PUBLIC ACTION: The public may submit written comments regarding the proposed zoning amendment for the Kingstonian Project to members of the Kingston Laws and Rules Committee through end of business on Friday, August 16th. READ: “Kingstonian Zoning Amendment and the Kingston Common Council”
Please send your comments to:
Andrea Shaut, Ward 9 Alderwoman: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chair, Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee
Include members (especially if they represent you as a constituent):
Jeffrey Ventura-Morell, Ward 1 Alderman: email@example.com
Reynolds Scott Childress, Ward 3 Alderman: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Carey, Ward 5 Alderman: email@example.com
Patrick O’Reilly, Ward 7 Alderman: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Rebecca Martin
At last night’s Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee hearing, citizens provided their testimonies regarding the Kingstonian Development Group’s petition request to amend the Mixed Use Overlay District (MUOD) boundaries to include approximately 12% of its project site that is currently located outside of the district. The request came in June, and council members, at the direction of Kingston’s Assistant Corporation Counsel, outlined a required 90-day time frame to include amending the zoning law. It included the public hearing that occurred last night.
As it turns out, initiating the 90-day time frame while the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for this project is still underway would have been illegal in SEQR. The Assistant Corporation Counsel has all but admitted this truth and has since stated that the 90-day requirement was firm unless the applicant wanted or approved additional time. This is information that had not been provided at the July 19th Laws and Rules Committee meeting.
WHAT HAPPENED? In the applicant’s Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), the Kingston Common Council (as an Involved Agency) is listed as having two actions with the possibility of a third. They include (for certain) the “Sale or lease of land” and “Closing of Fair Street Extension”. A few lines later, it shows the council as having a role in an “area variance” as ‘possible, not definite’. Why would a 90-day timeline been illegal in SEQR? Was it because a zoning amendment needed to have been listed as one of the council approvals in the application from the start and/or would a zoning change be an ‘approval’ needing to wait until the environmental review process was complete?
Members of the public articulated important observations in their testimony at last night’s hearing. Multiple people noted that as a law-making body the Common Council should not extend the zoning district without first understanding its intent and applicability to the Kingstonian project. They also urged the Council to obtain the city administration’s interpretation of the MUOD in writing. (One would think that such information would have been provided before the start of SEQR.) It’s lost on many members of the community as to how an overlay district that mandates the adaptive reuse of existing buildings and that 20% of the new residential units must be maintained as affordable housing — as the MUOD does — applies to the Kingstonian project, which proposes to be all new construction without any affordable housing. (This affordable housing requirement is also outlined in Kingston’s recently adopted 2025 Comprehensive Plan).
Did anyone notice that the Town of Ulster’s zoning chair Geoffrey Ring gave personal testimony last evening in favor of Kingston’s Common Council passing the zoning amendment? Citizens may not realize that Kingston’s zoning officer is Eric Kitchen, who also serves as an elected official on the Town of Ulster Town Board. Kitchen, formerly a real estate agent, was hired by the City relatively recently.
Don Tallerman who is running for the Kingston Common Council’s Ward 5 seat as a Democrat also gave testimony last evening. He stated that “…affordable housing is absolutely critical and should be part of every future development but in this case, because of the building and maintaining of the (parking) garage, the developer could not possibility be able to deliver a parking garage without having a PILOT so I don’t think that affordable housing needs to be required for this project, though I do think affordable housing should be a part of every conversation going forward all over the city… .”
Here are some of the highlights (click on names to view):
Video brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org with a very special thanks to the Kingston News for creating a compilation of testimonies by Kingston city residents.