Thanks to the hard work (and good timing) of our coalition in partnership with municipal and county elected officials, the ripple effect of our collective efforts on the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a fracked gas fossil fuel power plant turned battery energy storage facility can now be seen in the Town of Catskill.
Interested members of the Catskill community have been invited to attend an informational session about “Battery energy storage and GlidePath’s proposed North Catskill Grid Support Center project” this Wednesday, September 18. If you are able to attend, please share your experience with us in the comment section here.
The Town Supervisor outreached to members of KingstonCitizens, Citizens for Local Power and Scenic Hudson weeks ago to learn of our process where we were able to share our collective story in transitioning a fossil fuel infrastructure project to a battery storage for 25mw plants in the G Zone. The site that the project has identified appears to be a suitable one, too.
This is an instance that illustrates the great wisdom in how defining strategies to ‘think globally act locally’ can work. It was a model project that posed not only a major threat to the Town of Ulster and its surrounding communities, but to approximately 127 communities throughout 6 counties that make up the G Zone.
We hope that you can celebrate this success before having to quickly turn your attention towards other important challenges on the fossil fuel infrastructure front.
VIEW our blog posts to review the timeline to learn the story of the coalition’s advocacy. Please scroll to the bottom to start at the beginning.
Last week the Kingstonian project team made a formal presentation to the City of Kingston Planning Board, the lead agency in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process for the proposal. They have made similar presentations over the past couple of weeks to both the Heritage Area and Historic Landmarks Preservation Commissions’.
In closing, the applicant’s attorney volunteered to fill out the EAF Part Two of the SEQR process for the Planning Department and Assistant Corporation Counsel’s review. He will proceed once the outstanding comments from the remaining boards and agencies were collected and the joint meeting described above occurs.
We will be interested in reviewing this document, particularly Sections 17 (c) and 18 (c).
The next full Kingston Planning Board meeting will occur on Monday, September 16th at 6:00pm. Currently, there is nothing on the Agenda for the Kingstonian project. Visit the City of Kingston’s website and scroll down to ‘meeting events’ to review agendas to check throughout the day on the 16th to see whether or not any new Kingstonian items have been added to the planning board agenda (or visit us on Facebook for updates). We don’t anticipate any major decisions to be made this month.
Video #1(Filmed by the Kingston News and brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org)
Public Comment 3:25 – 6:10: Gai Galitzine, Resident of Kingston 6:22 – 9:00: Ilona Ross, Resident of Kingston 9:24 – 11:06: Jane Eisenberg, Resident of Town of Ulster
11:17 – End: Kingstonian project team presentation
Video #2(Filmed by the Kingston News and brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org)
00:00 – End: Kingstonian project team presentation (continued)
For months, many concerned citizens have asked the City of Kingston to provide its interpretation of the Mixed Use Overlay District—an overlay that adds a 20% affordable housing requirement to any adaptive reuse project with five or more residential units—as it relates to the Kingstonian project, a new construction that does not include affordable housing. This interpretation should have been provided to the applicant in writing prior to the start of the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process.
Presumably, it should be easy enough for the City to upload this existing document to the Planning Office’s project page for the Kingstonian. If not, then the public can FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) it. If such a document does not exist, then the City ought to provide an explanation about how it assists applicants with complicated zoning interpretations.
On August 16th, in a letter oddly addressed to just three private citizens, the City of Kingston Corporation Counsel’s office outlined its process for the current Zoning Officer to issue a formal interpretation of the “relevant sections of the Code.” The letter states that any additional submissions or written arguments regarding the proper interpretation may be sent to the Zoning Enforcement Officer on or before the close of business on August 30th.
On August 28th, the attorney representing the Kingstonian applicant, Michael Moriello, submitted his written interpretation of the MUOD, concluding that “…there has been no waiver or violation of any zoning law 20% affordable housing requirement with respect to issuance of a Special Use Permit, as affordable housing guidelines do not apply to new construction within the Mixed Use Overlay District under the City of Kingston Zoning Law.”
On August 30th, the City forwarded that interpretation via email to the same three citizens with the instruction that “…written responses to the arguments submitted will be accepted for a period of one additional week.” That deadline is today, September 9th.
So today, KingstonCitizens.org, assisted by attorney and counselor at law Emily B. Svenson, submitted a letter to the City of Kingston’s Zoning Officer rebutting the applicant’s attorney’s interpretation.
What follows is a condensed version of our letter:
“KingstonCitizens.org is a non-partisan, grassroots, volunteer organization. Its purpose in commenting is to advocate for fair and proper application of the City’s zoning code, in accordance with the group’s ongoing advocacy for equitable housing, historic preservation, and environmental protection to benefit the Kingston community. Particularly for a project that is receiving significant public funding, it is vital to ensure that the project truly benefits the community.”
“In response to the applicant’s recent submittal, we respectfully ask that you expand your interpretation to determine whether the code authorizes new construction of residential uses at the proposed Kingstonian location. As this letter will show, it does not.”
“The applicant’s strenuous argument that the provisions of the MUOD do not apply to the Kingstonian raises an important question: Does the MUOD support the project at all?”
“The only authorization within the MUOD to establish a residential use is by converting an existing structure into apartments or live/work spaces. As the applicant agrees, that type of adaptive reuse would be subject to affordable housing requirements.”
“If the City of Kingston Common Council had intended for the MUOD to allow construction of new housing complexes, it would have written that into the overlay district. It did not. The Council was clearly attempting to facilitate the adaptive reuse of outdated buildings, while ensuring the resulting apartments would include affordable units. It defies logic to posit that the Council intended to simultaneously allow new construction of apartments without affordable units. Indeed, nothing in the code authorizes that use.”
“Because there is no authorization within the zoning code for new construction of housing at this location, we ask that you issue a determination that the project does not conform to the zoning code. The applicant would have multiple options to proceed, including pursuing a use variance or zoning change, or modifying the project to conform to the code.”
Citizen Action of New York submits FOIL to City of Kingston
Meanwhile, on September 6th, Citizen Action of New York submitted a FOIL request to the City of Kingston for all communications between the applicable City staff identified in the Kingstonian applicant’s Environmental Assessment Form and Addendum letter:
“…copies of all records and documented communications, including written correspondence and emails between former City of Kingston Building and Safety Division Deputy Chief Tom Tiano, City of Kingston Fire Department Fire Chief Mark Brown, Kingston Planning Director Suzanne Cahill, City of Kingston assistant planner Kyla Haber and the Kingstonian applicant and development team from January 1, 2018 – May 1, 2019.”
Citizen Action also requested a 45-day extension of the review process for the Kingstonian applicant’s zoning amendment application in order to give the organization time to review the forthcoming information provided by the City. These communications may shed light on any discussions that the City had with the applicant regarding the interpretation of the zoning for the Kingstonian project site prior to the commencement of the project’s SEQR process.
On Wednesday September 11th, the Planning Board will convene for a special meeting to discuss the studies and comments it has received in relation to the Kingstonian project’s potential environmental impact. While it is unlikely that the Board will issue its SEQR determination at this meeting, the discussion should shed some light on the viewpoints of the individual members.