Proposal #1: “In order to improve services to the children and families of Ulster County, reduce the need to raise property taxes, and satisfy state mandates, the County of Ulster proposes to relocate the current leased site of the Ulster County Family Courtn, located at 16 Lucas Avenue in the City of Kingston, County of Ulster, State of New York, to a more suitable county owned property situated less than 800 feet from the City of Kingston line, located at 1 Development Court, Ulster Avenue in the Town of Ulster, County of Ulster, State of New York. Shall this proposition be approved?”
Last night, the Kingston Planning Board held its regular meeting with many items to discuss, one of which was the ongoing Irish Cultural Center (ICC) being planned in downtown Kingston. In September, citizens anticipated the planning board to make its determination in October for the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), but it was postponed because the ICC’s proposal scaled down its size (by 4.5%) after what appeared to be the public’s insistence for a project smaller in size and scale, and in pressing for a positive declaration in SEQR. Later we also learned that it might have been influenced by a recent communication from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in late September.
When speaking to scale, they reported that, “The scale is very large in comparison to surrounding commercial and residential buildings.” In regard to ‘Massing and Design Features’: “The rectangular flat roofed façade with full width double height porches, does relate to the historic façade of the D+H Paymaster Building that was located adjacent to this site. Though the scale of the proposed building is much larger.”
READ SHPO’s letter to the Kingston Planning Board dated 9/30/16
No matter. A new draft of plans were presented last evening. The good news is that the ICC is listening. They have removed a proposed banquet facility and commercial kitchen that would eliminate parking by 2 parking spots (from 39 to 37). The proposed theater also decreased in size to 171 seats in total. There is a good description of all of these things in the attached video.
So what are the next steps in the process for the public?
A public hearing is imminent, where the public will have the opportunity to view the new draft plan (available in the planning office, and not online) and then provide comments to the planning board for their consideration. Last night, the client presented its new draft and the planning board announced what appeared to be a decided upon date for a public hearing of November 2nd.
According to the City of Kingston Zoning Code Section 405-30 , it states that #6 “ The Planning Board may hold a public hearing on the site plan if it determines that the matter is of wide public interest. If such a hearing is held, it shall be held within 62 days of the official submission date of the application, and notice shall be given at least five days prior to the date of such hearing by publication in the official City newspaper.”
If we are correct, that means that the planning board has 62 days to orchestrate a public hearing. In this case based on a November 2nd public hearing, there are only 12 business days to respond and, according to comments made in the video, a final draft plan isn’t yet complete for your review even though the clock is already ticking.
So how does the planning board conclude review time before public comment? What’s their process and in this case, does it provide ample time for all parties involved? It all seems so arbitrary even if it isn’t.
Finally, in an article released by the Daily Freeman today about the meeting last night, we were disheartened by the headline, “Irish Cultural Center attorney says opponents of Kingston project are ‘dishonest’“. After reviewing video from last night, we realized that Mr. Pordy’s comments were not taken out of context. In our 10 years of doing this work, we can tell you that citizens truly advocating for their community are not dishonest. They deserve respect, and are wading through a maze of new information while trying to understand how city government works. It’s a very steep learning curve, and the majority of citizens that we have had the privilege in getting to know all want nothing more than to support their city’s best interests where they live and do business. – RM
In 2015, the city of Kingston initiated the Hudson Riverport, a project that had “engaged the services of the firm Perkins+Will to produce an Implementation Plan, a Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) and a Market Conditions Update for 192 acres of Kingston’s Rondout Waterfront under the Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Program of the NYS Department of State….The Common Council determined by resolution on October 6, 2015 that the Implementation Plan/Draft GEIS was complete and ready for public review and set a public hearing date. The comment period spanned October 8th through November 23rd with a public hearing on November 12th in Kingston City Hall Common Council Chambers.”
On October 11, 2015 in the Daily Freeman, an article “Kingston Seeks Public Input on Brownfield Plan” was printed/posted announcing the city initiative as well as the City of Kingston’s Hudson Riverport Facebook page that apparently had been created in 2014.
Just about a year later on October 10, 2016, we happened to notice language in a post on the City of Kingston Hudson Riverport Facebook page that appeared odd. To a recent article in the Daily Freeman, “Kingston Council Advances Downtown Flood Control Effort” it said in part that, “…The current administration should be thankful that the proposal was already written. All they had to do was get the design work started and resubmit the request for construction funds…”
That didn’t sound to us like the current office of Economic Development speaking. It is a fact that the “Hudson Riverport at Kingston” is a Facebook page created, owned and operated by the city of Kingston. So why would it suggest that “the current administration should be thankful that the proposal was already written…” for a project that it continues to organize and maintain?
Curious, we looked at the ABOUT section of Hudson Riverport of Kingston NY page, and there wasn’t a description or any details connecting the page to the City of Kingston initiative for which the social media site was created for when it was set-up. (VIEW: Hudson Riverport ABOUT section).
Unfortunately, we have reason to believe that the page continues to be administered by a past City of Kingston employee without having permission to do so, or without any guidance from the current Economic Development or Grants Management office. After looking around a bit more, there is at least one other just like it. An inventory of these sites needs to be collected.
The good news is that the City of Kingston is currently looking into the matter and will take the necessary steps to rectify the situation. Apparently, in the past a city employee could create a Facebook page on their own, without there being a secondary employee to be included as an administrator. That has now been implemented. However, for sites created prior to 2016, if a person who worked for the city being the sole adminstrator decides to act maliciously, they might take the entire site down where information meant for the public record that was posted over the years would be lost. Lets hope that that doesn’t happen in this case.
Perhaps the good news here, in an instance like this and if it ends up being what we suspect, will expose areas from past city management that must be improved.
There is no doubt that successful projects is the work of many. It indeed takes a village (or a city in this case). But for City of Kingston property to be used without authority or direction is inappropriate and completely misleading to the public. Aren’t city of Kingston staff and our elected and appointed officials from both the past and present days to be working on behalf of the public good? City property is the public’s property. When you are no longer employed, elected or appointed, hand over important information in good working order so that the city can continue to run smoothly during each of its transitions. It is each of their duties to do so.
READ: Daily Freeman Article, requesting comments on Riverport be sent to city-owned email address.
READ: Pages 9-10 of Ec. Dev. Brochure, documenting the project.
READ: Daily Freeman article about the public hearing process for the plan.
VIEW:Kingston Common Council’s Memorizing Resolution: “Resolution 214 of 2016: Resolution of the Common Council of the City of Kingston New York, Approving a Memoralizing Resolution Opposing the Adoption of the U.S. Coast Guard Proposed Rule 2016-0132.”
Tonight, the Kingston Common Council passed a memorializing resolution “opposing the adoption of the U.S. Coast Guard Proposed Rule” for the Anchorage project with a vote of 7 – 1 (Ward 7 Alderwoman Maryann Mills being the solo ‘no’ vote, stating she had more questions. At this time, she seemed to be supportive of the Shipping Corporations request to create 43 berths in 10 locations, opening up 2400 acres to new anchorages in some of the most ecologically sensitive areas of the river. 42 of the 43 berths are proposed to be “long term” which means that barges could anchor there for days. This is not as the vessel operators like to say as being “nothing new”. This would represent a huge increase in the anchoring of commercial vessels in the Hudson between the GW Bridge and Albany, turning our river into a parking lot for large barges and vessels while they wait for dock space to open up in Albany.) Ward 4 Alderwoman Nina Dawson was absent this evening.
The U.S. Coast Guard is taking comments until Dec. 6 on its WEBSITE. With the passing of resolution 214 of 2016, the Kingston Common Council will now be in a position to submit theirs, and join Kingston Mayor Steve Noble who earlier in the year, on August 22, 2016, submitted comments ending with “The City (of Kingston) has spent decades revitalizing its waterfront. Many organizations have worked to clean up the Hudson, to protect its habitats and make it attractive to recreation and tourism. For safety sake, transient vessel berthing is acceptable. Long-term use is not.”
VIEW 26:46 – 29:00: Ward 7 Alderwoman Maryann Mills defend her position in support of the proposed Anchorage project during the Kingston Common Council Caucus on 10/3/16. It begins at 26:46 and ends at 29:00. (Video brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org by Clark Richters of the Kingston News.)
VIEW 40:46 – 44:09: The passing of the memorializing resolution video is below. It begins at 40:46 and ends at 44:09. (Video brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org by Clark Richters of the Kingston News.)
Ward 1 Alderwoman Lynn Eckert prior to the vote states that, “We are obligated to protect the public good. There are too many people who rely on a healthy, ecologically sound Hudson River.”