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.
VIEW video from last evening’s meeting.
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