Kingstonian Zoning Amendment and the Kingston Common Council

By Rebecca Martin

As the community waits for the Planning Board to issue a positive or negative declaration in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the Kingstonian project, it has come to light that a portion of the Kingstonian site is located outside of the Mixed-Use Overlay District (MUOD) in Uptown Kingston and therefore requires an additional approval by the Kingston Common Council.

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. ) Its primary purpose 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 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 to build any affordable housing units 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. 

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“Education is Key”. Kingston Common Council Takes Up Charter Revision Discussion

By Rebecca Martin

At last evening’s Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee meeting, Andrea Shaut (Chair of Laws and Rules and Ward 9 Alderwoman) introduced a discussion on Charter Reform for Kingston.

“Education is key, but every person has a different learning technique that works for them. What I would like to discuss today are some ideas on the best approach to educate not only ourselves, but the public, as we move forward with this discussion. This document is important; therefore, it is crucial we take our time and do it right.”

You can review the video that we captured thanks to Clark Richters of The Kingston News.  Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org

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VIDEO: Special Kingstonian Meeting 6/3/19

“The purpose of tonight’s meeting is for the planning board to determine specific areas/studies which we believe will be critical for the decision making process with regard to the Kingstonian” – Wayne Platt, Chair of the Kingston Planning Board

At last night’s special Kingstonian meeting, the mood was oddly calm.  In about 1 1/2 hours, the planning board and applicant moved through their plans of what studies would be required in order for the board to make a determination of significance (pos or neg dec).  Outside of the planning board chair, only two members of the board posed any questions to the applicant, though they voted unanimously to pass a resolution for studies.  The applicant will provide its studies to the planning board for distribution in early July. A meeting will be scheduled for September for the planning board to make a determination or, to request more information from the applicant.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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Public Input with a Positive or Negative Declaration in SEQR

In this image taken from the SEQR Cookbook, the top line “POSITIVE DECLARATION” illustrates robust public input for a pos dec determination in SEQR with many steps and opportunities. The bottom line “NEGATIVE DECLARATION” illustrates a neg dec determination where the review process concludes and there is no further opportunity for the public to participate as it relates to environmental impacts.

By Rebecca Martin

A recent Kingston Times article reported a claim by a member of the Kingstonian development team: “Dennis Larios is a civil engineer with long experience in Kingston. He’s currently working with JM Development Group on the Kingstonian project. Earlier this month, in a Facebook post, Larios suggested that his clients would likely walk away from the project if the planning board issues a “positive declaration of environmental significance.”

A day later, the Daily Freeman reported that a second member of the Kingstonian development team suggested that a determination of significance (and likely a negative declaration) would not be made for a very long time, as they had not yet provided the lead agency with all of the necessary information.

Attorney Michael Moriello said in a statement, “It is beyond presumptuous for these opponents to attempt to subvert the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review process by insisting upon a positive declaration of environmental significance before any potentially large impacts have had an opportunity to be identified and mitigated….Because we intend to follow all environmental review requirements and as we have not yet provided all of the necessary information and studies, we do not anticipate a determination of significance under SEQRA for (a) fairly lengthy period of time….we are confident that we will ultimately obtain a negative declaration of environmental significance so that the vast majority of city residents, visitors and business owners will ultimately benefit from the environmental review and the Kingstonian’s attendant economic, cultural and employment benefits.”

When SEQR begins, a series of specific actions are to take place starting with a 30-day window for the involved agencies to approve or deny the request for lead agency.  An involved agency may also “state their interests and concerns regarding selection of lead agency and potential impacts of the overall action” (SEQR handbook, page 66, item #5).  That’s exactly what the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission has done as a responsible involved agency along with three interested State agencies which submitted comments to the Kingston Planning Board within the 30-day window for lead agency selection or the 20-day window for determination of significance which I describe next.

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The ‘Pit’ In Our Stomach Was a Negative Declaration in SEQR

The photo reveals the ICC property looking North from Abeel street, where the developers appear to use “plywood” to mitigate damage.

By Rebecca Martin

After the ground gave way for the neighbors 7-year-old son to fall into the Irish Cultural Center’s project pit, residents living next door worried that their home property line would further erode with that night’s torrential downpour. Erosion has been an issue since last summer due to the apparent poor excavation practices and lack of oversight of the project.

As far as we are aware, the project does not have a stormwater plan in place to mitigate the impacts of rain storms that have compromised the site and Company Hill Path, a significant historic resource adjacent to the surrounding  properties.

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Before The Kingstonian Project There Was the Teicher Organization.

“The Planning Board adopted a determination of significance (i.e. a positive declaration) for the project on March 30, 2006, directing the preparation of a draft scoping document for preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project. The reasons stated for its determination were that ‘the proposed scope of demolition and construction will have potential for impacts on the immediate adjacent business district and surrounding area. Potential impacts include, but are not limited to; traffic and noise levels, infrastructure and utilities, schools, recreation and other community services; visual and historic resources; off-site improvements; economics and markets; housing availability, etc…’”   – Kingston Planning Board Decision, Final Scoping Document for DEIS “Proposed Mixed-Use Development of the Uptown Municipal Parking Garage Site” (2007)

By Rebecca Martin

A decade ago, before the proposed Kingstonian Project, there was the Teicher Organization’s plan to tear down a decrepit parking garage at Wall and North Front Streets. In its place, they would build a $65 million, 214-unit condominium building that would rise 12 stories in height. “The building would include a 600-space parking garage (with half of those spaces available to the public and half going to residents of the building) and 10,000 square-feet of retail space. The plan would call for a special taxing scheme to be set up whereby a portion of taxes paid by residents of the complex were used to pay for a public parking garage.”    

While the the Teicher Organization’s proposal may have been larger in size, its other details are similar to the proposed Kingstonian Project. Both were categorized as Type 1 actions with a coordinated review process. For both, the Kingston Planning Board was/is the lead agency.  But will their determinations be the same?

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Key Citizen Public Comments On Process and the Proposed Kingstonian Public Hearing.

Click on the image to learn more about the SEQR process.

By Rebecca Martin

At the April 10th public hearing on the Kingstonian proposal, over 50 speakers provided three hours of testimony.  Most of which had little to do with the decisions that were currently in front of the Planning Board as Lead Agency of the State Environmental Quality Review Process (SEQR) in making a Positive or Negative Declaration for the project.

Below are three citizen comment highlights that speak directly to the current process the proposal is currently in.

If you wish to review the meeting in full and the “listen to the community” rally beforehand, you can do so HERE   We are also uploading 19 key testimony segments HERE

No decisions were made that evening.

Filmed by Clark Richters of The Kingston News. Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

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Kingston’s HLPC Loses a Third Member as Citizen Volunteer Resigns.

Leslie Melvin reads her public comment, the letter submitted by the HLPC to the Kingston Planning Board on March 11th recommending a positive declaration in the SEQR process, at last evening’s public hearing on the proposed Kingstonian Project

After providing public comment for the proposed Kingstonian Project during its public hearing last evening, Leslie Melvin, a citizen volunteer who was serving on the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC), resigned.

Melvin submitted her letter of resignation following her public speaking.

Dear Mayor Noble,

Merging the HAC and the HLPC has been a publicly-stated goal of yours for the last few years despite failing to convince either commission, or the Common Council, of the plan’s merits.

With your recent decision to not renew Marissa Marvelli and Alan Baer’s appointments—and by appointing HAC commissioners to fill those newly created vacancies — you have effected your own de facto merging of the HAC and HLPC.

To be clear, these efforts appear to only serve one administration’s own short-term interests – they are not in the best interest of the residents of the city of Kingston, and they are certainly not in the interest of preserving what we know to be irreplaceable in the city we love.

This is no way to treat dedicated and knowledgeable professionals, this is no way to treat volunteers, and this is no way to treat constituents. In such a troubling political climate, we expect our leaders to honor an obligation to guarantee transparent, fair processes, and to encourage the exchange of information, free from undue influence. You’ve sent a clear signal that volunteers, working on behalf of the city and its residents, can only expect conditional support.

I am saddened to submit my resignation from the HLPC, effective immediately.

Sincerely,

Leslie Melvin
Kingston NY

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WHAT TO EXPECT. Public Hearing on Proposed Kingstonian Project on April 10

WHAT
City of Kingston Planning Board
Public Hearing on the Kingstonian

WHEN
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
6:00pm

WHERE
City of Kingston City Hall
Council Chambers (Top Floor)
420 Broadway
Kingston, NY

“LISTEN TO THE COMMUNITY” Rally
Before the public hearing
5:00pm
Front Lawn
Kingston City Hall

Co-sponsors include:  Kingston Tenants Union, Midtown Rising, Rise Up Kingston, Citizen Action of New York Mid-Hudson Valley Chapter, Nobody Leaves Mid Hudson and KingstonCitizens.org

MORE
It is not expected that the planning board will make any decisions on the 10th.

A regular planning board meeting will occur on Monday, 4/15 where the planning board may decide on the items listed in the 4/10 AGENDA  (lot line deletion, site plan / special permit and SEQR determination (pos or neg dec))

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CoK’s Executive Branch Move to Streamline Commissions May Impair Historic Preservation Efforts.

WATCH Marissa Marvelli address the HLPC
2:10 – 6:47

On Wednesday, April 4th, Marissa Marvelli and Alan Baer were invited into the Mayor’s office and abruptly learned that they would not be reappointed to the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, even though both wished to continue to serve. Under the charter, the Mayor has sole authority to appoint or remove members of all boards, committees and commissions. There is no oversight of those decisions by the Common Council.

Marissa Marvelli is a historic preservation specialist with a master’s degree in the discipline from Columbia University. Alan Baer is an architect educated at the University of Cincinnati with continuing education at Xavier, Pratt, RPI, and Harvard. He had served on the HLPC for 17 years. Both are Kingston residents.

The decision is believed to be part of the Mayor’s plan to merge the Historic Landmarks Preservation (HLPC) and Heritage Area Commissions (HAC). “Streamlining,” as it’s known, has been a contentious concept in the City of Kingston for years. It was included as a goal in the City of Kingston’s draft Comprehensive Plan by the consultant Shuster-Turner Associates (who were also involved in our 1961 Comp Plan that some experts say ushered in Urban Renewal in Kingston) and later removed after preservationists from around the city and the State Historic Preservation Office warned of its implications for Kingston’s standing in the state.

To everyone’s surprise, the goal to streamline reappeared in the City’s Comprehensive Plan Zoning Recommendations that were released to the public in January of 2018. As Comp Plan Zoning is meant to reflect the goals of an adopted Comp Plan, many felt it had no business being there. Before a new Comp Plan Zoning group had been established, the executive branch delivered legislation to streamline commission to be reviewed by the Common Council. At that time, we had no idea what the motivation was for the City.

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VIDEO: New Dual Stream Recycling Procedure in Kingston Begins April 1st.

By Rebecca Martin

The City of Kingston is switching from Single Stream to Dual Stream recycling come April 1st. Julie Noble, the City of Kingston’s Environmental Education and Sustainability Coordinator,  hosted a recycling educational forum to explain the transition.  Their materials are available both in English and Spanish.

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