A Correct Path for a Complete and Proper Reset of Historic Preservation in Kingston (and just in time).   

By Rebecca Martin

At last evening’s Kingston’s Historic Preservation Landmarks Commission (HLPC), the group introduced a draft of an updated preservation ordinance, modeled after the 2014 preservation ordinance, in accordance with the Certified Local Government guidelines (SHPO) and with preservation ordinances from Saratoga Springs, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester.

Kingston having the rich history that it does, and seemingly everyone’s support to preserve it, requires clear guidelines, policies and laws which we simply haven’t had in place for a long time. Additionally, and for decades, the City of Kingston’s HLPC has been siloed from everything else. Today, we are on a clear path for a complete and proper reset of what is old and fragmented preservation guidelines. We encourage everyone to view this 50-minute discussion.  It’s illuminating and exciting to see a process like this being handled so professionally.

You can follow along with the video (starting at 2:00) and the powerpoint presentation (click on image below for the entire PowerPoint) created by HLPC’s Vice Chair Marissa Marvelli.

Kingston Preservation Ordinance Objectives

CLARITY.

  1. Removes Chapter 264: Historic and Architectural Design Districts which currently only applies to the Stockade.

  2. Offers a stronger structure in that it states up front the ordinance’s legislative intent, followed by the general and administrative duties of the commission.

  3. Uses clearer phrasing and terminology to explain criteria for designations, application review, affirmative maintenance, declaration of hardship, and enforcement.

  4. Codifies requirements of Certified Local Government (CLG): training, reports, inventory and other duties.

ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES.

  1. Alternate members

  2. Removal of members for cause

  3. Costs of operation

  4. Lengthens commission approval to 24 months

  5. Stipulates ZBA as the appeal body

 

NEW TOOLS/MEASURES PROPOSED.

  1. Broadens definition of what can be considered a historic resource to include something that may yield information important to prehistory; a property that has achieved significance within the last 50 years; publically-accessible interiors; and scenic landmarks, possible examples being Company Hill Path and Hasbrouck Park summit.

  2. Acknowledges that sites may contain important archaeological resources and that they need to be documented.

  3. Establishes inventory of eligible landmarks

VIDEO: Kingston Laws and Rules Committee Host Roundtable to Clarify Kingston Development Processes.

 

CITIZEN REQUEST.  Please request that the Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee throw out streamlining legislation and continue to collaborate with all relevant Kingston departments, boards and commissions to clarify the development process scenarios comprehensively in the City of Kingston. 

Contact:  Laws and Rules Committee Liaison to Streamlining Commissions:  Ward 9 Alderwoman Andrea Shaut at:  ward9@kingston-ny.gov

By Rebecca Martin

In April of this year, draft legislation to “streamline” the Historic Landmarks Preservation and Heritage Area Commissions was introduced by the City of Kingston’s executive branch to the common council with support from both the Planning and Building Departments.  Streamlining Historic Commissions, they argued, would eliminate any redundancies and create a more efficient process for project sponsors who came forward with development concepts for the city.

It’s been a rocky road since, with Kingston’s assistant Corporation Council misleading the council and the public by providing false time requirements and pending litigation that was never understood as reasons to get the streamlining legislation as a local law passed by September.

To help to better understand the process, we jumped in to provide an important educational forum so that we had good information for debate. With more questions than answers, the majority of the council (7-2) with the public’s support, brought the proposed ‘streamlining’ legislation back to committee from the floor for further review.

How did the City of Kingston’s Planning and Building Department come to the conclusion that streamlining commissions was the best way forward?  Was there a flowchart of all development processes? Had all parties involved been gathered to discuss the process to collectively agree that streamlining was the solution?

We got our answer during July’s Common Council Laws and Rules Committee meeting.  Led by Ward 9 Alderwoman Andrea Shaut, who serves as the liaison to the Laws and Rules Committee on the streamlining matter, a roundtable discussion was called that included invitations to all decision makers – whether regulatory or advisory.  Turns out that this was the first time that everyone had been brought together to discuss. The planning department didn’t have flowcharts and Kingston’s Planning Director Suzanne Cahill insisted that the development process was not ‘one size fits all’ so it wasn’t possible to create them.

Really? Even SEQR has a flowchart. When you are talking about processes that if not available, up-to-date or followed correctly will impact the public in profound ways, you better get that information out of your head and onto the page.

Read more…

VIDEO: Kingston Common Council Sends Streamlining Historic Commissions and Legislation Back to Committee.

Click on image to review the legislation packet from last night’s Council meeting. Scroll down to see Resolution #107 and accompanying legislation.

By Rebecca Martin

In what might might very well be in my top 10 most perplexing processes I’ve witnessed in 12 years at KingstonCitizens.org,  good sense prevailed and Resolution #107 of 2018 “Common Council of the City of Kingston Establishing a Public Hearing Regarding the Possible Merger of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Heritage Area Commission” (with accompanying legislation from 5/16/18 to be sent out to Involved Agencies)   was referred back to the Laws and Rules Committee for proper vetting with a  7 / 2 vote.

In favor: Morrell, Worthington, Carey, Davis, O’Reilly, Schabot, Shaut
Against: Scott-Childress, Koop

The good news is that I think Kingston is venturing into a new kind of conversation to better understand Historic Preservation in Kingston with a secondary goal to identify best practices so to make the review process for development more efficient.

Thanks to council members for a thoughtful and robust debate.

It’s also a moment for the executive branch to contemplate better boundaries for its corporation counsel.  I hope that the Kingston Common Council will also consider advocating for a budget line to provide its own council on retainer for second opinions. With a new budget cycle coming up, it’s the perfect time to be putting that forward. I think the public might readily support that this year given this flub. The council should have staff, too. What happened to the council clerk position that began last summer and ended in the fall?

A refreshed value may be placed on the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC), with the council allocating a council liaison and/or, assigning the HLPC to a council committee (perhaps Laws and Rules) for an ongoing dialogue to allow relationships to be built and for council members to have the opportunity to get to know Historic Preservation items and issues in real time, as well as to come to a new appreciation of the work that our commission is doing on Kingston’s behalf. That seems entirely possible to me now.

Below is video from the recent council caucus and meeting with excerpts. Thanks to my partner Clark Richters of the Kingston News for his great work in recording video for this, and all of the meetings that we cover. I couldn’t do it without him.

Read more…

VIDEO: “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Re-thinking the Review Process”

Last night, approximately 60 people attended the public educational forum “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Re-thinking the Review Process” presented by KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with the City of Kingston and Friends of Historic Kingston. A good mix of the public, elected and appointed officials, City of Kingston staff and not-for-profit organizations were all present. So that more of our community can participate, we had the event filmed thanks to The Kingston News

Based on the information provided last evening, we support Kingston’s council members effort to improve the city’s review procedures for historic resources by collaborating with the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission in crafting the rules for preservation, using the current Preservation Model Law as their guide.   VIEW Preservation Model Law

In addition, rather than merging commissions, we encourage the council to pursue the concept of a ‘coordinated review’ (and seek out models) as well as to map out the current process for projects to contemplate whether or not a different sequence of steps could improve its efficiency.

Kingston’s Common Council Laws and Rules Committee meets next on Wednesday, May 16th at 6:30 pm in Conference Room #1 (top floor) at Kingston City Hall located at 420 Broadway in Kingston.

Committee meetings are the council’s monthly ‘business meetings’. Although the public is always invited to attend, public comment isn’t always available. If you’d like to be placed on the agenda, you can reach out to the council committee board chair in advance to make that request.

To submit comments and/or suggestions regarding the current legislation, please send to Ward 9 Alderwoman Andrea Shaut at:  ward9@kingston-ny.gov

RESOURCES

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

Historic Preservation Tax Credit

CoK HLPC Comments: Draft Legislation on the Merging of the HLPC and HAC

Preservation Model Law

Draft Legislation to Streamline Historic Commissions (a/o 5/15)

 

VIDEO #1

3:26 – 11:25
Rebecca Martin, KingstonCitizens.org

Introductions

11:33 – 29:53
Mayor Steve Noble
Introducing Draft Legislation to Streamline Historic Commissions

29:55 – 34:53
Marissa Marvelli, Vice Chair, CoK Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC)
VIEW  Powerpoint “Moderating Change”

34:55 – 46:38
Hayes Clement, Chair, Heritage Area Commission
Kevin McEvoy, Secretary, Heritage Area Commission and Member, HLPC
VIEW  “Historic Preservation Timeline for Kingston, NY”

47:19 –  59:50
Linda Mackey, SHPO CLG Rep for Ulster County
VIEW  Powerpoint “NYSHPO, Certified Local Government Program Purpose”

 

VIDEO #2

 

00:00 –  1:30 (Continued)
Linda Mackey, SHPO CLG Rep for Ulster County
VIEW  Powerpoint “NYSHPO, Certified Local Government Program Purpose”

2:00 –  14:09
Erin Tobin, Vice President for Policy and Preservation, Preservation League of NY
VIEW  Model Preservation Law for Municipalities

 

QUESTION/ANSWER PERIOD
(Loosely transcribed)

15:27 – 17:59
Q: “What are the projects on the table right now?”

A: Marissa Marvelli
“No major projects right now.  We do have big projects coming in the future, such as the Kingstonian in Uptown.”

A: Hayes Clement
“Projects that come in front of commissions are ‘run of the mill’ issues.  Heritage Area recently helped with a coordinated SEQR review process (Hutton Brickyard). The HAC is charged to look at any project along the Rondout to meet the criteria of the Waterfront revitalization plan.”

18:00 – 20:11
Q: “Are there advantages to having one or two historic commissions?”

A: Linda Mackey
“As long as the ordinance is clear when a project comes in, and the commissions meet the qualifications for Certified Local Government (CLG). We will work with the City to accomplish that.”

20:12 – 27:30
Q: “With an influx of investors buying up properties fast in Kingston, how can the preservation committees interface with mayor and city council to moderate that about what’s good for Kingston?”

A: Mayor Steve Noble
“We need single family homes, but we need condos and we need to be a city who can do that.  We have 200 vacant buildings in the city literally rotting.  We see people buying those buildings. It’s important to have processes in place….working to assure that as we get some of these vacant buildings back into life again, what is the life that that building turns into? Some of the…codes are in place, and people are starting to come.  What we need to do, we as neighbors, is to educat…we’re creating a Land Bank in the city to get buildings into the hands of stable NFP organizations for affordable home ownership but it’s a community effort. This is one way to solve the problem of people not being displaced.”

A: Erin Tobin
“To give a national perspective, studies have shown that local historic district designation, specifically local historic districts stabilize property values across the board. When you see big rises and dips in the graph, local historic districts stay on a straight line…as it pertains to density and affordable housing, examples such as in NYC, the big new high rises are luxury apartments (and not affordable housing). Historic preservation stabilize property values.”

A: Marissa Marvelli
“Our Midtown study survey to make recommendations for new districts will be done soon. Our program is only as strong as the communities input. Please come to our meetings and bring your ideas.  that’s the nice thing about having a HLPC.  People come to us who don’t know the story of Kingston and we get to have a conversation. “This is why your building is important, and your neighbors.” It happens at landmarks commissions.”

27:31 – 32:43
Q: (Mayor Steve Noble):  “As properties are identified as a landmarks, to bring them up to the standards to today’s Historic Preservation requirements can be expensive. In Kingston, people with money buying these historic houses raise the property values tremendously.  Because we have a housing stock of historic house, how do we provide access for all of those moderate/ low-income individuals? It’s a struggle that we have and may lead to gentrification if only some kinds of people can afford these houses.”

A: Erin Tobin
“In many communities, there are vacant buildings and no one investing in them. Any investment requires the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the Historic Preservation Tax Credit. You might contrast that with the only other analogy in NYS would be Brooklyn or NYC, where people are moving into neighborhoods that have lower property values and raising them. I don’t know if that’s Historic preservations fault, necessarily….one can have flexibility in approach….you can find ways to make that more affordable. I can’t underscore the importance of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit that we have in NYS….for people investing in historic homes. It is a rebate, at or below $60k that provides initial money in.  Communities can strategize to find ways to turn it into a loan, so the homeowner doesn’t have to put that money up front, or most of it…there are land banks doing that…I can’t say that I’ve seen a big issue with preservation causing gentrification. If anything, I’m seeing that in areas where there are preservation standards investors are using the low-income housing credit as a tool to use as an incentive.”

A: Hayes Clement
“Beyond the Historic Preservation Tax Credits, Kingston has a practice of using ‘partial’ assessments….if a building is brought back.  I don’t think most people know that.”

32:44 – 39:39
Q: “At the may HLPC meeting, it was suggested by the corporation counsel that the proposed legislation could be done in a multi-step process. How has the proposed draft legislation been influenced by the Preservation Model Law and what would be the benefit to the CoK Historic Preservation to have corporation counsel write the legislation rather than adopting model law written by preservationists?”

A: Mayor Noble
” …our law currently is the model law, and we appreciate the Preservation League refreshing the model law.  this discussion is wanting to have a ‘one stop shop’ for our city…my goal with this was to take what’s working now…and help streamline the process. I agree, if there are things to do to strengthen our language it’s something we should look at….the new Preservation Model Law may be a little more specific…we want to make sure we’re not shifting and changing those types of materials and compositions while we’re in the middle of lawsuits…so we have to be careful. What I’m interested in doing is being able to have one heritage/historic board in our community to work with community and the board to ask how can we do it better.”

A: Marissa Marvelli
“Our existing ordinance might have followed the model law template from years prior, but it has been modified numerous times since them….what you see today is inconsistent and the language is not to the standards of current Historic Preservation practices. Our past challenging decisions was due to there being a lack of clarity in our ordinance and procedure.  We met with the Mayor to talk about the goals and progress the commission has been making, and our desire to talk about model law and see how we can use it as a basis of our existing ordinance.  We made it clear at that time that we wanted to be a part of that conversation. When the corporation counsel introduced the amendments, we were a little taken aback because it was our understanding that we would be a part of that process….50 years ago during the creation of the original landmarks law and commission, the effort of drafting that ordinance was a collaboration between the Laws and Rules committee and the landmarks preservation commission. The current amendment didn’t have the Preservation Commission’s input. It was done by the corporation council’s office. We saw (the language) at the same time that the members of the Laws and Rules committee members saw it (in April).”

A: Linda Mackey
“SHPO has (recently) been in discussion with the commission and were made aware of the proposed merging. We are starting those discussions with the Mayor, corporation counsel and commission and sending official comments or big picture comments. Once we have the most up-to-date version of the draft we’ll provide detail comments with that ordinance to keep with model law and make revisions…and working with the city throughout this process. We do want to make sure that while it’s ok to merge the commissions, we don’t want to miss the opportunity to strengthen the law and provide clarity. The law is the road map for the commission, for property owners, it basically explains the process….we want to make sure it’s clear as there can be multiple interpretations and when working with more complicated projects, you want to be sure of that clarity.”

39:40 – 46:29
Q: “It was said that the HLPC jurisdiction is quasi-judicial. What’s the basis of that comment?  Also, for a city the size of Kingston, I would wonder whether it’s worth having input from an outside state agency to influence its local laws?”

A: Marissa Marvelli
“NY is a home rule state, municipalities get to write their own laws based on state standards.”

A: Linda Mackey
“If a municipality is a CLG, it’s the municipalities decision as to how they craft their legislation. If not in keeping with CLG standards, that would be grounds of de-certification because it’s a program that we administor….in working with other municipal boards, we do want to know how things function…we do work with that model law developed by us, Preservation League and Department of State, but it’s up to the municipalities to decide for themselves. We tell them what’s required for the CLG program, but it’s the local municipality that does administer the ordinance.”

A: Erin Tobin
“The CLG program is offered to communities as a benefit.  It’s as though you apply for a grant, and the grant has requirements. because you’re opting into that grant you have to follow the rules. CLG is meant to be a resource, there is no real benefit to the state to have more CLG’s. This is a resource for communities with practices, and municipalities can take what we’ve put together and adopt it for your own needs. It’s a skeleton framework and you to choose within that. If communities choose to participate in the CLG program, they receive the benefits that have been described to you for that program.”

46:30 – 49:12
Q: “I see the land bank as a marvelous opportunity for the community….I am familiar with programs from another state, where they have taken vacant structures, fixed them up, rented them out, taken half of the rent that the new tenants paid, used that as a down payment to bring a neighborhood back to life so it’s affordable to folks in a city like Kingston. Is that one of the programs that the city of Kingston have in mind, and from folks on the state level, have you seen this elsewhere in NYS?

A: Mayor Noble
“We just received state approval as a certified land bank…opening up a  board application process. That board of advisors will help us step up our programs. At this time, everything is on the table. If anyone is interested in being placed on the board, please call my office and I’ll connect you to with Brenna Robinson who will lead our Land Bank effort in the City. We’ve seen it work well in Newburgh…in Syracuse, Albany and other places that are successful and we hope to be too.”

Cherry Picking Comp Plan Zoning Recommendations: The Streamlining of the HLPC and HAC in Kingston.

By Rebecca Martin

Please read to the end to review the call to action.

In December of 2017, the consultant Shuster/Turner Planning & Zoning Consultants, hired to lead Kingston in its Comprehensive Planning (CP) process, completed its work by submitting its CP Zoning recommendations.

The recommendations, shaped in part by a CP Zoning Sub-Committee of appointed citizens that met sporadically over the years, were uploaded to the City of Kingston’s website in January of 2018.  VIEW

There have been many concerns voiced both publicly and in private, with whispers throughout historic, planning and zoning circles about this document. Those concerns were heard, and seemingly addressed by the Mayor of Kingston, in his state of the city address this year:

“In 2018….my administration will be focusing on overhauling our Zoning Code…I want to thank the past members of the Comprehensive Plan Zoning Sub-Committee for their work over the past few years reviewing our zoning and recommending changes to ensure we are consistent with State law. In 2018, I will be launching the second stage of the zoning update and will be recruiting local volunteers to delve into such complex subjects as affordable housing, urban agriculture, parking and parking waivers, form-based codes and much more. This work is necessary in order to ensure that our zoning is consistent with our Comprehensive Plan, spurs responsible economic development and preserves our community high quality of life.”

Currently, the Mayor is determining some sort of new CP Zoning group, and a process in how citizens will be able to participate. That was a bold move, and we all appreciated his leadership on the matter then.

City of Kingston Corporation Council Submits Legislation to Kingston Common Council, Applied to the Council Laws and Rules Committee.

While we wait, on March 28th, the City of Kingston’s Corporation Council Daniel Gartenstein submitted a communication to the common council requesting that, “In the interests of coordinating the review of proposed projects in the City of Kingston, our office is recommending that the Council move forward with combining the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Heritage Commission.”  VIEW

Legislation was submitted along with his communication and assigned to the Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee that will meet on Wednesday, April 18th at 6:30 pm.

This was curious to me as “Streamlining Historic Preservation, Cultural and Design Review 5264-1” is an item in the Comp Plan Zoning Recommendations document (Part III, Section C, #4).  It is also one of the items that have been a point of contention for professional preservationists and others.

Anyone following this process can’t help but wonder – why has the executive branch chosen a single item from the CP Zoning recommendations to present legislation to be reviewed by the Common Council before a new CP Zoning group is established?

Corporation council serves at the pleasure of the Mayor, so this request seems out-of-step with the Mayor’s intent to establish a new CP zoning group, who I assume will be charged in looking at the document comprehensively before presenting recommendations to the council for discussion, debate and, passage.

This presents a confusing conflict outwardly to the public.

What does the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) and the Heritage Area Commission (HAC) do in the City of Kingston? 

As a citizen, you’d be hard-pressed to understand what the HLPC and HAC do by visiting the City of Kingston’s website. To look at the “Boards and Commissions” tab, you’ll find that on either page, there isn’t any information about their work. Only mostly a list of those who serve. To find information about either commission, you’d have to know to look in the City of Kingston’s code. There are no instructions to the public to do so, making it nearly impossible for anyone except experienced city government watchers to know.

Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, as I understand it, is a regulatory body, charged in part by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). You can review the meat and potatoes of their work by visiting  HERE.

The Heritage Area Commission, established in 1986 and overseen by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), is entirely different in their scope of work. You can review their role by visiting  HERE

It’s possible that combining them isn’t a bad idea. But there are many questions still in doing so, including the real possibility of losing funding opportunities for the city if not done properly. As a good friend told me recently in discussing the matter, “the devil is in the details.”

Approaching CP Zoning Recommendations Comprehensively.

Our comprehensive plan hasn’t been updated since 1961. Zoning to match, for as long – although zoning amendments are a regular occurrence. Is cherrypicking an item from the new CP Zoning recommendations an emergency?  If so, why? If not, a better course might be to allow a newly established group, which is imminent, to look at the CP Zoning recommendations comprehensively, and that includes streamlining commissions.

Citizen Call to Action.

On Wednesday, April 18th at 6:30pm in Conference Room #1 at Kingston City Hall (420 Broadway), the Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee will meet. On their agenda, is legislation to ‘streamline the HLPC and HAC’.

We have been told by council members who sit on the Laws and Rules committee that no decision on this legislation will be determined. However, the language has been introduced and is now in the pipeline. That is significant.

Therefore, we suggest citizens who are interested in the topic to ask the following questions and make the following requests:

  1. That Corporation Council, who I presume will be present that evening, explain why legislation to streamline the HLPC and HAC has been pulled out of the CP Zoning Recommendations to start the review process before a new CP Zoning Committee or workgroup has been established.
  2. Request that the Kingston Common Council committee table the discussion for a time when the new CP Zoning committee/workgroup has completed its work.

VIDEO: Comprehensive Plan Zoning Sub-Committee Public Forum

On Thursday, September 28th at 6:00pm at City Hall, the first in a series of forums regarding the ongoing effort to update the City of Kingston’s zoning took place.

VIEW VIDEO

The theme for this month’s public forum was “Consolidation and Reformatting of Residential Districts and Bulk Standards.” A presentation on the topic took place to discuss the current code, why this topic is important and what has been discussed by the Zoning Sub-Committee so far regarding potential changes. Participants broke into smaller groups each facilitated by a city employee, where citizens in attendance provided comments and asked questions.

After watching the video, you can submit your questions or comments by sending an EMAIL to the City of Kingston’s planning office.  We recommend that you copy the Mayor of Kingston at SNoble@kingston-ny.gov and send yourself a copy for your records, too.

 

The City of Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning: How Are They Related and What’s Happening With Them Right Now?

By Hillary Harvey

“A comprehensive plan is known as a general plan, master plan or land-use plan, and is a document designed to engage the public and to guide the future actions of a community. It presents a vision for the future, with long-range goals and objectives for all activities that affect the local government.”

Local politics can be a bit daunting.  Various officials play different roles, and multiple boards are responsible for various capacities and processes. All of these interrelated elements differ for each locality.  When it comes to learning about local politics, all you have to do is start somewhere.

I started in November 2015, as I sought to catch up on the Irish Cultural Center’s development proposal for my neighborhood, the Rondout.

In trying to understand a specific development proposal, I learned about all the various boards and their roles in the process.  In studying the zoning codes of my block in downtown Kingston, and then my neighborhood and the city, I learned that zoning codes are meant to serve as an important protection for residents and home-owners in any community.

So when I first heard about “Kingston 2025,” the city’s Comprehensive Plan efforts to update the city’s original Comprehensive Plan from 1961, I was curious about how it would impact the development proposal I was already studying as it involves a re-evaluation of the city’s zoning codes along with other planning processes.

A little back history.  The Comprehensive Plan process began in 2011 as the City of Kingston faced a problem.  According to the Comprehensive Plan, known locally as “Kingston 2025,” which was adopted on March 15th, 2016, “Since 1961, the City has made a number of changes to its land use regulations, some proactive based on study and planning, others reactive based on certain evolving trends or in response to specific development proposals.”

There were multiple plans and a ton of documents to cull through, and the city’s planning and zoning policies were no longer holistic.

Read more…