VIDEO: “Kingstonian” Application Appears Before Kingston Planning Board.

By Rebecca Martin

At the recent City of Kingston’s Planning Board meeting, the proposed Kingstonian project gave its formal presentation and presented its application for the first time, starting what will be a very long process.

All of the documents and the presentation will be made available at the planning office.  Citizens are encouraged to schedule a time to review the materials by calling: (845) 334-3955. We’re asking that they be placed online, too, under the Planning Departments “Planning Project” page.  

Following the presentation, the board voted unanimously on the following;

  • The Kingstonian Project is a Type 1 Action in SEQR and a coordinated review must be taken. A full Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) will be required to determine any environmental impacts.
  • The City of Kingston Planning Board requests that it be Lead Agency of the project.  Their request will be circulated to all Involved agencies who will have 30 days to respond to either approve or deny their request.   (List of Involved agencies forthcoming).
  • In 30 days, the the Planning Board will ‘entertain’ the project at a regular board meeting and schedule a public hearing (more on this in the coming weeks). 

Please review video from last night’s planning board meeting. Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org and filmed by The Kingston News.

 

Leo Schupp
Special Permit 106 W. Chestnut Street
4:20 – 6:15

Bernie Redman
Special Permit 106 W. Chestnut Street
6:26 – 6:52

Alex Panagiotopoulos
Kingstonian Application
6:54 – 8:14

Abigail Frank
Special Permit 106 W. Chestnut Street
8:20 – 10:25

David Gordan
Special Permit 106 W. Chestnut Street
10:36 – 16:30

Rashida Tyler
Kingstonian Application
16:52 – 18:15

Callie Jayne
Kingstonian Application
18:22 – 19:30

Linda Seekamp
Special Permit 106 W. Chestnut Street
19:36 – 20:44

Barbara Stedge
Special Permit 106 W. Chestnut Street
19:45 – 21:05

Owen Harvey
ICC Application
21:06 – 22:10

Juanita Velazquez-Amador
Kingstonian Application
22:20 – 24:26

Betsy Krat
Kingstonian Application
24:30 – 25:01

Tanya Garment
Comp Plan Zoning Task Force and Kingstonian application
25:08 – 28:55

Public Hearing (Tabled)

Item #3: #270 Fair Street SPECIAL PERMIT RENEWAL for a 12 room hotel with 978 business rental space. SBL# 48.331-4-20. SEQR Determination. Zone O-2, Stockade Overlay, HAC, MUOD. Ward 2. Hudson Valley Kingston Development/applicant; Charles Blaichman/owner.

Old Business – Kingstonian Project 

Item #4: #9-17 & 21 North Front Street and 51 Schwenk Drive and a portion of Fair Street Extension LOT LINE DELETION of the Lands of Herzog’s Supply Company and the City of Kingston. SBL 48.80-1-25, 26 & 24.120. SEQR Determination. Zone C-2, Mixed Use Overlay District, Stockade Historic District. Kingstonian Development, LLC/ applicant; Herzog’s Supply Co. Inc. & City of Kingston/owner.

Item #5: #9-17 & 21 North Front Street and 51 Schwenk Drive and a portion of Fair Street Extension SITE PLAN/SPECIAL PERMIT to construct a Mixed Use building with a 420 car garage, 129 apartments, 32 hotel rooms, and 8000sf of retail space. SBL 48.80-1-25, 26 & 24.120. SEQR Determination. Zone C-2, Mixed Use Overlay District, Stockade Historic District. Kingstonian Development, LLC/ applicant; Herzog’s Supply Co. Inc. & City of Kingston/owner.

Item #6: #106 West Chestnut Street SPECIAL PERMIT to operate a Boarding House. SBL 56.34-11-22. SEQR Determination. Zone R-1. Ward 9. Chestnut Hill NY Inc.; applicant/owner.

 

Town of Lloyd Moratorium on Fossil Fuel Power Plants Passes Unanimously.

The Town of Lloyd passed a proposed moratorium on fossil fuel power plants (Local Law A) unanimously last evening, allowing the community the time to take the next critical step to address its zoning law.

“This local law…enact (s) a moratorium to temporarily suspend the review and approval of applications for fossil fuel power plants. We believe that given the projected increase in relatively small fast-ramping “peaker” gas power plants, which are not subject to Article 10 State review, the Town is wise to be proactive in amending its zoning to regulate these facilities. Without such regulation air quality, treasured views, adjacent properties and residents’ quality of life could be at risk. Importantly, it’s critical to ensure that protective zoning is in place before an application is submitted for a peaker plant.” said Scenic Hudson’s Director of Land Use Advocacy Jeffrey Anzevino (and Town of Lloyd resident) in a statement he read last night. “For a variety of reasons, peaker plants are coming to the Hudson Valley and Lloyd is not alone. We believe that the Town Board’s action on this issue will serve as a model that will encourage other communities to adopt protective zoning before applications are submitted.”

The recommendation of a moratorium for zoning consideration on 25mw (or smaller) fossil fuel plants was made by Scenic Hudson, Citizens for Local Power and KingstonCitizens.org last summer, where local communities – and not the state – have authority.  The concept is appropriate for all communities in the six counties residing in the “G” Zone (see materials below for more information), and was inspired by Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a 20mw gas-fired peak energy power plant being proposed in the Town of Ulster.

The Town of Lloyd’s ECC and Town Board were the first to pursue the recommendation.

“Lloyd is vulnerable.” says the letter to the Town Board of Lloyd from their ECC. “According to the Southern Ulster times article, zoning codes in the county, including Lloyd, do not address utility needs. Lloyd Planning Board Chairperson Peter Brooks indicated in the article that the lack of clear zoning guiding the review process of a proposed peaker plant would leave the town in a vulnerable position. He was quoted as saying that if such a proposal were to come before the Planning board, “we’re kind of bare-naked.”  Because of their small size, peaker plants like the 20-megawatt facility proposed in the Town of Ulster are not subject to New York State guidance regarding the siting, construction, and operation of major electric generating facilities.2 Municipalities have the primary jurisdiction for electric generating facilities under 25 megawatts. But like Lloyd, most communities are unequipped to provide an informed review of these facilities….The ECC strongly recommends that the Town Board enact a temporary moratorium on fossil fuel-powered peaker plants to protect our vulnerable community. During the proposed moratorium, we advise the Town Board to write regulations into the Town Code that allow the Town to decide if and how such plants should be sited, where they should go, and under what conditions.”

New York’s highest court has held that a municipality may exclude an industrial use if doing so is a reasonable exercise of its police powers to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and to promote the interests of the community as a whole.

“The ECC does not believe that fossil- fueled power plants are consistent with Lloyd’s community character. Therefore, we recommend that the Town Code be amended to prohibit them.”

The Town of Lloyd is now a model community for all of us potentially impacted by these types of projects.  We hope to see more communities in the ‘G’ Zone follow suit.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOW YOUR COMMUNITY CAN ADDRESS ZONING ON 25MW OR SMALLER FOSSIL FUEL POWER PLANTS IN THEIR COMMUNITIES:

VIEW  the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center Project Fact Sheet

WATCH our recent Webinar “Living in the “G” Zone: Peak Energy Plants and Zoning”

LEARN  how to update your zoning language to prepare for a possible fossil fuel power plant proposal in your community.

Town of Lloyd Schedules Public Hearing For Moratorium “On approvals for the construction, installation or use of, Fossil Fuel Power Plants within the Town.”

By Rebecca Martin

The Town of Lloyd Town Board (in Ulster County and “G” Zone) has scheduled a public hearing (Wednesday at 7pm) on a moratorium “on approvals for the construction, installation or use of, Fossil Fuel Power Plants within the Town.”

Here is the proposed local law enacting the moratorium VIEW

The moratorium in the Town of Lloyd, if adopted, would be the first community in the ‘G’ Zone to take such an action – and is a direct result of our webinar and hard efforts and teamwork of our wonderful coalition of partners. Thank you Town of Lloyd!  Let their example provide a model for all other potentially impacted communities to follow suit.

VIEW
The proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center Project Fact Sheet

WATCH
Our recent Webinar “Living in the “G” Zone: Peak Energy Plants and Zoning”

LEARN
How to update your zoning language to prepare for a possible fossil fuel power plant proposal in your community.


MORE
on this:

The proposed Glidepath Lincoln Park gas-fired power plant has revealed that the Mid-Hudson region is a target for new peaker plants. A complex of state regulations makes our region particularly attractive for power plant developers. Although we don’t need additional peak capacity here, the New Capacity Zone created by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2014 means that plants built in our region can be paid for providing backup capacity as if they were located downstate where the capacity is needed. At the same time, the hurdles to getting the necessary state air permits are lower here than they would be in downstate areas that are in “nonattainment” of federal air standards. Combine that with much lower land prices here than downstate, and our region has a bullseye on it. The Lincoln Park plant, if built, could be just the first of many across the region to take advantage of this perverse combination of regulations. We know that Glidepath has already contacted other communities, so it is urgent that communities prepare from a proposal like this.

Power plants smaller than 25 MW in size are regulated by local land use law, rather than at the state level, but most communities do not have specific zoning in place for power plants. They often have language permitting “utility” structures, which Glidepath and other power plant companies may try to use to suggest that their plants are permitted uses, although this usage is usually intended to apply to distribution lines and other essential public infrastructure, not privately-owned power plants.

Don’t let your community get caught unprepared for a peaker plant proposal! Communities can get out in front by examining and updating their zoning to be sure it specifies where and how power plants may be located. Communities may also choose to place a moratorium on fossil-fuel burning power plants while they develop zoning that specifically addresses power plants.”

We recommend the following steps:

1. Review your existing code:  Does it address power plants at all? Is it vague? Could a power plant potentially fit in to a “catch-all” permitted use?

2. Consider issuing a temporary moratorium while you develop zoning specific to power plants.  Moratoria should always: have a valid public purpose, have a reasonable time frame, specify the time when the moratorium will expire, and strictly adhere to the procedure for adoption laid down by the enabling acts.

3. Decide if fossil fuel power plants should be allowed at all in your town. You may decide to exclude power plants entirely from your municipality. They have very different impacts than other kinds of facilities. Localities can ban industrial uses as long as prohibiting a use is a reasonable exercise of its police powers to prevent damage to the rights of others and to promote the interests of the community as a whole.

4. Develop new zoning code provisions with specific definitions and clear conditions for fossil fuel power plants, if you decide to permit them.

 

Recommendations for zoning include:

➢  A robust “purpose and intent” section with description of potential impacts of power plants on health, safety and welfare of residents of town.

➢  A clear definition of “fossil fuel electric generating facility”: A facility whose primary purpose is for the generation of electric power (in excess of [one megawatt]) powered by fossil fuel for offsite use.➢  A clear statement of applicability to siting and construction of fossil fuel electric generating facilities within the municipality

➢  Acknowledge primacy of state law for power plants 25MW or greater


IF your municipality decides to allow fossil fuel electric generating facilities:

➢  Limit to only heavy industrial zones

➢  Require a special use permit and site plan approval, with appropriate conditions.

➢  Set criteria to address and mitigate potential impacts (i.e., screening requirements, stack height limits).

➢  Establish lot size and coverage limits, appropriate setbacks and building height limitations.

➢  Require all applicable additional permits and approvals.

➢  Require an enforceable plan and financial surety for decommissioning.

 

Sample Code Language for Issuance of Special Use Permit

The Town may not grant a special use permit for the construction or operation of a fossil fuel power generating facility, unless it shall first find and determine:

  • The nature of the probable environmental impact, including a specification of the predictable adverse effect on the environment, public health and safety, aesthetics, scenic, historic and recreational value, forest and parks, air and water quality, fish and other marine wildlife.
  • That the facility:
    • Represents the minimum adverse environmental impact;
    • Is compatible with the public health and safety;
    • Will not discharge any effluent that will be in contravention of the standards adopted by the Department of Environmental Conservation;
    • That the proposed facility is in compliance with criteria and requirements of this [section/chapter];
    • That a harmonious relationship exists between the use of such facility and uses located in adjacent districts as reflected in the comprehensive plan; and
    • That the proposed facility conforms to and is in compliance with, all zoning laws,ordinances, rules and regulations of the Town.

Introducing OurCitizens.org

(Logo Design: Susanna Ronner)

For well over a decade, the activist, organizer and singer-songwriter Rebecca Martin has been an essential, galvanizing force of positive civic change. In her adopted hometown of Kingston, N.Y., and throughout neighboring cities and towns, she’s helmed inspired new programming with a mission of conservation and outreach.  But most important, Martin has sought to empower local citizens to participate in their governments and communities. OurCitizens.org, a new 501c3 nonprofit serving Ulster County that will launch in May of 2019 –  in time for Martin’s 50th Birthday – is Martin’s most significant step yet in her pursuit to help folks connect to each other and to their representatives. With a talented, diverse staff of professionals and volunteers as well as an innovative web tool and app, OurCitizens.org will provide invaluable resources for a vast range of civic engagement, from public-works projects to protecting vital natural resources—especially the Hudson River.

Martin’s path to advocacy has been an unlikely one. She moved to Kingston with her husband, Larry Grenadier, in 2002, choosing it primarily on its strengths as a commuter hub. After years in New York City they were in search of space and quietude, and Kingston delivered both; it was also close enough to the city and the major airports that they could sustain their thriving music careers. Among the finest bass players of his generation, Grenadier has been a trusted collaborator to some of the most important figures in jazz history; to give but one example, he’s anchored pianist Brad Mehldau’s generation-defining trio for a quarter-century.

Photo credit: The Wall Street Journal

Martin not only witnessed Grenadier’s historic peer group come of age in jazz; she was in many ways immersed in it herself. In 1995, after having been employed as a producer for MTV Networks and deciding to focus on her performing career, she made her major-label debut in the duo Once Blue, alongside the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jesse Harris. With its cultivated union of folk and pop, and its sharp use of jazz-rooted harmony and personnel, Once Blue outlined a hybrid creative space that Martin would explore in the ensuing decades. Through her artistically liberating work with the great jazz drummer Paul Motian, a wide range of solo albums, and collaborations like the jazz-folk vocal group Tillery, she’s consistently garnered fans and impressed critics, even as they’ve struggled to define her music. “If comparisons must be made,” wrote the magazine JazzTimes, “let’s give Martin proper due and credit her as the logical successor to Joni Mitchell.”

A couple of years after settling into Kingston, Martin and Grenadier became pregnant with their son, Charlie, and suddenly found themselves looking at their city with a new kind of scrutiny. In 2006, Martin noted a flagrant red flag in the form of weapon-caliber knives being sold in a Citgo station, located just down the street from her home and bookended by a middle school and a high school. Martin confronted the station owner about his wares, and he argued that they were souvenirs that could only be purchased by legal adults.

Martin felt she couldn’t ignore what was an obvious threat to her neighborhood, but what to do? She had done plenty of organizing over the years, but it was usually with the mission of strengthening the music community and providing performance opportunities for rising artists. A new friend (Jennifer Schwartz Berky, who would become one of Martin’s key collaborators) who worked as a county planner introduced Martin to the concept of an alderman, an important governmental role that includes both representing local constituents and making decisions about larger city policy. But when she reached out to her representative—repeatedly—she received no response.

“I don’t know what possessed me, but I decided that I was going to raise awareness about this issue. I was certain that at least half of the knives in the case were illegal weapons,” Martin recalls. She papered the streets and brought the knives to the attention of her neighbors, many of whom were as dismayed as she was. The local media, not used to this style of citizens’ engagement at that time, seized on the story. Martin decided to host a public forum on the issue, and nearly 100 citizens turned up, including Kingston’s mayor and chief of police. The discussion turned into a rallying cry—the knives needed to go—and following a police raid, they were in fact discovered to be illegal and confiscated. The shop owner, not realizing he purchased illegal goods from a Texas-based company, was able to get his money back, and Martin had experienced the revelation of working for the public good. “It was thrilling,” she remembers. “It was an important experience, for someone becoming newly civically involved, to find that with just a little bit of elbow grease and work, an average citizen can make profound changes in their community.”

Martin, by then a young mother, began hosting monthly citizens’ meetings to address the various concerns within her ward and hometown. Over the next two years, the meetings featured insightful dialogue on a wide range of issues, from zoning to garbage collection to sex offenders and comprehensive planning. Subject experts would be invited to provide information, and high-ranking city officials would hear out their constituents. “We made some big things happen,” Martin says, “and it was a little group—just one ward.” The Ward 9 Community Group evolved into KingstonCitizens.org: an in-person and online platform where concerns were addressed in a public setting that held representatives accountable to the people. The website and, later, its companion blog, became an educational resource for Kingston folks to learn about how their government works, and about how they could use it to improve their wards and city.

The progress that has transpired over the past decade has been nothing short of profound. KingstonCitizens.org was able to secure respect and comfort for Chiz’s Heart Street, a group home for the mentally ill that was unjustly seen as a blight by its neighbors. A buying club became a thriving food co-op. A proposed gun store and shooting range was prevented from setting up shop in the heart of midtown, across the street from a high school.

For two years Martin homed in on fresh opportunities as the Executive Director of the Kingston Land Trust, a new not-for-profit initiated by citizens who were part of the city’s Ward 9 Community Group. (One of those citizens is Kingston’s current mayor, Steve Noble.) Martin’s leadership resulted in inspired new programming for the organization. Urban farms and youth-farming programs were established. A Rail Trail Committee created unprecedented hiking and biking opportunities. An African-American slave and freed-slave cemetery in Kingston was protected. With its dedication to community programming that promotes conservation, the urban Land Trust became an innovative model touted by the Land Trust Alliance.

Around the time that Martin became deeply involved with the Kingston Land Trust, she stepped away from KingstonCitizens.org; to helm both organizations at once, she says, would’ve been a conflict of interest and her limited time. Martin left KingstonCitizens.orgs’ website and social-media pages up—there was no sense in doing away with four years’ worth of invaluable resources in civics and legislation—but her focus had shifted. Soon enough, however, KingstonCitizens.org would become engaged in the fight of its life.

In August of 2014, Martin spotted a small news item that detailed how a bottled-water supplier was exploring a possible move into Kingston’s sister town of Ulster. It was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it notice, but it gave Martin cause for alarm. After all, she’d come up in Maine, where Nestlé hid behind the homegrown Poland Spring brand, exploiting the lack of water laws in economically depressed towns while giving little back to the community; today, the corporation has a disturbing amount of influence on the state government. There was also a bedrock of common sense underlying Martin’s trepidation. As she told the New Yorker in an article about the cause: “What’s more important than drinking water? Nothing.”

Stealthily, that previously undisclosed bottled-water company, Niagara Bottling, began to dig in. A month later Martin noticed another bit of news, of a much less hypothetical nature. Niagara had already gained approval from the planning board in Ulster. Even more troubling, the company had obtained a will-serve letter from Kingston, in which the city preliminarily agreed to provide the water requirements that would make the Ulster facility possible.

It wasn’t difficult to see what attracted Niagara to the area. Ulster already had plenty of water-related infrastructure in place, most of it built to satisfy the demands of what is today known as TechCity, a business park that fostered more than 7,000 IBM employees during its ’80s heyday. The city had struck a deal to use up to a million gallons of water per day from Kingston’s reservoir, though it rarely if ever did; in general, the agreement resulted in light use. The Niagara plans looked very, very different—1.75 million gallons per day, a figure the corporation would certainly strive to meet—and would have had an environmentally devastating impact on three communities: Kingston, Ulster and Woodstock, where Kingston’s reservoir is located. Quickly, Martin reactivated KingstonCitizens.org, began raising awareness and formed a coalition of partners that included environmental organizations, citizens and allies within the local government.

She found she had not only the people on her side, but the law as well. New York, it turned out, harbors a rare but useful piece of legislation called the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQR. Essentially, this stipulation requires state and local governments to consider potential environmental impacts before cutting deals with outfits like Niagara; further, it puts the breaks on the swift, calculated takeover that such corporations have perfected—especially in communities that are willing to forgo the scant local water legislation they may or may not be aware of. Furthermore, any public funds that a corporation wants to obtain cannot be released until a SEQR review process is complete. In the Niagara fight, one of Martin and her cohorts’ most potent weapons was their ability to eliminate the company’s grant-funding and tax-incentive prospects.

More than 400 people turned out for an early meeting to discuss the water-bottling proposal, and that number of concerned citizens continued to grow. “[The Niagara battle] really blew the doors off the work. It changed it,” Martin says. “What I was doing became part of a regional issue or regional effort, and our organization was ground zero for information on the proposal.”

Within five short months, in February of 2015, the 300-million-dollar company decided that the citizen-led opposition was too mighty and withdrew its efforts. “It was unbelievable,” Martin says. “It was such a thrill.” But the work wasn’t done. In collaboration with her mentor, environmental lawyer Kate Hudson, Martin started on the path to legislation that would protect Kingston’s water supply from future profiteering. Within two months a new wave of activism was rolling, and after many local law passages and the unanimous approval of the city council, a referendum appeared on the ballot the following fall. Through a simple four-word change to “water powers” in the City of Kingston’s charter, any water sales occurring outside Kingston’s corporate boundaries would require the go-ahead from the Kingston Common Council. It passed, by a landslide. “It was a mayoral year,” Martin recalls, “and we had more people show up for that vote in the fall than voted in the race for mayor.” Finally, with the inclusion of the Common Council, water sales had oversight.

Through the process of battling Niagara, KingstonCitizens.org also found its place among an expanding network of dedicated nonprofits. Martin and her colleagues didn’t let Niagara off the hook, either. When the company cropped up in Bloomfield, Connecticut, Martin and her cohorts went into action, warning the local government and citizens and educating them on how to navigate the civic process. Connecticut’s existing water laws allowed Niagara to gain a foothold, but KingstonCitizens.org’s coaching led to incredible self-empowerment in Bloomfield; folks there formed their own citizens’ group, the sister organization BloomfieldCitizens.org, whose members ended up all running for office and succeeding by filling every seat (including Mayor).

A similar sea change occurred more recently in the Town of Ulster. There, a new platform, TownofUlsterCitizens.org, was modeled after KingstonCitizens.org. Its goal is to prevent the addition of a 20-megawatt fracked gas peaker power plant only 600 feet from a residential neighborhood. The group, already in its first year, is taking on a host of other important community issues, including the town budget, and is encouraging newly active residents to run for office.

These days Martin is also engrossed in her duties in the Water Quality Program at Riverkeeper, the clean-water advocacy group dedicated to protecting the Hudson River. (Among the recent Riverkeeper projects of which Martin is most proud is an inter-municipal council agreement of the seven communities who drink from the river, known as the Hudson 7.)

Now, with the launch of the nonprofit OurCitizens.org, Martin wants to help the people of Ulster County improve, protect and enjoy their communities like never before—with more efficiency, transparency and experience. Seasoned staff members with backgrounds in areas like environmental and municipal law and planning will be on hand to provide invaluable input for new programming initiatives; they’ll also be there to give generous guidance and support when the next water-bottling corporation or power plant decides to swoop in. In addition to these on-the-ground resources, a web tool and app are currently being developed by Martin and graduate students from the School of Visual Arts Design for Social Innovation in New York City. Through technology, citizens will be able to quickly and directly identify and contact their representatives and organize their fellow constituents.  

The hard-earned lessons Martin employed as an artist continue to bolster her work in activism. “The way I organize and the way I make music are very similar,” she explains. “To make art or to imagine civic strategies requires time and space, though being on the bandstand and in the field also requires collaboration and teamwork that is nimble, quick and flexible. You get to know the projects cold and then you have to make decisions in the moment, taking so much into consideration to shape them and to make it all work.

– Evan Haga, January 2019

 

JOIN OUR TEAM AND PROVIDE INVALUABLE INSIGHT AS WE WORK TO IMPROVE LOCAL CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN ULSTER COUNTY!

KingstonCitizens.org and OurCitizens.org is proud to team up with social designers from the School of Visual Arts to build a digital tool that will help to improve local civic engagement in Ulster County. We are looking for citizens of any age, ethnicity, education level and background to give us feedback with 3-4 sessions. Participants will be invited to join us in New York City on May 7th for the School of Visual Arts Showcase to unveil the new digital tool – and the launch of OurCitizens.org!

To become a volunteer, sign-up at:   www.ulstercountyvolunteers.com

 

 

Mayor Steve Noble’s State of the City Address 2019

(This video brought to you by The Kingston News)

Good evening everyone and thank you for coming tonight. I want to thank President Noble and my colleagues of the Common Council for giving me the opportunity to share the State of the City. I also want to recognize our elected officials with us tonight. 

In addition, I want to acknowledge the members of our local media reporting here tonight. You have always had a tough job, but now, more than ever, we need journalists. 

About Growth 

Our city is growing. And growth can sound scary sometimes. It might seem easier to remain still, to keep things the way they’ve always been. It may feel more comfortable to ignore new ideas and to be surrounded by people who look and think alike. But that’s how cities crumble. We have far too much at stake to be lulled into complacency. Not when we’ve come this far. I believe wholeheartedly that we can continue to move forward while still holding on to all that makes Kingston special. Our city has strong roots- we were made to grow. 

Smart growth is possible, especially in a city as capable and committed as Kingston. We have a diverse, creative and engaged community, eager to build a successful city where everyone can prosper. We’re building new sidewalks, fixing underground utilities, improving our public transportation, creating socially responsible and progressive policies, preserving our historic assets, protecting our natural resources, and making the city’s largest investment into quality housing in decades. 

There is no doubt- the state of our city is strong. 

Read more…

Public Comment Procedure and the Kingston City School Board of Education Meetings

 

WHAT
Kingston City Board of Education
Regular Board Meeting

WHERE
Cioni Administration Building
61 Crown Street
First Floor Conference Room
Uptown, Kingston

WHEN
Wednesday, January 9th
6:45pm: Sign-up to speak (outside door during Executive Session)
7:00pm:  Public Comment

HOW
There are always two public comment periods during the BOE’s regular meetings: one at around 7:00pm (after the executive session) and one at the end of the meeting.  Parents and/or citizens who wish to speak can sign-up outside the BOE meeting room while the board is in executive session.  We recommend arriving at around 6:45pm to do so.

WHY?
It’s important to make it a habit to keep track of the Board of Education agendas and minutes and to address the board whenever there are questions, comments or concerns.
This month’s meeting will be important as parents and concerned citizens will be questioning procedure as it pertains the recent BB gun incident at C. Clifford Miller Middle School (and apparent other incidents throughout the school year).

 

By Rebecca Martin

In a recent article in the Kingston Times, it was reported that, “Concerned parents and community members are seeking answers from the Kingston City School District following a mid-December incident at M. Clifford Miller Middle School where a student shot a BB gun in a boys’ bathroom. School officials said the student involved in the incident has been suspended in accordance with district rules, but some are accusing the district of not taking it seriously enough.”  

On Wednesday, January 9th the City of Kingston Board of Education (BOE) has their regular board meeting at the Cioni Administration Building conference room located on the first floor of 61 Crown Street in Kingston.   Their AGENDA is available for review to give the public a sense of the flow of the evening. We expect tomorrow’s meeting to host concerned parents and citizens regarding the recent BB gun incident at C. Clifford Miller Middle School (and apparent other similar incidents that might have occurred throughout the school year).

There are two public comment periods, one at approximately 7:00pm (after the executive session which can sometimes go later depending on whether or not there is a lot to discuss) and one at the end of the meeting.  Parents who wish to speak can sign-up outside the BOE meeting room while the board is in executive session. If you are not able to arrive in time to sign-up, the board typically asks if there is anyone else who would like to speak after all the people on the list have spoken.  There is no sign-up for the second public comment period. A call for public comment will be made at that time, and attendees – whether having spoken already or not – will be invited to make any additional (or new) comments/questions.

Each speaker is limited to 2 minutes, though according to BOE trustee Robin Jacobowitz,  “…we generally don’t put a time limit on the public comment session. The 30 minute limit cited in the policy allows us to limit…but when there are issues that bring people out to meetings we want to hear what people have to say and try to be sensitive that not everyone can stick around for the second public comment period.”

Public comment during a BOE regular meeting is an opportunity for the public to speak and share their concerns.  It is not a time for dialog with the Board, as they do not respond during meetings – similar to public comment during Kingston Common Council meetings. Their role during the public comment segment is to listen.

If you wish to have a response to a concern, parents/citizens are asked to present it in writing after their public speaking with their contact information to the BOE clerk at the meeting.  This does not have to be a formal letter, as attendees often submit notes or talking points that they used for public comment with their contact info included.

Read more…

Kingston Common Council Letter to NYSDEC Environmental Justice Director Requesting Enchanced Participation Plan for Power Plant Proposal.

“On Tuesday, December 4, 2018, the City of Kingston’s Common Council unanimously passed a resolution to amplify Mayor Steve Noble’s request for the DEC to send a written notice to the applicant requesting that it immediately commence compliance with the requirements of the Department’s Environmental Justice Policy as specified 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.”

KingstonCitizens.org Looks Back at 2018 and Forward to 2019.

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.

Chipping away with graduate students from the School of Visual Arts to create the OurCitizens.org local engagement web tool.

 

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.

Read more…

The PURPA Challenge: Is GlidePath’s Lincoln Park Power Plant really a “Utility Company Structure?”

 

By Rebecca Martin

Earlier this summer, we learned that GlidePath (aka Lincoln Park GC, LLC)  “stated that their project – the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired peak energy power plant being proposed in the Town of Ulster – could be built “as-of-right” in the Office and Manufacturing District (“OM District”) in the Town because it is a “utility company structure.”

For many months, TownOfUlsterCitizens.org and our coalition of partners requested that the Town of Ulster provide “clarity on whether the Town of Ulster 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 under the Zoning Code.”

These requests went without any detailed explanation.

However, 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.

What might this all mean for the GlidePath proposal?  We have more research to do to understand PURPA’s potential impact.

VIDEO: Kingston Planning Board and the ICC, Boarding House, Hospital Campus. Kingstonian Project Tabled.

By Rebecca Martin

At last evening’s Planning Board meeting, we captured several items for the public to review that include:

  1. The Irish Cultural Center’s third request for a site plan application in the Rondout, Kingston.  (Item #8)
  2. A controversial ‘boarding house’ special use permit on West Chestnut Street, that has been vying for permission to be approved as a ’boutique hotel’.  (Item #7)
  3. A downsized project of Benedictine Hospital on Mary’s Avenue (Westchester Medical) by Health Alliance of the Hudson Valley.

The developers for the Kingstonian tabled their project yesterday afternoon.

Read more…

Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Importance of Procedure

 

 

 

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This post was updated December 21, 2018, to clarify two details. Firstly, the assistant corporation counsel, who provides legal counsel to the city’s commissions and boards, insisted to the Commission that the transcript of the final hearing would be sufficient for explaining the rationale of the Commission’s decision in lieu of a thorough written decision. Secondly, frequent intrusions in the commission’s final deliberations were made by the applicant and their lawyer and not other members of the public.

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“The purpose...is to provide for the promotion of the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of the public through the protection, enhancement, perpetuation and preservation of landmarks and Landmark Districts. The legislative body declares that it is in the public interest to ensure that the distinctive landmarks and Landmark District shall not be injuriously affected, that the value to the community of those buildings having architectural and historical worth shall not be impaired and that said districts be maintained and preserved to promote their use of the education, pleasure and welfare of the citizens of the City of Kingston and others.” 

Legislative Intent of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, City of Kingston Administrative Code §405-63

By Marissa Marvelli

Following established procedures is key to any review by a quasi-judicial commission or board. Any misstep, big or small, can result in a judge rejecting its decision on appeal. This is precisely what has happened with the decision of Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) to deny the Irish Cultural Center (ICC) a “preservation notice of action” for their proposed new building in the Rondout Historic District. In her ruling, the Honorable Lisa Fisher of the State Supreme Court correctly notes how the members of the HLPC failed to render a clear written decision that contains specific references to the zoning code. Without that in hand, she, like Kingston’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), was left to parse the transcript of the hearing, which she accurately describes as “erratic.”

The HLPC failed in its review of the ICC—not on principle but on procedure. The final written decision of the HLPC is inadequate in describing the Commission’s reasons for its denying approval for the ICC.  No member of the Commission was directly involved in the composition of the written decision, a concern that was raised by members in the weeks following the final hearing.  In response, the assistant corporation counsel for the City of Kingston, who provides legal counsel to the city’s boards and commissions, insisted that the transcript would be sufficient for conveying the commission’s rationale. That transcript, which by default became the primary record of the hearing, documents a circuitous deliberation by Commissioners with frequent intrusions by the applicant and their lawyer.  The record further reveals the difficulty that Commissioners had in interpreting the criteria for review as outlined in the code, because the language is too vague and weighted towards the consideration of changes to individual buildings rather than new construction in historic districts. In this light, it is not difficult to see why the ZBA and this judge concluded that the HLPC’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

One of the fundamental duties of the HLPC when reviewing proposed changes in a historic district is to ensure that the character of the historic district is maintained, and “prevent construction, reconstruction, alteration or demolition out of harmony with existing buildings insofar as character, material, color, line and detail are concerned, and thus to prevent degeneration of property, to safeguard public health, promote safety and preserve the beauty of the character of the landmark or Landmark District.”    (City of Kingston Administrative Code §405-64 D)

No single detail defines a historic district’s character. It is the multitude of details taken together that creates a distinctive environment and sense of place. Such character-defining qualities include the relationships of buildings to each other and to the street. Do the buildings form a continuous streetwall or are they spaced apart? Are they situated directly at the street or are they set back from it? What was the historical development trend that led to their existence? Is there a discernible rhythm or pattern of details, be it building sizes, roof massing, cornices, or windows? Many districts have multiple rhythms. Character is also defined by the type of buildings, their construction, and scale—the architecture of a single-family dwelling is different than that of a store-and-loft building in terms of massing, façade proportion, materiality, fenestration, and building features like porches and storefronts.

The qualities described above are aesthetic ones. It is incumbent on members of the HLPC to consider all of them when considering the appropriateness of new construction in a historic district, be it an addition to an existing structure or a wholly new building on a vacant site.

Read more…

VIDEO: Ianucci Development (formerly “Super Garage”) Public Informational Meeting

 

Last night, the developer Robert Ianucci hosted a public informational meeting in the Rondout, where we learned that his initial design was nothing more than “a concept.”  (Architect Paul Jankowitz @ 59:00 on Tape #1)

The public made some great points and suggestions, although a highlight for me, was the idea to create an architectural competition, to lay out guiding principals and then to invite some of the youngest and brightest architects from all over the world to consider what could be built there.  “It doesn’t have to be traditional – and anyway,  what you’re proposing doesn’t reflect the architecture of old Kingston at all.”  (Starts at 00:00 on Tape #2).

The location is nestled into a residential area and nearby Riverview Baptist Church and the AJ Williams-Myers African Roots Library – communities essential to engage going forward.

Some of Kingston’s best organizers were present, including Ann Loeding who is collecting names for upcoming meetings and to solicit comments going forward.  If you wish to be included, please contact her at:  aboatgrrl@yahoo.com

Thanks to The Kingston News for recording the meeting, brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

(Photo credit:  Clark Richters)

VIDEO: City of Kingston and UCRRA Board and Staff Discuss Transition Strategy for Recyclables.

Today, Mayor Steve Noble and DPW Superintendent Ed Norman met with the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) requesting a short-term extension from single-stream recycling to dual stream recycling through June 30, 2019.   It appears some headway was made – and we appreciate everyone’s efforts.

You can review the full discussion below thanks to The Kingston News and brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

VIEW:  “Kingston Residents Can Mix Recyclables Beyond Jan. 1, 2019” in the Daily Freeman

 

City of Kingston to Negotiate Single Stream Recycling Materials Through June, 2019.

By Rebecca Martin

On Wednesday, December 12th at 2:00 pm the UCRRA Board is hosting a special meeting to discuss the City of Kingston’s request to extend the acceptance of SSR (Single Stream Recycling) beyond December 31, 2018.  VIEW

This is an important step forward as if the City of Kingston and UCRRA can come to the table to agree, our single-stream recycling will continue to be managed by UCRRA through June 30th to allow the city of Kingston to complete its recycling transition plan. Otherwise, we will have to manage it on our own and that doesn’t make any sense in the short term.  It’s KingstonCitizens.org’s goal to encourage a compromise.

We ask citizens who can’t attend this week to support UCRRA and the CoK in their negotiations on our behalf.

CoK Mayor Steve Noble
mayor@kingston-ny.gov

UCRRA Executive Director Timothy Rose, PE
tros@ucrra.org

Thank you for your willingness to work together on Kingston’s single-stream recycling transition. We respectfully request that UCRRA continue to accept Kingston’s single-stream recyclables until June 30, 2019 to allow us to complete our recycling transition plan.

Thank you for your consideration. Please distribute our request to all UCRRA board members.

Name
Address

 

 

 

VIDEO: Kingstonian Proposal Informational Meeting at the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The Kingstonian proposal will appear on the Kingston Planning Board Agenda on December 17th at 6:00pm.

 

By Rebecca Martin

In what was a ‘coordinated review’ of sorts, project spokesman Joseph Bonura and members of JM Development Group LLC gave an informational meeting at the City of Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC). It’s smart, because by meeting with our HLPC early – they will benefit by getting feedback on the proposal before their review process begins. This not only saves time in the long run, but it puts their best foot forward by starting off with a more realistic project in one of our historic districts. Already the project has improved by doing so – and we would expect that it will continue to go in the right direction with the input and guidance of our historic professionals.

The Kingstonian project will be on the agenda of the next Planning Board meeting on Monday, December 17th (new business) Items #11 and #12.  AGENDA

Video from last evening was made by The Kingston News, brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.