VIDEO: SEQR 101 Public Educational Forum

 

By Rebecca Martin

On Tuesday, May 21, KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with the Kingston Tenants Union hosted a public educational forum on SEQR 101.  Video from our event was created by The Kingston News brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

The event’s AGENDA is available with valuable links to resources on page two.

Thanks to Jennifer O’Donnell for bringing her knowledge and experience on the subject to our community.

 

VIDEO #1 

What is SEQR?  
* Purpose (12:17)
* Environmental Factors (15:40)
* What is an “Agency”? (19:11)
* What is an “Action”?  (20:54)

SEQR Processes and Procedures
* SEQR timeline and process  (24:00)
* When does the SEQR process begin?  (34:18)
* Who starts SEQR?  (36:54)
* Classifying the Action: Type II, Type I, Unlisted  (37:12)
* Avoid Segmentation (43:52)
* Type II Action (49:25)
Type I Action (52:24)
* Unlisted (53:26)
* Establishing Lead Agency (55:15)

VIDEO #2

* Establishing Lead Agency (continued) (00:00)
* Coordinated  Review (and Uncoordinated Review) (5:00)
* Determination of Significance: Negative or Positive Declaration? (9:36)
* Environmental Assessment Form (10:20)
* Part 1: Project Information (10:49)
* Part 2: Identification of Potential Project Impacts (11:03)
* Part 3: Evaluation of Impacts (12:01)
* Determination of Significance (17:55)
* Criteria for Determination of Significance (19:20)
* Substantive and Literal Compliance (19:40)
* Evaluate Impacts in Context (21:32)
* More on Determination of Significance (27:00)
* Conditioned Negative Declaration (Unlisted actions only)  (27:16)
* Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)  (27:55)
* EIS Process (33:05)
* Scoping (33:30)
* Draft EIS (35:17)
* Public Comment (35:30)
* Final EIS (36:31)
* Generic EIS (37:33)
* Findings, File and Provide Notice, Final Decisions, SEQR Compliance (40:25)
* Recent Changes to SEQR (41:16)
* Questions and Answers (52:40)


VIDEO #3

* Questions and Answers (Continued)  (00:00)

Give Every Ulster County Resident the Ability to Vote.

URGENT CALL TO ACTION

 

CALL OR WRITE to the Ulster County Board of Election Commissioners 845-334-5430 or elections@co.ulster.ny.us

Tell the Ulster County Board of Elections to give the greatest number of people the opportunity to vote by placing early voting locations  in the county’s largest population centers.

ATTEND the Ulster County Legislature Laws and Rules, Governmental Services Committee meeting on Monday May 20th at 6:30pm at the Ulster County Office Building located at 244 Fair Street in Kingston. The meeting will be held at the KL Binder Library on the 6th Floor.

Express your support for Chairman David B. Donaldson’s draft resolution that calls for early polling sites to be located in the City of Kingston and the Villages of Ellenville, New Paltz, and Saugerties.

 

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In a recent news report, the public learned that the “Republican and Democratic Board of Election Commissioners were in a dispute over early polling locations.” This is particularly problematic as they are on “a tight timeline to submit locations and times for early voting during the nine days (before the November elections) to the New York State Board of Elections by May 29 to be considered for state assistance to fund voting equipment. The cost taxpayers would pay is upwards of $200,000 if it is not resolved in the next two weeks.”

What’s the problem?

“The Republican and Democratic commissioners are locked in a fight over locations.”

Democrat Commissioner Ashley Dittus has argued for early voting sites to be located  in the county’s largest communities, including Kingston, Saugerties, New Paltz, and Wawarsing, because they are “population centers” and accessible to a greater number of voters. “The state election laws…say we need to be mindful of existing population density, proximity to bus routes, travel time to the polling location from voters’ homes, and commuter traffic patterns… .” She claims the laws are being ignored by her counterpart possibly for political reasons.

Republican Commissioner Thomas Turco wants the locations to be in rural areas outside of large municipalities, claiming they better serve the entire region and the venues are better. “Unfortunately, we cannot put early voting in every town… . We have to consider what serves the voters in the county best, not just individual towns.”

According to an article published by the Center for American Progress about increasing voter participation, “Many eligible voters with young children must find reliable and affordable child care before going to the polls. However, this can be especially difficult if designated polling places are located far away or if polling place lines are long, requiring additional time away from work or home—time that many Americans cannot afford… . The same is true for Americans with family obligations. In 2012, voting lines were estimated to have cost Americans $544 million in lost productivity and wages.These burdens often fall disproportionately on communities of color and low-income Americans.”

A recent Pew article [include hyperlink] discusses how placing polling sites in rural areas is used for political gain “When officials attempt to locate polling places far from population centers, it forces people of color and low income voters to travel farther to vote, and to vote in an environment they may find threatening, like in a majority white neighborhood… .Changing a polling location to an unfamiliar environment can be an effective tool of voter manipulation.”

What you need to know

If the Democratic and Republican commissioners of the Ulster County Board of Election cannot agree to a plan for early voting polling locations by May 29th, the county could lose critical funding for voting equipment and technology–to the tune of $30k per location. The costs may then be borne by the County and in turn passed on to taxpayers.

Citizens have a very narrow window of time to express their support for the placement of early voting locations  in the county’s largest population centers. The deadline for the Ulster County Board of Election Commissioners to submit its plans to the State is Wednesday May 29th. Please follow the action above immediately.

Zoning, the Mixed Use Overlay District, Comprehensive Plans and the Kingstonian Project

A comprehensive plan is a powerful document in New York State that creates a framework for making important decisions while guiding growth and development. Kingston’s own plan, adopted by the Common Council in April 2016, quite forcefully calls for an affordable housing requirement in new developments:

“Strategy 1.1.2: Require affordable housing for any new or expanded residential building or development project.  The City should consider expanding the number of projects that must provide a ‘fair share’ of affordable housing. Currently, affordable housing is only required for projects taking advantage of the mixed-use overlay district provisions.” (p. 21, Kingston 2025)

The City of Kingston continued to promote that goal in its 2017 Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) application in which the Kingstonian Project was proposed:

“Housing development in the Stockade Business District (SBD) has been limited, and a significant percentage of renters in the SBD and surrounding area are cost burdened, spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing costs.”  (Executive Summary of the City of Kingston’s 2017 DRI application).

However, in February of 2019, the developers of the Kingstonian Project submitted an application that includes 129 market-rate residential units in the Stockade District. The mandate for affordable housing that is outlined in Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan seems to be ignored with this substantial project.

At its first hearing on April 10th, the Kingston Planning Board began accepting public comments for the proposed Kingstonian. To date, the Board has not provided a timeline for review, a date for when the public comment period will close, or indicated when the Planning Board as lead agency will likely make a positive or negative declaration (pos or neg dec) in the project’s State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), a decision that is meant to be made within 20-days following the acceptance of lead agency.

Since February, KingstonCitizens.org has spoken with many stakeholders about potential significant environmental impacts as it pertains to the Kingstonian Project. We have also fielded questions about the applicant’s zoning listed in its  Environmental Assessment Form (EAF).

 

 

What is a C-2 Zone in the City of Kingston?

The mixed residential and commercial Kingstonian Project is located in a C-2 zone where residential use is not a permitted as-of-right use. The City of Kingston Zoning Code for a C-2, short for Central Commercial District (§ 405.17), outlines uses that are permitted as-of-right:

A building may be erected, altered, arranged, designed or used, and a lot of premises may be used, for any of the following purposes by right and for no other: Retail stores; banks, including drive-in windows; service businesses, such as, but not limited to, barbershops, beauty parlors, tailors and dry-cleaning stores, custom dressmakers, jewelry repair, shoe repair, travel agents, auto rental offices, appliance repair and duplicating businesses and job printing establishments having not more than 10 persons engaged therein; business, professional and governmental offices; theaters and assembly halls; restaurants, art or craft studios or studios for teaching the performing arts; libraries, museums and art galleries; manufacturing, assembling, converting, altering, finishing, cleaning or any other processing of products where goods so produced or processed are to be sold at retail, exclusively on the premises, in accordance with the requirements of § 405-16B(13); public and private off-street parking lots and parking garages unless accessory to and on the same lot with a use otherwise permitted, such garages and parking lots shall be limited to use by passenger automobiles exclusively.”

Wouldn’t the Kingstonian Project be required to gain a variance for residential use by the City of Kingston Zoning Board of Appeals? It doesn’t appear to due to it being within a Mixed Use Overlay District.

What is the Mixed Use Overlay in the Stockade District?

The Mixed Use Overlay District (MUOD) was adopted in 2005 as an amendment to the City’s Zoning Code following three years of debate. (See “Kingston council OKs Uptown/Midtown loft law,Daily Freeman, 5 January 2005. ) The primary purpose of it was to ease the regulatory burden of converting upper floors in existing commercial buildings to residential use. Instead of applying for a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, building owners could apply for a less onerous Special Use Permit from the Planning Board.

There are two MUODs in the city: the Stockade and Midtown. The thinking of council members at the time was that by making the adaptive reuse of commercial buildings in these districts for residential lofts easier, it would incentivize the creation of affordable housing units. Much of the text of the amendment (which was created with assistance by Greenplan, a planning consultant out of Rhinebeck) focuses on affordable housing, which is “intended” to be based on guidelines outlined therein. It is intended to apply to adaptive reuse projects containing five or more residential units wherein 20% of those units must be maintained as affordable (defined as 80% of the Ulster County median income.) Such units are to be dispersed throughout the proposed housing project, be indistinguishable from market-rate units, and the affordable unit rents are not to exceed 30% of a household’s income.  

But there are few (if any) buildings in the Stockade that could accommodate five units or more. An analysis of these properties is likely to show that no affordable units have been created in the Stockade District with this regulation. (See  Upstairs Apartments Fail to Materialize in Stockade, Midtown Kingston,” Daily Freeman, 11 February 2007.)

In addition to promoting the creation of affordable housing, the MUOD text describes a second underlying purpose: “to encourage mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian-based neighborhoods.” (§ 405-27.1, subparagraph B-2) It seems that the Kingstonian Project, which neither proposes any affordable housing nor seeks to adaptively reuse any buildings, is narrowly interpreting this second clause as the basis for its qualifying for the more expeditious Special Use Permit application process. (In its Environmental Assessment Form, the applicant flags the MUOD as an applicable zoning measure.) To achieve this second purpose, the amendment allows “site and building enhancements that promote a mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian-based neighborhood” to qualify for a Special Use Permit. Apparently, “site enhancements” can be interpreted to mean new construction.

More on Market-Rate and Affordable Housing.

At this time, all of the residential units planned for the Kingstonian Project will be market rate, which has no rent restrictions. A landlord who owns marketrate housing is free to attempt to rent the space at whatever price the local market may tolerate. In other words, the term applies to conventional rentals that are not restricted by affordable housing laws. So while the project entirely skips over the affordable housing purpose of MUOD, it is availing itself of the special use permit perk that comes with being in a MUOD.

A decade ago, the Teicher organization proposed a similar mixed-use project— though shaped differently and without a street closure—on a portion of the Kingstonian site. It received a positive declaration in SEQR with the attendant public scoping process. In its final scoping document, the Teicher team outlined an affordable housing plan where they would “…present a program and procedures that will result in at least 10% of the proposed housing units being set aside as affordable/workforce housing units as defined in the City Zoning Law.” It also stated that “…the plan may identify any appropriate options for promoting or creating such affordable housing units in off-site locations in lieu of within the proposed development.”

It is important to note that the City of Kingston’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) application touts the goals of the MUOD and places them in context of Kingston’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan as it pertains to affordable housing in commercial districts:

“…the overlay was mapped in 2005 to allow for the adaptive reuse of industrial and commercial buildings for rental and affordable housing and to promote the development of a mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian- based neighborhood. Properties within the overlay district have certain affordable housing requirements and pedestrian-friendly design standards. In addition, the City has a goal to simplify the district’s affordability standards while allowing for the adaptive reuse of former industrial and commercial buildings throughout the city, not just in the overlay district… . Kingston 2025 identifies the Stockade Business District (SBD) as the “Uptown Mixed-Use Core” neighborhood and specifies goals and strategies specifically pertaining to this area. The vision for the SBD as articulated in Kingston 2025 is to be a center ‘for local life providing nutritious fresh food, necessary personal services, transportation and mass transit options, employment opportunities at a range of incomes, a diversity of housing options, and nearby public and private recreational facilities…’. Kingston 2025 outlines several strategies for residential development in the SBD, including allowing mixed- uses in the C-2 zoning district, and moving toward city-wide standards for adaptive reuse and affordable housing. Therefore, it is likely development guided by the Comprehensive Plan will include more housing opportunities in the SBD.”

If not now, when?

Why are only some of the goals of the City’s Zoning Code being followed? Over the past generation, public officials and members of the community have repeatedly identified a clear need to keep housing affordable in Kingston. It is why the MUOD was created. As has been stated earlier, our 2025 Comprehensive Plan also recognizes the need for affordability throughout the city, which is also in keeping with the Courts’ recognition of the requirement for inclusionary zoning. Now that we have an adopted plan that states this, it has the full force of law, as noted by the NY State Department of State in Zoning and the Comprehensive Plan: “New York’s zoning enabling statutes (the state statutes which give cities, towns and villages the power to enact local zoning laws) require that zoning laws be adopted in accordance with a comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan should provide the backbone for the local zoning law.”

It goes on to note that public spending at any level of government must be in accordance with that plan: “Once a comprehensive plan is adopted using the State zoning enabling statutes, all land use regulations of the community must be consistent with the comprehensive plan. In the future, the plan must be consulted prior to adoption or amendment of any land use regulation. In addition, other governmental agencies that are considering capital projects on lands covered by the adopted comprehensive plan must take the plan into consideration.

At what point will Kingston do more than aspire for 20% affordable housing in all new development projects, reuse or otherwise? With each passing year that we lack good planning, we lose precious time in balancing the new opportunities coming to Kingston and the pressing needs of our existing community.

VIDEO/GOOGLE DOC: Public Comment Workshop for the Five Year CDBG Consolidated Strategy Plan

“Why does the city suggest that SEQR is viewed as a barrier when it’s a passive voice? By whom is it viewed as a barrier? The language should be more specific if that is the case….The environmental reviews are a part of doing business. A municipality should be careful about characterizing it negatively in a report as it is something that protects the environment, economic and social factors in our community.”   a comment from the public during the recent workshop re: the five year CDBG Consolidated Strategic Plan

By Rebecca Martin

Last week, KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with the Kingston Tenants Union and the Kingston Land Trust hosted a public comment workshop event for the Five-Year CDGB Consolidated Plan, Fair Housing Plan, and Annual Action Plan Federal Fiscal (2019).  With about 20 citizens in attendance, the group outlined 57 new comments that we’ll be submitting (along with more we hope) when the public comment closes on May 15th.

The City of Kingston extended the public comment deadline for 10 days (to May 15th) on the afternoon of our workshop. This will allow the public more time to look over and to comment on the plan.  It’s so important for the public to do so, as it is only created just once every five years.

You can join us by reviewing the materials below that include: the three hour workshop where many questions were addressed and the following materials:

Kingston 2019-2023 Consolidated Plan_DRAFT

AI – Executive Summary

Draft AI

We have created a public document and invite citizens to add your comments in your native language.  Please locate an empty line and provide us with your name, city and comment.

GOOGLE DOC:  Public Comments for CDBG Consolidated Strategy Plan (due date: 5/15/19)

You can also submit comments to:  Brenna Robinson, Director of Economic and Community Development at brobinson@kingston-ny.gov by Wednesday, May 15th.

A very special thank you to The Idea Garden for hosting our event, Tanya Garment, Sebastian Pilliteri, Rashida Tyler, Julia Farr, Ted Griese, Brenna Robinson, Jeffrey Morell, Rita Washington, Tony Davis, Jennifer Schwartz Berky and Guy Kempe for their support and assistance.

Video by The Kingston News brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.