:45 – 21:05

Owen Harvey
ICC Application
21:06 – 22:10

Juanita Velazquez-Amador
Kingstonian Application
22:20 – 24:26

Betsy Krat
Kingstonian Application
24:30 – 25:01

Tanya Garment
Comp Plan Zoning Task Force and Kingstonian application
25:08 – 28:55

Public Hearing (Tabled)

Item #3: #270 Fair Street SPECIAL PERMIT RENEWAL for a 12 room hotel with 978 business rental space. SBL# 48.331-4-20. SEQR Determination. Zone O-2, Stockade Overlay, HAC, MUOD. Ward 2. Hudson Valley Kingston Development/applicant; Charles Blaichman/owner.

Old Business – Kingstonian Project 

Item #4: #9-17 & 21 North Front Street and 51 Schwenk Drive and a portion of Fair Street Extension LOT LINE DELETION of the Lands of Herzog’s Supply Company and the City of Kingston. SBL 48.80-1-25, 26 & 24.120. SEQR Determination. Zone C-2, Mixed Use Overlay District, Stockade Historic District. Kingstonian Development, LLC/ applicant; Herzog’s Supply Co. Inc. & City of Kingston/owner.

Item #5: #9-17 & 21 North Front Street and 51 Schwenk Drive and a portion of Fair Street Extension SITE PLAN/SPECIAL PERMIT to construct a Mixed Use building with a 420 car garage, 129 apartments, 32 hotel rooms, and 8000sf of retail space. SBL 48.80-1-25, 26 & 24.120. SEQR Determination. Zone C-2, Mixed Use Overlay District, Stockade Historic District. Kingstonian Development, LLC/ applicant; Herzog’s Supply Co. Inc. & City of Kingston/owner.

Item #6: #106 West Chestnut Street SPECIAL PERMIT to operate a Boarding House. SBL 56.34-11-22. SEQR Determination. Zone R-1. Ward 9. Chestnut Hill NY Inc.; applicant/owner.

 

Town of Lloyd Moratorium on Fossil Fuel Power Plants Passes Unanimously.

The Town of Lloyd passed a proposed moratorium on fossil fuel power plants (Local Law A) unanimously last evening, allowing the community the time to take the next critical step to address its zoning law.

“This local law…enact (s) a moratorium to temporarily suspend the review and approval of applications for fossil fuel power plants. We believe that given the projected increase in relatively small fast-ramping “peaker” gas power plants, which are not subject to Article 10 State review, the Town is wise to be proactive in amending its zoning to regulate these facilities. Without such regulation air quality, treasured views, adjacent properties and residents’ quality of life could be at risk. Importantly, it’s critical to ensure that protective zoning is in place before an application is submitted for a peaker plant.” said Scenic Hudson’s Director of Land Use Advocacy Jeffrey Anzevino (and Town of Lloyd resident) in a statement he read last night. “For a variety of reasons, peaker plants are coming to the Hudson Valley and Lloyd is not alone. We believe that the Town Board’s action on this issue will serve as a model that will encourage other communities to adopt protective zoning before applications are submitted.”

The recommendation of a moratorium for zoning consideration on 25mw (or smaller) fossil fuel plants was made by Scenic Hudson, Citizens for Local Power and KingstonCitizens.org last summer, where local communities – and not the state – have authority.  The concept is appropriate for all communities in the six counties residing in the “G” Zone (see materials below for more information), and was inspired by Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a 20mw gas-fired peak energy power plant being proposed in the Town of Ulster.

The Town of Lloyd’s ECC and Town Board were the first to pursue the recommendation.

“Lloyd is vulnerable.” says the letter to the Town Board of Lloyd from their ECC. “According to the Southern Ulster times article, zoning codes in the county, including Lloyd, do not address utility needs. Lloyd Planning Board Chairperson Peter Brooks indicated in the article that the lack of clear zoning guiding the review process of a proposed peaker plant would leave the town in a vulnerable position. He was quoted as saying that if such a proposal were to come before the Planning board, “we’re kind of bare-naked.”  Because of their small size, peaker plants like the 20-megawatt facility proposed in the Town of Ulster are not subject to New York State guidance regarding the siting, construction, and operation of major electric generating facilities.2 Municipalities have the primary jurisdiction for electric generating facilities under 25 megawatts. But like Lloyd, most communities are unequipped to provide an informed review of these facilities….The ECC strongly recommends that the Town Board enact a temporary moratorium on fossil fuel-powered peaker plants to protect our vulnerable community. During the proposed moratorium, we advise the Town Board to write regulations into the Town Code that allow the Town to decide if and how such plants should be sited, where they should go, and under what conditions.”

New York’s highest court has held that a municipality may exclude an industrial use if doing so is a reasonable exercise of its police powers to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and to promote the interests of the community as a whole.

“The ECC does not believe that fossil- fueled power plants are consistent with Lloyd’s community character. Therefore, we recommend that the Town Code be amended to prohibit them.”

The Town of Lloyd is now a model community for all of us potentially impacted by these types of projects.  We hope to see more communities in the ‘G’ Zone follow suit.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOW YOUR COMMUNITY CAN ADDRESS ZONING ON 25MW OR SMALLER FOSSIL FUEL POWER PLANTS IN THEIR COMMUNITIES:

VIEW  the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center Project Fact Sheet

WATCH our recent Webinar “Living in the “G” Zone: Peak Energy Plants and Zoning”

LEARN  how to update your zoning language to prepare for a possible fossil fuel power plant proposal in your community.

Town of Lloyd Schedules Public Hearing For Moratorium “On approvals for the construction, installation or use of, Fossil Fuel Power Plants within the Town.”

By Rebecca Martin

The Town of Lloyd Town Board (in Ulster County and “G” Zone) has scheduled a public hearing (Wednesday at 7pm) on a moratorium “on approvals for the construction, installation or use of, Fossil Fuel Power Plants within the Town.”

Here is the proposed local law enacting the moratorium VIEW

The moratorium in the Town of Lloyd, if adopted, would be the first community in the ‘G’ Zone to take such an action – and is a direct result of our webinar and hard efforts and teamwork of our wonderful coalition of partners. Thank you Town of Lloyd!  Let their example provide a model for all other potentially impacted communities to follow suit.

VIEW
The proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center Project Fact Sheet

WATCH
Our recent Webinar “Living in the “G” Zone: Peak Energy Plants and Zoning”

LEARN
How to update your zoning language to prepare for a possible fossil fuel power plant proposal in your community.


MORE
on this:

The proposed Glidepath Lincoln Park gas-fired power plant has revealed that the Mid-Hudson region is a target for new peaker plants. A complex of state regulations makes our region particularly attractive for power plant developers. Although we don’t need additional peak capacity here, the New Capacity Zone created by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2014 means that plants built in our region can be paid for providing backup capacity as if they were located downstate where the capacity is needed. At the same time, the hurdles to getting the necessary state air permits are lower here than they would be in downstate areas that are in “nonattainment” of federal air standards. Combine that with much lower land prices here than downstate, and our region has a bullseye on it. The Lincoln Park plant, if built, could be just the first of many across the region to take advantage of this perverse combination of regulations. We know that Glidepath has already contacted other communities, so it is urgent that communities prepare from a proposal like this.

Power plants smaller than 25 MW in size are regulated by local land use law, rather than at the state level, but most communities do not have specific zoning in place for power plants. They often have language permitting “utility” structures, which Glidepath and other power plant companies may try to use to suggest that their plants are permitted uses, although this usage is usually intended to apply to distribution lines and other essential public infrastructure, not privately-owned power plants.

Don’t let your community get caught unprepared for a peaker plant proposal! Communities can get out in front by examining and updating their zoning to be sure it specifies where and how power plants may be located. Communities may also choose to place a moratorium on fossil-fuel burning power plants while they develop zoning that specifically addresses power plants.”

We recommend the following steps:

1. Review your existing code:  Does it address power plants at all? Is it vague? Could a power plant potentially fit in to a “catch-all” permitted use?

2. Consider issuing a temporary moratorium while you develop zoning specific to power plants.  Moratoria should always: have a valid public purpose, have a reasonable time frame, specify the time when the moratorium will expire, and strictly adhere to the procedure for adoption laid down by the enabling acts.

3. Decide if fossil fuel power plants should be allowed at all in your town. You may decide to exclude power plants entirely from your municipality. They have very different impacts than other kinds of facilities. Localities can ban industrial uses as long as prohibiting a use is a reasonable exercise of its police powers to prevent damage to the rights of others and to promote the interests of the community as a whole.

4. Develop new zoning code provisions with specific definitions and clear conditions for fossil fuel power plants, if you decide to permit them.

 

Recommendations for zoning include:

➢  A robust “purpose and intent” section with description of potential impacts of power plants on health, safety and welfare of residents of town.

➢  A clear definition of “fossil fuel electric generating facility”: A facility whose primary purpose is for the generation of electric power (in excess of [one megawatt]) powered by fossil fuel for offsite use.➢  A clear statement of applicability to siting and construction of fossil fuel electric generating facilities within the municipality

➢  Acknowledge primacy of state law for power plants 25MW or greater


IF your municipality decides to allow fossil fuel electric generating facilities:

➢  Limit to only heavy industrial zones

➢  Require a special use permit and site plan approval, with appropriate conditions.

➢  Set criteria to address and mitigate potential impacts (i.e., screening requirements, stack height limits).

➢  Establish lot size and coverage limits, appropriate setbacks and building height limitations.

➢  Require all applicable additional permits and approvals.

➢  Require an enforceable plan and financial surety for decommissioning.

 

Sample Code Language for Issuance of Special Use Permit

The Town may not grant a special use permit for the construction or operation of a fossil fuel power generating facility, unless it shall first find and determine:

  • The nature of the probable environmental impact, including a specification of the predictable adverse effect on the environment, public health and safety, aesthetics, scenic, historic and recreational value, forest and parks, air and water quality, fish and other marine wildlife.
  • That the facility:
    • Represents the minimum adverse environmental impact;
    • Is compatible with the public health and safety;
    • Will not discharge any effluent that will be in contravention of the standards adopted by the Department of Environmental Conservation;
    • That the proposed facility is in compliance with criteria and requirements of this [section/chapter];
    • That a harmonious relationship exists between the use of such facility and uses located in adjacent districts as reflected in the comprehensive plan; and
    • That the proposed facility conforms to and is in compliance with, all zoning laws,ordinances, rules and regulations of the Town.

Introducing OurCitizens.org

(Logo Design: Susanna Ronner)

For well over a decade, the activist, organizer and singer-songwriter Rebecca Martin has been an essential, galvanizing force of positive civic change. In her adopted hometown of Kingston, N.Y., and throughout neighboring cities and towns, she’s helmed inspired new programming with a mission of conservation and outreach.  But most important, Martin has sought to empower local citizens to participate in their governments and communities. OurCitizens.org, a new 501c3 nonprofit serving Ulster County that will launch in May of 2019 –  in time for Martin’s 50th Birthday – is Martin’s most significant step yet in her pursuit to help folks connect to each other and to their representatives. With a talented, diverse staff of professionals and volunteers as well as an innovative web tool and app, OurCitizens.org will provide invaluable resources for a vast range of civic engagement, from public-works projects to protecting vital natural resources—especially the Hudson River.

Martin’s path to advocacy has been an unlikely one. She moved to Kingston with her husband, Larry Grenadier, in 2002, choosing it primarily on its strengths as a commuter hub. After years in New York City they were in search of space and quietude, and Kingston delivered both; it was also close enough to the city and the major airports that they could sustain their thriving music careers. Among the finest bass players of his generation, Grenadier has been a trusted collaborator to some of the most important figures in jazz history; to give but one example, he’s anchored pianist Brad Mehldau’s generation-defining trio for a quarter-century.

Photo credit: The Wall Street Journal

Martin not only witnessed Grenadier’s historic peer group come of age in jazz; she was in many ways immersed in it herself. In 1995, after having been employed as a producer for MTV Networks and deciding to focus on her performing career, she made her major-label debut in the duo Once Blue, alongside the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jesse Harris. With its cultivated union of folk and pop, and its sharp use of jazz-rooted harmony and personnel, Once Blue outlined a hybrid creative space that Martin would explore in the ensuing decades. Through her artistically liberating work with the great jazz drummer Paul Motian, a wide range of solo albums, and collaborations like the jazz-folk vocal group Tillery, she’s consistently garnered fans and impressed critics, even as they’ve struggled to define her music. “If comparisons must be made,” wrote the magazine JazzTimes, “let’s give Martin proper due and credit her as the logical successor to Joni Mitchell.”

A couple of years after settling into Kingston, Martin and Grenadier became pregnant with their son, Charlie, and suddenly found themselves looking at their city with a new kind of scrutiny. In 2006, Martin noted a flagrant red flag in the form of weapon-caliber knives being sold in a Citgo station, located just down the street from her home and bookended by a middle school and a high school. Martin confronted the station owner about his wares, and he argued that they were souvenirs that could only be purchased by legal adults.

Martin felt she couldn’t ignore what was an obvious threat to her neighborhood, but what to do? She had done plenty of organizing over the years, but it was usually with the mission of strengthening the music community and providing performance opportunities for rising artists. A new friend (Jennifer Schwartz Berky, who would become one of Martin’s key collaborators) who worked as a county planner introduced Martin to the concept of an alderman, an important governmental role that includes both representing local constituents and making decisions about larger city policy. But when she reached out to her representative—repeatedly—she received no response.

“I don’t know what possessed me, but I decided that I was going to raise awareness about this issue. I was certain that at least half of the knives in the case were illegal weapons,” Martin recalls. She papered the streets and brought the knives to the attention of her neighbors, many of whom were as dismayed as she was. The local media, not used to this style of citizens’ engagement at that time, seized on the story. Martin decided to host a public forum on the issue, and nearly 100 citizens turned up, including Kingston’s mayor and chief of police. The discussion turned into a rallying cry—the knives needed to go—and following a police raid, they were in fact discovered to be illegal and confiscated. The shop owner, not realizing he purchased illegal goods from a Texas-based company, was able to get his money back, and Martin had experienced the revelation of working for the public good. “It was thrilling,” she remembers. “It was an important experience, for someone becoming newly civically involved, to find that with just a little bit of elbow grease and work, an average citizen can make profound changes in their community.”

Martin, by then a young mother, began hosting monthly citizens’ meetings to address the various concerns within her ward and hometown. Over the next two years, the meetings featured insightful dialogue on a wide range of issues, from zoning to garbage collection to sex offenders and comprehensive planning. Subject experts would be invited to provide information, and high-ranking city officials would hear out their constituents. “We made some big things happen,” Martin says, “and it was a little group—just one ward.” The Ward 9 Community Group evolved into KingstonCitizens.org: an in-person and online platform where concerns were addressed in a public setting that held representatives accountable to the people. The website and, later, its companion blog, became an educational resource for Kingston folks to learn about how their government works, and about how they could use it to improve their wards and city.

The progress that has transpired over the past decade has been nothing short of profound. KingstonCitizens.org was able to secure respect and comfort for Chiz’s Heart Street, a group home for the mentally ill that was unjustly seen as a blight by its neighbors. A buying club became a thriving food co-op. A proposed gun store and shooting range was prevented from setting up shop in the heart of midtown, across the street from a high school.

For two years Martin homed in on fresh opportunities as the Executive Director of the Kingston Land Trust, a new not-for-profit initiated by citizens who were part of the city’s Ward 9 Community Group. (One of those citizens is Kingston’s current mayor, Steve Noble.) Martin’s leadership resulted in inspired new programming for the organization. Urban farms and youth-farming programs were established. A Rail Trail Committee created unprecedented hiking and biking opportunities. An African-American slave and freed-slave cemetery in Kingston was protected. With its dedication to community programming that promotes conservation, the urban Land Trust became an innovative model touted by the Land Trust Alliance.

Around the time that Martin became deeply involved with the Kingston Land Trust, she stepped away from KingstonCitizens.org; to helm both organizations at once, she says, would’ve been a conflict of interest and her limited time. Martin left KingstonCitizens.orgs’ website and social-media pages up—there was no sense in doing away with four years’ worth of invaluable resources in civics and legislation—but her focus had shifted. Soon enough, however, KingstonCitizens.org would become engaged in the fight of its life.

In August of 2014, Martin spotted a small news item that detailed how a bottled-water supplier was exploring a possible move into Kingston’s sister town of Ulster. It was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it notice, but it gave Martin cause for alarm. After all, she’d come up in Maine, where Nestlé hid behind the homegrown Poland Spring brand, exploiting the lack of water laws in economically depressed towns while giving little back to the community; today, the corporation has a disturbing amount of influence on the state government. There was also a bedrock of common sense underlying Martin’s trepidation. As she told the New Yorker in an article about the cause: “What’s more important than drinking water? Nothing.”

Stealthily, that previously undisclosed bottled-water company, Niagara Bottling, began to dig in. A month later Martin noticed another bit of news, of a much less hypothetical nature. Niagara had already gained approval from the planning board in Ulster. Even more troubling, the company had obtained a will-serve letter from Kingston, in which the city preliminarily agreed to provide the water requirements that would make the Ulster facility possible.

It wasn’t difficult to see what attracted Niagara to the area. Ulster already had plenty of water-related infrastructure in place, most of it built to satisfy the demands of what is today known as TechCity, a business park that fostered more than 7,000 IBM employees during its ’80s heyday. The city had struck a deal to use up to a million gallons of water per day from Kingston’s reservoir, though it rarely if ever did; in general, the agreement resulted in light use. The Niagara plans looked very, very different—1.75 million gallons per day, a figure the corporation would certainly strive to meet—and would have had an environmentally devastating impact on three communities: Kingston, Ulster and Woodstock, where Kingston’s reservoir is located. Quickly, Martin reactivated KingstonCitizens.org, began raising awareness and formed a coalition of partners that included environmental organizations, citizens and allies within the local government.

She found she had not only the people on her side, but the law as well. New York, it turned out, harbors a rare but useful piece of legislation called the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQR. Essentially, this stipulation requires state and local governments to consider potential environmental impacts before cutting deals with outfits like Niagara; further, it puts the breaks on the swift, calculated takeover that such corporations have perfected—especially in communities that are willing to forgo the scant local water legislation they may or may not be aware of. Furthermore, any public funds that a corporation wants to obtain cannot be released until a SEQR review process is complete. In the Niagara fight, one of Martin and her cohorts’ most potent weapons was their ability to eliminate the company’s grant-funding and tax-incentive prospects.

More than 400 people turned out for an early meeting to discuss the water-bottling proposal, and that number of concerned citizens continued to grow. “[The Niagara battle] really blew the doors off the work. It changed it,” Martin says. “What I was doing became part of a regional issue or regional effort, and our organization was ground zero for information on the proposal.”

Within five short months, in February of 2015, the 300-million-dollar company decided that the citizen-led opposition was too mighty and withdrew its efforts. “It was unbelievable,” Martin says. “It was such a thrill.” But the work wasn’t done. In collaboration with her mentor, environmental lawyer Kate Hudson, Martin started on the path to legislation that would protect Kingston’s water supply from future profiteering. Within two months a new wave of activism was rolling, and after many local law passages and the unanimous approval of the city council, a referendum appeared on the ballot the following fall. Through a simple four-word change to “water powers” in the City of Kingston’s charter, any water sales occurring outside Kingston’s corporate boundaries would require the go-ahead from the Kingston Common Council. It passed, by a landslide. “It was a mayoral year,” Martin recalls, “and we had more people show up for that vote in the fall than voted in the race for mayor.” Finally, with the inclusion of the Common Council, water sales had oversight.

Through the process of battling Niagara, KingstonCitizens.org also found its place among an expanding network of dedicated nonprofits. Martin and her colleagues didn’t let Niagara off the hook, either. When the company cropped up in Bloomfield, Connecticut, Martin and her cohorts went into action, warning the local government and citizens and educating them on how to navigate the civic process. Connecticut’s existing water laws allowed Niagara to gain a foothold, but KingstonCitizens.org’s coaching led to incredible self-empowerment in Bloomfield; folks there formed their own citizens’ group, the sister organization BloomfieldCitizens.org, whose members ended up all running for office and succeeding by filling every seat (including Mayor).

A similar sea change occurred more recently in the Town of Ulster. There, a new platform, TownofUlsterCitizens.org, was modeled after KingstonCitizens.org. Its goal is to prevent the addition of a 20-megawatt fracked gas peaker power plant only 600 feet from a residential neighborhood. The group, already in its first year, is taking on a host of other important community issues, including the town budget, and is encouraging newly active residents to run for office.

These days Martin is also engrossed in her duties in the Water Quality Program at Riverkeeper, the clean-water advocacy group dedicated to protecting the Hudson River. (Among the recent Riverkeeper projects of which Martin is most proud is an inter-municipal council agreement of the seven communities who drink from the river, known as the Hudson 7.)

Now, with the launch of the nonprofit OurCitizens.org, Martin wants to help the people of Ulster County improve, protect and enjoy their communities like never before—with more efficiency, transparency and experience. Seasoned staff members with backgrounds in areas like environmental and municipal law and planning will be on hand to provide invaluable input for new programming initiatives; they’ll also be there to give generous guidance and support when the next water-bottling corporation or power plant decides to swoop in. In addition to these on-the-ground resources, a web tool and app are currently being developed by Martin and graduate students from the School of Visual Arts Design for Social Innovation in New York City. Through technology, citizens will be able to quickly and directly identify and contact their representatives and organize their fellow constituents.  

The hard-earned lessons Martin employed as an artist continue to bolster her work in activism. “The way I organize and the way I make music are very similar,” she explains. “To make art or to imagine civic strategies requires time and space, though being on the bandstand and in the field also requires collaboration and teamwork that is nimble, quick and flexible. You get to know the projects cold and then you have to make decisions in the moment, taking so much into consideration to shape them and to make it all work.

– Evan Haga, January 2019

 

JOIN OUR TEAM AND PROVIDE INVALUABLE INSIGHT AS WE WORK TO IMPROVE LOCAL CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN ULSTER COUNTY!

KingstonCitizens.org and OurCitizens.org is proud to team up with social designers from the School of Visual Arts to build a digital tool that will help to improve local civic engagement in Ulster County. We are looking for citizens of any age, ethnicity, education level and background to give us feedback with 3-4 sessions. Participants will be invited to join us in New York City on May 7th for the School of Visual Arts Showcase to unveil the new digital tool – and the launch of OurCitizens.org!

To become a volunteer, sign-up at:   www.ulstercountyvolunteers.com

 

 

Mayor Steve Noble’s State of the City Address 2019

(This video brought to you by The Kingston News)

Good evening everyone and thank you for coming tonight. I want to thank President Noble and my colleagues of the Common Council for giving me the opportunity to share the State of the City. I also want to recognize our elected officials with us tonight. 

In addition, I want to acknowledge the members of our local media reporting here tonight. You have always had a tough job, but now, more than ever, we need journalists. 

About Growth 

Our city is growing. And growth can sound scary sometimes. It might seem easier to remain still, to keep things the way they’ve always been. It may feel more comfortable to ignore new ideas and to be surrounded by people who look and think alike. But that’s how cities crumble. We have far too much at stake to be lulled into complacency. Not when we’ve come this far. I believe wholeheartedly that we can continue to move forward while still holding on to all that makes Kingston special. Our city has strong roots- we were made to grow. 

Smart growth is possible, especially in a city as capable and committed as Kingston. We have a diverse, creative and engaged community, eager to build a successful city where everyone can prosper. We’re building new sidewalks, fixing underground utilities, improving our public transportation, creating socially responsible and progressive policies, preserving our historic assets, protecting our natural resources, and making the city’s largest investment into quality housing in decades. 

There is no doubt- the state of our city is strong. 

Read more…

Public Comment Procedure and the Kingston City School Board of Education Meetings

 

WHAT
Kingston City Board of Education
Regular Board Meeting

WHERE
Cioni Administration Building
61 Crown Street
First Floor Conference Room
Uptown, Kingston

WHEN
Wednesday, January 9th
6:45pm: Sign-up to speak (outside door during Executive Session)
7:00pm:  Public Comment

HOW
There are always two public comment periods during the BOE’s regular meetings: one at around 7:00pm (after the executive session) and one at the end of the meeting.  Parents and/or citizens who wish to speak can sign-up outside the BOE meeting room while the board is in executive session.  We recommend arriving at around 6:45pm to do so.

WHY?
It’s important to make it a habit to keep track of the Board of Education agendas and minutes and to address the board whenever there are questions, comments or concerns.
This month’s meeting will be important as parents and concerned citizens will be questioning procedure as it pertains the recent BB gun incident at C. Clifford Miller Middle School (and apparent other incidents throughout the school year).

 

By Rebecca Martin

In a recent article in the Kingston Times, it was reported that, “Concerned parents and community members are seeking answers from the Kingston City School District following a mid-December incident at M. Clifford Miller Middle School where a student shot a BB gun in a boys’ bathroom. School officials said the student involved in the incident has been suspended in accordance with district rules, but some are accusing the district of not taking it seriously enough.”  

On Wednesday, January 9th the City of Kingston Board of Education (BOE) has their regular board meeting at the Cioni Administration Building conference room located on the first floor of 61 Crown Street in Kingston.   Their AGENDA is available for review to give the public a sense of the flow of the evening. We expect tomorrow’s meeting to host concerned parents and citizens regarding the recent BB gun incident at C. Clifford Miller Middle School (and apparent other similar incidents that might have occurred throughout the school year).

There are two public comment periods, one at approximately 7:00pm (after the executive session which can sometimes go later depending on whether or not there is a lot to discuss) and one at the end of the meeting.  Parents who wish to speak can sign-up outside the BOE meeting room while the board is in executive session. If you are not able to arrive in time to sign-up, the board typically asks if there is anyone else who would like to speak after all the people on the list have spoken.  There is no sign-up for the second public comment period. A call for public comment will be made at that time, and attendees – whether having spoken already or not – will be invited to make any additional (or new) comments/questions.

Each speaker is limited to 2 minutes, though according to BOE trustee Robin Jacobowitz,  “…we generally don’t put a time limit on the public comment session. The 30 minute limit cited in the policy allows us to limit…but when there are issues that bring people out to meetings we want to hear what people have to say and try to be sensitive that not everyone can stick around for the second public comment period.”

Public comment during a BOE regular meeting is an opportunity for the public to speak and share their concerns.  It is not a time for dialog with the Board, as they do not respond during meetings – similar to public comment during Kingston Common Council meetings. Their role during the public comment segment is to listen.

If you wish to have a response to a concern, parents/citizens are asked to present it in writing after their public speaking with their contact information to the BOE clerk at the meeting.  This does not have to be a formal letter, as attendees often submit notes or talking points that they used for public comment with their contact info included.

Read more…

Kingston Common Council Letter to NYSDEC Environmental Justice Director Requesting Enchanced Participation Plan for Power Plant Proposal.

“On Tuesday, December 4, 2018, the City of Kingston’s Common Council unanimously passed a resolution to amplify Mayor Steve Noble’s request for the DEC to send a written notice to the applicant requesting that it immediately commence compliance with the requirements of the Department’s Environmental Justice Policy as specified in the Department’s March 20, 2018 comments on the Draft Scope. The City of Kingston, in which the PEJA area is located. specifically requests that the Department direct the Applicant to prepare and submit an enhanced participation plan for review and approval so that it can be implemented before the public comment on the DEIS is opened. In this way, the intent of the Commissioner’s Policy is honored, and Kingston’s identified environmental justice community will be provided with sufficient time, tools and the opportunity to clearly voice. and have their comments be considered, on the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center.”

KingstonCitizens.org Looks Back at 2018 and Forward to 2019.

By Rebecca Martin

2018 was perhaps the busiest yet for me at KingstonCitizens.org.

Some of the accomplishments include successfully supporting the creation of a new sister group TownOfUlsterCitizens.org;  Organizing and leading a coalition of partners to assure a transparent process in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired peak energy power plant project in the Town of Ulster;  Advocating for better meeting times for the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) to accommodate more of the public to participate; Providing educational opportunities while petitioning for transparency in the legislative process for the Kingston Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission;  and, encouraging the City of Kingston to complete its Comp Plan Zoning while also contemplating Charter Reform with the formation of a Charter Commission.

We’ve followed many issues, providing footage of more than 35 municipal meetings in partnership with The Kingston News to keep you all better informed – and so much more out in front or from behind the scenes.

The protection of the public good in the City of Kingston has been a daily part of my life for a long time. All of my efforts and those who have served as partners in any capacity have done so as volunteers, never receiving a dime.

Chipping away with graduate students from the School of Visual Arts to create the OurCitizens.org local engagement web tool.

 

In 2019, I look forward to taking a big step in the work with the launch of OurCitizens.org, a non-partisan organization committed to nurturing transparency in local government through citizen engagement and participation. With its Ulster County mission area, the goal is to nurture civics through lobbying programming for early learning (civics in schools), provide engaging and useful web tools and to eventually offer legal and planning support to help citizens ‘be the change they want to see’ in their local community.  

I dream of lasting local civic engagement throughout the 24 towns, villages and city in Ulster County. To help people to get on their way, and then to get out of their way.

There will be many opportunities for you to help us to prepare citizens to “get involved, stay involved” next year, and we look forward to bringing that all forward.

Until then, here are highlights of KingstonCitizens.org’s work in 2018.  Thanks for all of your support.

Read more…

The PURPA Challenge: Is GlidePath’s Lincoln Park Power Plant really a “Utility Company Structure?”

 

By Rebecca Martin

Earlier this summer, we learned that GlidePath (aka Lincoln Park GC, LLC)  “stated that their project – the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired peak energy power plant being proposed in the Town of Ulster – could be built “as-of-right” in the Office and Manufacturing District (“OM District”) in the Town because it is a “utility company structure.”

For many months, TownOfUlsterCitizens.org and our coalition of partners requested that the Town of Ulster provide “clarity on whether the Town of Ulster Zoning Code currently regulates gas-fired power plants, and specifically request a statement as to how the Town is treating the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center under the Zoning Code.”

These requests went without any detailed explanation.

However, over the weekend we learned that even though the code in the Town of Ulster’s zoning code refers to “utility company structures” allowed as-of-right in Highway Commercial (HC), Resource Conservation (RC), Office-Medical (OM) and I districts (and by Special Use Permits (SUP) or Specific Plan (SP) Approval in R-60, 30, 10 and Land Conservation (LC) districts), that GlidePath may not be considered a utility as per an interpretation of the 1978 US Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), which began the deregulation of energy companies to create competition to allow the US to break the grip of energy monopolies in the aftermath of the energy crisis.

PURPA establishes that because energy companies were “natural monopolies” (i.e., which happens to industries with infrastructure costs and other barriers to entry relative to the size of the market, giving the largest supplier an advantage over potential competitors), energy producers are non-utility generators. Cogeneration and small power production facilities are not utilities. It appears to be all in PURPA and settled case law that follows it since then.

What might this all mean for the GlidePath proposal?  We have more research to do to understand PURPA’s potential impact.

VIDEO: Kingston Planning Board and the ICC, Boarding House, Hospital Campus. Kingstonian Project Tabled.

By Rebecca Martin

At last evening’s Planning Board meeting, we captured several items for the public to review that include:

  1. The Irish Cultural Center’s third request for a site plan application in the Rondout, Kingston.  (Item #8)
  2. A controversial ‘boarding house’ special use permit on West Chestnut Street, that has been vying for permission to be approved as a ’boutique hotel’.  (Item #7)
  3. A downsized project of Benedictine Hospital on Mary’s Avenue (Westchester Medical) by Health Alliance of the Hudson Valley.

The developers for the Kingstonian tabled their project yesterday afternoon.

Read more…

Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Importance of Procedure

 

 

 

***

This post was updated December 21, 2018, to clarify two details. Firstly, the assistant corporation counsel, who provides legal counsel to the city’s commissions and boards, insisted to the Commission that the transcript of the final hearing would be sufficient for explaining the rationale of the Commission’s decision in lieu of a thorough written decision. Secondly, frequent intrusions in the commission’s final deliberations were made by the applicant and their lawyer and not other members of the public.

***

 

 

 

“The purpose...is to provide for the promotion of the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of the public through the protection, enhancement, perpetuation and preservation of landmarks and Landmark Districts. The legislative body declares that it is in the public interest to ensure that the distinctive landmarks and Landmark District shall not be injuriously affected, that the value to the community of those buildings having architectural and historical worth shall not be impaired and that said districts be maintained and preserved to promote their use of the education, pleasure and welfare of the citizens of the City of Kingston and others.” 

Legislative Intent of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, City of Kingston Administrative Code §405-63

By Marissa Marvelli

Following established procedures is key to any review by a quasi-judicial commission or board. Any misstep, big or small, can result in a judge rejecting its decision on appeal. This is precisely what has happened with the decision of Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) to deny the Irish Cultural Center (ICC) a “preservation notice of action” for their proposed new building in the Rondout Historic District. In her ruling, the Honorable Lisa Fisher of the State Supreme Court correctly notes how the members of the HLPC failed to render a clear written decision that contains specific references to the zoning code. Without that in hand, she, like Kingston’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), was left to parse the transcript of the hearing, which she accurately describes as “erratic.”

The HLPC failed in its review of the ICC—not on principle but on procedure. The final written decision of the HLPC is inadequate in describing the Commission’s reasons for its denying approval for the ICC.  No member of the Commission was directly involved in the composition of the written decision, a concern that was raised by members in the weeks following the final hearing.  In response, the assistant corporation counsel for the City of Kingston, who provides legal counsel to the city’s boards and commissions, insisted that the transcript would be sufficient for conveying the commission’s rationale. That transcript, which by default became the primary record of the hearing, documents a circuitous deliberation by Commissioners with frequent intrusions by the applicant and their lawyer.  The record further reveals the difficulty that Commissioners had in interpreting the criteria for review as outlined in the code, because the language is too vague and weighted towards the consideration of changes to individual buildings rather than new construction in historic districts. In this light, it is not difficult to see why the ZBA and this judge concluded that the HLPC’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

One of the fundamental duties of the HLPC when reviewing proposed changes in a historic district is to ensure that the character of the historic district is maintained, and “prevent construction, reconstruction, alteration or demolition out of harmony with existing buildings insofar as character, material, color, line and detail are concerned, and thus to prevent degeneration of property, to safeguard public health, promote safety and preserve the beauty of the character of the landmark or Landmark District.”    (City of Kingston Administrative Code §405-64 D)

No single detail defines a historic district’s character. It is the multitude of details taken together that creates a distinctive environment and sense of place. Such character-defining qualities include the relationships of buildings to each other and to the street. Do the buildings form a continuous streetwall or are they spaced apart? Are they situated directly at the street or are they set back from it? What was the historical development trend that led to their existence? Is there a discernible rhythm or pattern of details, be it building sizes, roof massing, cornices, or windows? Many districts have multiple rhythms. Character is also defined by the type of buildings, their construction, and scale—the architecture of a single-family dwelling is different than that of a store-and-loft building in terms of massing, façade proportion, materiality, fenestration, and building features like porches and storefronts.

The qualities described above are aesthetic ones. It is incumbent on members of the HLPC to consider all of them when considering the appropriateness of new construction in a historic district, be it an addition to an existing structure or a wholly new building on a vacant site.

Read more…