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.
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.
At the end of 2017, KingstonCitizens.org quickly mobilized a coalition of partners to raise awareness of the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center in the Town of Ulster and to prepare to follow the SEQR process step by step. “We write regarding the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) review of the applications submitted by Lincoln Park DG, LLC to construct a natural gas-fired power plant and grid support center in the Town of Ulster (the “Project”). We specifically write with two requests: (1) that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) assume SEQRA lead agency status; and (2) that the lead agency issue a positive declaration and conduct scoping, consistent withSupervisor Quigley’s welcome statements at the December 7, 2017 Ulster Town Board Workshop meeting.”
The start of our new sister group TownOfUlsterCitizens.org. On January 4th, we met with citizens in the Town of Ulster and successfully helped them to quickly organize and strategically respond to a peak energy power plant being proposed in their town, located only 600 feet away from a residential neighborhood. We would later learn that the project would have large, negative implications for citizens living in the ‘G’ Zone, spanning six counties.
“Citizens in the Town of Ulster tell GlidePath and their elected officials: “We don’t want this project.” After requesting more information, GlidePath returned to the Town of Ulster and were met by a full house of interested citizens to learn more about the Midwest company’s proposed project called the “Lincoln Park Grid Support System”, a natural gas power plant in the Town of Ulster. Established in 2013, GlidePath has ten renewable projects in its portfolio. The Lincoln Park Grid Support System project, a 20-megawatt hybrid natural gas (diesel back-up) and battery generation system/power plant proposed for the Town of Ulster, would be the company’s first gas-fired project, and it showed. During their first power point presentation, the company misstated its projected emissions, a discovery made by one of our coalition partners Evelyn Wright of Citizens for Local Power. VIEW
UCIDA Rejects Request for Meeting Time. “In the end, my take away was that the point was missed and that is, to include the public in new ways is a multi-prong process. Changing the meeting time should have been seen as a first step. Outreach and making process accessible and easy to understand (transparency), another. Ongoing storytelling and communication, another. Participation, when it doesn’t exist, takes time and effort and the board has three Ulster County employees appointed to them as staff to help. That the public does not regularly attend this or any other important public hearings, board, committee or commission meetings is a failing of at least these things….We’ll try again another time, in some other way.”
KingstonCitizens.org organizes Coalition of Partners to request a 90 Day Public Comment Period on Draft Scope in SEQR for the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center project. “Our coalition of partners (that includes CAPP-NY, Catskill Mountainkeeper,
KingstonCitizens.org, Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson and Woodstock Land Conservancy) has been waiting for a Pos Dec determination. In preparation, we created a letter that was ready to submit first thing this morning to Supervisor Quigley and the ToU Town Board requesting a 90 day public comment period with at least two public scoping meetings given the magnitude of the proposal.”
KingstonCitizens.org sponsors a public educational panel on SEQR and the Scoping Process for the proposed Lincoln Park Power Plant Project. KingstonCitizens.org sponsored a public educational forum on SEQR and Scoping, presented by Scenic Hudson and in partnership with CAPP-NY, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Riverkeeper and the Woodstock Land Conservancy. Environmental Advocacy Director Hayley Carlock and Land Use Advocacy Director Jeffrey Anzevino (of Scenic Hudson) were our panelists, where we were joined by close to 50 Town of Ulster residents and two Town Board Members (Morrow and Secreto) to discuss the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center’s SEQRA process and why public participation in developing the scope for the environmental impact statement is important.
KingstonCitizens.org daylights potential Emminent Domain deal between Town of Ulster and GlidePath parcel. “At the Town of Ulster Town Board Workshop meeting on March 1st, an item on eminent domain near the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center project lands certainly caught my attention. During the meeting, Supervisor James Quigley’s description of “Discussion on start of Eminent Domain Proceedings on a portion of Parcel SBL 48.12-1-20, corner of Miron Lane and Sottile Blvd, owned by Kingston Landing Development Corp” seemed to indicate nothing more than the opportunity for the Town to acquire a parcel via eminent domain that would allow its entrance to the transfer station to be free and clear forevermore. To be sure, it is recommended that citizens look into this land agreement more fully and request an explanation as to the suddenness of this transaction and whether or not it is an emergency situation. If it is not, then perhaps it’s wise to request that the Town of Ulster delay any activity on lands that involves GlidePath and the Town of Ulster until the SEQR review is complete.” The item has not appeared on the agenda since then.
KingstonCitizens.org co-sponsors a full day public scoping brainstorming session for all citizens in Ulster County, the first of its kind in our area. On Sunday, March 4th, a Public Comment Brainstorming Session occurred at the Town of Ulster Senior Center lin Lake Katrine, NY. Citizens had the opportunity to work together with experts to draft strong comments of concern for study as it pertains to the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired power plant being proposed in the Town of Ulster. The afternoon was facilitated by Rebecca Martin (KingstonCitizens.org), Laura Hartman and Regis Obijiski (TownOfUlsterCitizens.org). Co-sponsored by KingstonCitizens.org and TownOfUlsterCitizens.org.
KingstonCitizens.org presents a case for Charter Reform to Kingston Mayor Steve Noble and Alderman-at-Large James Noble at Kingston City Hall. Rebecca Martin of KingstonCitizens.org follows up on Charter Reform starting with the formation of a commission at City Hall. The meeting was based on comments from an older Educational Forum presented by KingstonCitizens.org with Dr. Gerald Benjamin on the subject. VIEW
KingstonCitizens.org outlines next steps in the SEQR process for the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center. “Today, the Final Scope is due to be delivered to the applicant (GlidePath) by the Lead Agency (Town of Ulster Town Board) in the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired power plant in the Town of Ulster. Hundreds of comments were submitted over the course of 50 days, and we anticipate a copy of the Final Scope to review and to share to our readers when we do. In the meantime, here is a 30,000-foot view of the next steps in the SEQR process to help citizens to plan. We, of course, will continue to break each step down to the best of our ability as they occur.”
KingstonCitizens.org learns of the DEC’s highlighting of their Commissioner Policy-29 that identifies Kingston’s Environmental Justice Area as potentially impacted by the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center. “In the City of Kingston, there are two “Potential Environmental Justice Areas“. One in Uptown and in the Rondout, downwind of potential emissions produced by the gas-fired power plant that is being proposed. This is significant as the DEC issues emissions permits.”
Cherrypicking Comp Plan Zoning Recommendations: the Streamlining of the HLPC and HAC in Kingston. Since the release of the Comprehensive Plan Zoning recommendations in January of 2018, we have been waiting to learn from the CoK what its next step would be in completing this important initiative. Mayor Steve Noble, in his 2018 State of the City Address, stated that, “In 2018….my administration will be focusing on overhauling our Zoning Code…I want to thank the past members of the Comprehensive Plan Zoning Sub-Committee for their work over the past few years reviewing our zoning and recommending changes to ensure we are consistent with State law. In 2018, I will be launching the second stage of the zoning update and will be recruiting local volunteers to delve into such complex subjects as affordable housing, urban agriculture, parking and parking waivers, form-based codes and much more. This work is necessary in order to ensure that our zoning is consistent with our Comprehensive Plan, spurs responsible economic development and preserves our community high quality of life.” Streamlining commissions was an item struck from the adopted Comprehensive Plan, but ended up in the CP zoning recommendations mysteriously anyway. No matter, the item was extracted from an incomplete CP Zoning report while leaving everything else in it behind.
KingstonCitizens.org supports Mayor Steve Noble request to UCRRA to Postpone their decision to discontinue single-stream recycling. Both elected officials and the public learned from an article in the local paper that the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) “announced plans to stop single-stream, or commingled, recyclables in 2019 and proposed doubling the fees for single-stream loads until the new policy was in place.” Kingston Mayor Steve Noble took swift action with a letter in response that provided specific actions for the public to take. KingstonCitizens.org took swift action to amplify the Mayor’s request with a petition, and other supportive measures.
KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with the City of Kingston and Friends of Historic Kingston presents public educational forum “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Rethinking the Review Process.“ “There are many pressing issues in the City of Kingston, and assuring the protection of our historic assets is certainly one of them,” says Rebecca Martin, lead organizer and, co-founder of KingstonCitizens.org, who will also moderate the event. “With legislation on the table, creating an opportunity to take an in-depth look at Kingston’s historic preservation is both timely and essential.”
KingstonCitizens.org clarifies the Local Law process on proposed legislation to merge Kingston’s Historic Commission. Proposes that the legislation is not ready for public hearing. “The city seems on a tear to want to pass this merger through whether or not preservation professionals have had the opportunity to participate. At the May 2018 Laws and Rules Committee meeting, Kingston’s Corporation Council Dan Gartenstein laid out a timeline, recommending that the council hold a public hearing followed by two readings before a vote August to meet the City of Kingston’s budget cycle in September. When merged, the commission would be overseen by the planning department who could carve out a budget line in next years budget for funds in order for additional preservation work, such as identifying new historic districts or saving historic homes. When challenged to make the public hearing later in the summer, he stated that there was litigation in the wings that made the merger timely. For the record, the HLPC is not concerned about a budget line at this time. The commission only wishes to make sure that their current ordinance is clear. According to the Department of State’s document “Adopting Local Laws in NYS” on page 14 under ‘Public Hearings’ in Step III, that the ‘law is presented to the municipal governing body and introduced by one of its members” and not the corporation council as has been done. What is Kingston’s corporation doing introducing new legislation and then, placing pressure on council members to do so with speed?”
KingstonCitizens.org advocates for the Kingston Common Council to send streamlining Historic Commissions and Legislation back to Committee. “…good sense prevailed and Resolution #107 of 2018 “Common Council of the City of Kingston Establishing a Public Hearing Regarding the Possible Merger of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Heritage Area Commission” (with accompanying legislation from 5/16/18 to be sent out to Involved Agencies) was referred back to the Laws and Rules Committee for proper vetting with a 7 / 2 vote.”
KingstonCitizens.org Supports Council Laws and Rules Committee to Review the Development Process in Kingston’s Planning Department. “How did the City of Kingston’s Planning and Building Department come to the conclusion that streamlining commissions was the best way forward? Was there a flowchart of all development processes? Had all parties involved been gathered to discuss the process to collectively agree that streamlining was the solution? We got our answer during July’s Common Council Laws and Rules Committee meeting. Led by Ward 9 Alderwoman Andrea Shaut, who serves as the liaison to the Laws and Rules Committee on the streamlining matter, a roundtable discussion was called that included invitations to all decision makers – whether regulatory or advisory. Turns out that this was the first time that everyone had been brought together to discuss. The planning department didn’t have flowcharts and Kingston’s Planning Director Suzanne Cahill insisted that the development process was not ‘one size fits all’ so it wasn’t possible to create them.”
City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble Advocates for Public Participation Plan for ToU Power Plant Proposal in Rondout’s potential Environmental Justice area. “… I ask that the DEC send a written notice to the applicant requesting that it immediately commence compliance with the requirements of the Department’s Environmental Justice Policy, as specific 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. ” – Mayor Steve Noble
KingstonCitizens.org mobilizes public to push back on the Ulster County Legislature’s Term Limits Referendum to Fend Off Outside Influences. “The Ulster County Lawmakers will vote tonight on a resolution that would become the first step in a ballot referendum process to impose term limits on some of the County’s elected officials this November. At the same time, “Reclaim NY”, a 501c3 group located on Fifth Avenue in NYC that is Mercer-funded and Bannon-guided, has launched a campaign, spending an alleged $25,000 on a flyer sent to all Ulster County Republicans encouraging them to support the measure.” The referendum item was defeated, and Term Limits tabled until after the midterm election.
KingstonCitizens.org and coaltion partners request a temporary moratorium on power plants. “We write to you to ask for clarity on whether the Town of Ulster Zoning Code (the “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 (the “Project”) under the Zoning Code.”
KingstonCitizens.org co-hosts Community BBQ and Public Forum with TownOfUlsterCitizens.org “Living in the “G” Zone A free community BBQ and public forum was organized with panelists Energy Analyst and Economist Evelyn Wright (Citizens for Local Power) and Environmental Advocacy Director Hayley Carlock (Scenic Hudson) for an overview of what it means to be living in the ‘G’ zone and Peak Energy power plants; GlidePath’s proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support System project, a gas-fired power plant in the Town of Ulster; an overview and next steps regarding the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process for the GlidePath project and an exciting step that all Ulster County residents can take together to deter peak energy fossil plants. Ulster County Executive Mike Hein provided opening remarks. The public event was co-sponsored by KingstonCitizens.org and TownOfUlsterCitizens.org in partnership with Catskill Mountainkeeper, CAPP-NY, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc., Kingston Land Trust, Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, Sustainable Hudson Valley, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter (NYS), Mid-Hudson Sierra Club and the Woodstock Land Conservancy.
TOOLKIT: Step by Step to Address Zoning and Peak Power Plants. Residents of Ulster County and vulnerable communities throughout the ‘G’ zone were given a tool kit to address 25 MW fossil fuel power plants (where local communities have oversight) in their zoning ordinances.
The Beyond Streamlining – Improving Kingston’s Preservation and Heritage Programs (an editorial). Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission Vice Chair Marissa Marvelli writes guest editorial piece to advocate for new model law, preservation administrator in the CoK budget and a Preservation Plan.
KingstonCitizens.org presents a webinar specifically for all planning and zoning professionals living in the “G” Zone (Ulster, Orange, Greene, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess Counties). KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with Scenic Hudson, Citizens for Local Power and Riverkeeper and with support from TownOfUlsterCitizens.org, CAPP-NY, Catskill Mountainkeeper and NP Climate Action Coalition presents a webinar specifically for all planning and zoning professionals living in the “G” Zone (Ulster, Orange, Greene, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess Counties). Attendance to this free webinar event provided credits for the AICP (American Institute of Professional Planners) and NYS Planning and Zoning Board.
2019 General Election Ballot and Proposal No. One: “An Amendment for Independent Redistricting.” “Attached is a copy of the 2018 General Election Ballot that includes Proposal Number One, “An Amendment Shall Section C-10 of the Ulster County Charter be amended to provide for the creation of an independent Redistricting Commission, designed to exclude political influence in revising county legislative districts, as proposed and unanimously approved by the Ulster County Charter Revision Commission.” Make sure on election day, that you turn the ballot over to find the referendum, located on the back of the ballot.”
Cell Towers and the City of Kingston. KingstonCitizens.org advocated for the Kingston common council to analyze the overall planning issue of cell tower placement and to decide where and under what conditions tower constructions may proceed with a brief moratorium on cell towers given our ongoing comprehensive plan and zoning amendment work being underway.
KingstonCitizenes.org ushers draft resolution through proper city process to support the Kingston Common Council with their unanimous decision “Requesting an (Enhanced) Public Participation Plan for Lincoln Park LLC (also known as GlidePath and/or the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center) as per the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Policy (CP) 29.” For the last 12 months, KingstonCitizens.org – along with our environmental and citizen partners – have been following the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process for the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a 20 MW natural gas fired generation plant with diesel backup and battery storage project being proposed in the Town of Ulster, NY. During the public scoping process, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation in its “Comments on Draft Scope” (March 20th, 2018) for the proposed “power plant” under Air Resources stated that, “Air Permit Applications are subject to the Department’s Environmental Justice Policy (CP-29).” The intent of the Commissioner’s Policy (CP) requires the applicant to incorporate environmental justice into the permitting process and prepare a Public Participation Plan. This relates directly to a fossil fuel peak energy power plant being proposed in the Town of Ulster, where only 1.3 miles away (and downwind) is Kingston’s Rondout that includes an environmental justice area identified by the DEC. The common council’s request now amplifies Mayor Steve Noble’s, who submitted his letter to the DEC in the Spring. VIEW Rebecca Martin’s testimony.
The PURPA Challenge: Is GlidePath’s Lincoln Park Power Plant really a “Utility Company Structure? “…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.”