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.

Speaking of which, and additionally perplexing, Cahill chose the proposed Kingstonian project as an example (which later we learned, was a poor choice not having comprehensive information to explore process) to walk us through the development process. In the 20 or so minutes that she spoke, we never made it beyond the first part of SEQR.

We weren’t there for a SEQR overview. We wanted to understand how the city’s commissions, boards and staff interfaced with the process. We wanted to understand why those supporting streamlining commissions were so certain of it.

Back to flowcharts. Does not having that information indicate project sponsors, who approach the city’s Planning or Building Departments with a development project, are not given some sort of guide where they can anticipate the most likely steps they are to take with contact information, etc.?  How is it possible that these materials do not exist for something as important as this?

In the end, instead of the council being given materials by the Planning Department as requested in order to evaluate the process, they had to set out on their own to do the work themselves. Why is staff placing an unnecessary burden like this on our elected officials?   They are decision makers. They should not be made to have to create flowcharts of development processes for the planning department. That’s what taxpayers expect to be paying capable staff to do.

That being the case, Ward 9 Alderwoman Andrea Shaut got to work to meet the need of those in attendance, creating an impressive draft document by pulling together everything that she had from her meetings and document collecting. Shaut illustrated that flowcharts were indeed possible.

In what was about a two hour meeting, the committee got through only 1/4 of one process (there might be many ultimately, up to four or five), daylighting over a half dozen items that were problematic but approachable, such as improving the sequencing steps, providing better communication at the start of the process and coordinating reviews. Perhaps now that the Planning Department understands what the council is looking to achieve, it can spend some time helping to get the information that they need.

We appreciate the council members effort to be thorough in understanding the development processes before making any further decisions about streamlining commissions. It seems clear that enough information has come out that it’s in our best interest to throw out the proposed legislation to streamline commissions.

The council’s work here is unprecedented, and if they continue, the reform of our development processes and the creation of materials to reflect that will positively impact Kingston for generations.

 

20:10 – Introductions.  Alderman and Committee Chair Bill Carey, Ward 5. Alderman Doug Koop Ward 2. Alderman and Majority Leader Rennie Scott-Childress, Ward 3.  Alderwoman Andrea Shaut, Ward 9.  Alderman Jeffrey Morell, Ward 1.  City of Kingston Assistant Corporation Council Dan Gartenstein.  City of Kingston Planning Director Suzanne Cahill. Historic Landmarks Preservation Commissioner (HLPC) Leslie Melvin, HLPC Vice Chair Marissa Marvelli, HLPC Alan Baer, Heritage Area Commission (HAC) Vice Chair Giovanna Righini. HAC and HLPC Commissioner and Secretary Kevin McEvoy. City of Kingston Building Inspector Tom Tiano.

24:50 – Alderwoman Andrea Shaut, describes the roundtable discussion format.

30:38  – CoK Planning Director Suzanne Cahill, using the proposed “Kingstonian” project as her guide, tries to describe the development process.

50:56 – Citizen Comment, in response to the process being difficult to map out.
“The SEQR process has steps that the council can look up. In terms of what other boards are involved, it seems like alot of this information is available”

57:49  – City of Kingston Building Inspector Tom Tiano
More on proposed Kingstonian project process.

58:22 –  Alderman Bill Carey
“If everything is going through simulatineously, what’s the order?”

58:47 – Cahill and Tiano
“We’re sure information is shared and we’re coordinated”

1:01:57 – HAC and Planning board re: Hutton Brickyard process
“Heritage had to make an approval, and the planning board acted following that. City staff and commissions were meeting at the same time, and it was a benefit to have organized in that way. That’s something I’d like to give more pursuit….if it worked out so that the project sponsor came to one meeting and only had to give one presentation, then each board was able to reach their decisions individually, but we got through things quickly. I thought it was good.”

1:03:02 – Alderwoman Andrea Shaut
“We may not have a perfect example of a process, but we have at least an outline to learn some of the risks.”

1:06:03 – HLPC’s Marissa Marvelli and Leslie Melvin
“One problem is that often applicants coming to HLPC don’t know what to expect. They don’t haven’t been directed to reach out to us to discuss what’s needed of them, who should come with them, or what are we looking for. There is no interface between the applicant and HLPC.  Because they don’t know what to present to us, their applications are typically incomplete…the greatest frustration is the lack of clarity of what they need out front…we don’t have the information we need to be thorough.”

1:11:10 – HAC Giovanna Righini
“There is a design standard for our reviews online, when people come they have not been directed to review them. The info is there for them to review.”

1:12:19 –  On the HAC And HLPC

1:23:00 – Alderman Rennie Scott-Childress
“Is there any idea of level of compliance that we have both with how many people make changes to their properties without permission?”

Building Inspector Tom Tiano  –
“They are going to do what they are going to do, and ask for forgiveness later….the Old Dutch Church across the street explained to me that its wooden replacement steps was a temporary fix…they were supposed to go to Landmarks and learn what had to be done, but they never showed up.  As far as I know, the wood steps are still there. They do not acknowledge our letters. Are we supposed to take the Old Dutch Church to court? It doesn’t look good to bring the church to court.”

1:31:34 – Alderman Jeffrey Morell
“What happens when a permit is not closed out? Is there a time limit?”

1:35:02 – HLPC Marissa Marvelli  
More on violations and their impact on time for the HLPC.

1:40:50 – HAC Giovanna Righini and HLPC Marissa Marvelli 
“In many city’s, the solution is there is an office of preservation as part of planning…especially in places like this…noone here knows where the historic districts are. Alot of home owners may not even know they live in a historic district. That’s a big problem….we’ve been trying to get that information on the city’s website, but been assigned someone to help us to do so (NOTE: city staff maintains the city’s website)

HLPC Marissa Marvelli
“Kingston has the most active Heritage Area program in the state.”

1:43:04  – HAC and HLPC Secretary Kevin McEvoy and HAC Giovanna Righini  
More on Heritage Area Commission.

1:46:20 –  Alderwoman Andrea Shaut
Solutions?

1:48:34 Alderman Rennie Scott-Childress
“Folks who don’t live in a historic building or district, what’s their relationship to all of this, particularly in midtown?

HLPC Leslie Melvin
“We stopped doing designations decades ago, not for any reason I can understand. Those protections are not currently available.”

2:06:30 –  Zoning, historics and design standards.
“Kingston does not have a preservation plan, and never has.”

2:15:07 – HLPC Alan Baer
“How did the streamlining commissions come about?”

 

MORE ON STREAMLINING COMMISSIONS FROM KINGSTONCITIZENS.ORG

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

The Proposed Legislation to Merge Kingston’s Historic Commissions is not Ready for a Public Hearing.

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.

City of Kingston 
Common Council Caucus
6/4/18

Click on image to review video from Kingston’s Common Caucus, 6/4/18.

21:20- End

Andrea Shaut, Ward 9 Alderwoman 

“It’s been presented, but there hasn’t been any formal discussion about it. I think that we as a committee need to answer questions and we’ll have a stronger document to send out to a public hearing….if we go to the public hearing in June, we make no amendments, which means we’re not actually listening to the public we’re just passing it through, we have a first reading and second reading. That gets us to August and means we are all content with everything…I don’t think any of you are perfectly content with how it is now. We’re not going to get this done by August (as per Corporation Council’s suggestion)…if we pass it on now, then the public has to do the legwork and I think that’s our job.”

 

City of Kingston
Kingston Common Council Meeting
6/5/18

PART I

Click on image to review Part 1 of Video from Kingston’s Common Meeting, 6/5/18.


11:52 – 16:11.  Lowell Thing former member, Historic Preservation Landmarks Commission (HLPC)

“There’s only one way to keep the historic  architecture that you have for the basis of Kingston’s future, and that is to take actions to preserve it by making a strong commitment to support the city’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission.  Unfortunately, a revision of the city’s landmarks law has been proposed that did not involve the people most likely to be understand the process of the two commissions that are supposed to be combined, or the insight of the state agencies…the proposed revision undermines the purpose of the preservation landmarks review…”

 16:20 – 23:40,  Rebecca Martin,  KingstonCitizens.org

“There hasn’t been any request made to the Planning Department to provide a map matrix of the current city process for projects both in and outside of historic districts. Without that, there is no way to know whether or not streamlining the HLPC and HAC is the best solution for efficiency or, whether changing the steps in the sequence or a coordinated review is our best foot forward.”

23:46 – 31:04. Owen Harvey

“If timing is no longer an issue, then the legislation should be sent back to  committee for proper vetting before it’s sent out to the public and involved agencies.  The public hearing is being framed as being about ‘just getting additional information’, but the public needs to trust that the council has done its work in assuring that the legislation has been carefully considered. The Laws and Rules committee has admitted that they have not had the chance to do that because of a false claim of urgency that was presented by Kingston’s Corporation Council at the Laws and Rules committee meeting last month (NOTE: see below)…and that there were issues related to timing that his “office is not comfortable talking about in a public session.”  If the council doesn’t know what he was referring to, then it would behoove you not to approve Resolution #107…and if you do know what the Assistant Corporation Council was referring to and it relates to my article 78 petition around the HLPC’s appeals process, then voting in favor of the resolution is allowing Corporation Council an abuse of power to use this council to change a law that could impact the outcome of pending litigation. What concerns me is that the proposed legislation actually changes the current HLPC appeals process and creates a different appeals process for the new commission.” 

31:23 – 32:00   Giovanna Righini, Vice Chair of the CoK’s Heritage Area Commission

“The legislation should be sent back for further review and vetting in order to assure that we don’t lose valuable checks and balances in protecting our architectural heritage.”

32:02 – 34:08  Marissa Marvelli, Vice Chair, CoK’s HLPC

“We are eager to work with the Laws and Rules committee to draft legislation that improves the review process and improves the language and the clarity of the legislation. We’ve been speaking with the Mayor at our own public meetings before this legislation came out, and it was my understanding we would have that opporutnity….this legislation came out of left field and we’ve been working in overdrive to get information to the Laws and Rules committee that we felt they needed to consider when looking at this legislation. It goes beyond just merging two commissions. I think the corporation council office tinkered with other parts of the ordinance while the hood was up. That’s not how legislation should be crafted in our community….I urge the council to send this back to Laws and Rules for further development with the people who live and breathe this stuff.”

34:16 – 42:00  Leslie Melvin, Member, HLPC

“I thought I understood the intent behind combining commissions, though given the variety and types of responsibilities of them including the Coastal Consistency Review, Overlying District Design and Historic Preservation Ordinances, I’m not so certain it’s feasible.  Many of my colleagues across both commissions feel the same. Just ask us.  Noone’s really asked us. What we keep hearing feels true. This could work, but the Devil is in the details. I’m troubled by this process, we’re told to change quick…there will be time to improve the Preservation code in the future.  But I’m not sure it’s that easy…triage to unclear and fragmented Preservation code will only result in slightly more clear and still fragmented Preservation code. To be certain, fast tracking piecemeal Preservation code only serves short-term goals. How often have you heard – if you’d going to do it, do it right?  We have an opportunity to be really thoughtful.”

42:07 – 45:25   Ellen DiFalco

“Much to my dismay, I have attempted to review why time is of the essence to streamline the process for applicants appearing before these commissions…there are many concerns and red flags that have popped up for the inquiring public to question…I ask that you gather as much information as you can and then present it to the public for review and comments.” 

45:34 – 50:03.  Jennifer Berky, former member of the HLPC

“…What makes a good law? We consider all the factors that shape the physical economic and social features of our built environment. I have never seen such a significant decision that could affect land use in one of the States most valuable resources move so quickly to a public hearing.  When we look at model law as best practices and consider economic impacts, we consult broadly with leaders in our field. We also meet with many community stakeholders prior to public hearings about local laws.”

50:15 – 54:35  Lynn Woods

“As one of the partners who made the documentary film ‘The Lost Rondout’, a story of urban removal, I learned of the misguided polices of the 1960’s that led to the destruction of most of Kingston’s commercial downtown and also how it was Preservation that halted the destruction by creating the Rondout Historic District and subsequently the three other historic districts, City Hall, and other buildings slated for destruction…the importance of holding and strengthening our Historic Preservation laws can not be overstated. Unfortunately, the proposed legislation written by Kingston’s Corporation Counsel to merge commissions does the opposite.”

54:52 – End   Tanya Garment

“(Ward 3 Alderman and Majority Leader) Rennie Scott Childress was talking last night (in caucus) about having the opportunity to hear as much public feedback and not just the experts as possible, and we should do it in a two-part way…in a public hearing and also sending it out to the Involved Agencies separately. We should not send it out to the Involved Agencies because there are parts left out of the legislation (it is incomplete). If it goes out tonight, it will go to Involved Agencies and you’ll lose your chance for the important missing parts that are not included here to give feedback later on.”  (NOTE: Involved Agencies look at legislation during a public hearing for a local law only one time).

PART II

Click on image to review Part 2 of Video from Kingston’s Common Meeting, 6/5/18.

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)

7:43 – 26:18  Vote to refer back  streamline commissions legislation and  to committee adopted 7 / 2.

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

Ward 9 Andrea Shaut makes a motion.
“I believe we do not have a piece of legislation before us that the council stands behind, as we have not had enough time. This is also true fo rate L/R committee. We have heard from experts and have reached out to us who want to voice in here.I appreciate Alderman who want a public hearing to learn more. But to send it back to committee, we do not lost the public hearing.  We gain time to hear from experts, and to make sure this is what we want to send out to the public that we can stand behind this. I’d like to request to send this back to committee.

Seconded by Ward 1 Alderman Jeffrey Morell.

9:06  – 10:33  Ward 5 Alderman Bill Carey
Send back to Committee

10:36 – 13:35  Ward 3 Alderman and Majority Leader Rennie Scott Childress
In favor of public hearing

13:37 – 16:51  Ward 6 Alderman Tony Davis
Send back to Committee

16:54 – 17:56  Ward 4 Alderwoman RIta Worthington
Send back to Committee

17:58 – 19:58  Ward 2 Alderman Doug Koop
In favor of public hearing

20:05 -22:02  Ward 8 Alderman Steve Schabot
Send back to committee

22:03 – 22:37  Ward 7 Alderman Patrick O’Reillly
Send back to committee

22:38 – 23:28  Ward 1 Alderman Jeffrey Morrell
Send back to committee

Ward 9 Alderwoman Andrea Shaut
Send back to committee

 

Additional Reading/Viewing

  1. VIDEO: The Common Council Laws and Rules Committee Meeting from 5/16/18 regarding streamlining commissions and legislation. (starts at 1:28 and I encourage you to watch the whole discussion to witness the breadth, in my opinion, of the council being misled as it turns out.  The pivotal moment in the conversation for a swift local law process can be viewed at 40:44 – 42:32.  A transcription of the meeting can be downloaded  HERE.
  2. “The Proposed Legislation to Merge Kingston’s Historic Commissions is not Ready for a Public Hearing.”  VIEW
  3. VIDEO: “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Re-thinking the Review Process”

 

The Proposed Legislation to Merge Kingston’s Historic Commissions is not Ready for a Public Hearing.

“So what does it matter, one historic window? Beyond being the physical evidence of history, all these details contribute to the greater ensemble of a historic neighborhood—its spatial structure, continuity, texture and depth—the general feeling that orientates us in time and place. That sense of place is what drew many of us here; it’s what inspires artists and entrepreneurs; and what drives important economic engines for the city—the specialized building trades and tourism. Historic buildings are often at the heart of our most exciting development projects and the backdrop of our annual community events—the chronogram block party, the Artists’ Soapbox Derby, the O+ Festival, the Burning of Kingston. Our historic fabric should be treated as a precious resource like water and air. It’s not renewable. Buildings don’t preserve themselves.   – Marissa Marvelli, Vice Chair, CoK HLPC

CITIZEN REQUEST

Please plan to attend the next Kingston Common Council meeting on Tuesday, June 5th at 7:30pm, where the council will vote on a resolution that would send the proposed legislation for a possible merger of Kingston’s historic commissions to involved agencies for comment that include the Ulster County Planning Department, Kingston Planning Board, Town of Ulster, NYS SHPO, Town of Esopus, Rhinebeck and Red Hook.  Request that Kingston’s Common Council deny the resolution and instead, send the proposed legislation back to the Laws and Rules committee for further study and development with members of the Heritage Area Commission, Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and Kingston Common Council members.

VIEW our facebook event

By Rebecca Martin 

The current legislation to merge the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) and the Heritage Area Commission (HAC) is not ready for public comment. Something stinks about this process, and I can’t tell you why.

Recently, legislation appeared at the Kingston Common Council’s Laws and Rules Committee brought forward by Kingston’s Corporation Council to “streamline” or merge Kingston’s HAC and HLPC commissions. This month, and only two days after KingstonCitizens.org hosted a well attended educational forum on ‘Rethinking Historic Preservation” in the city of Kingston, the controversial legislation passed through committee unanimously to the floor, where a public hearing has been scheduled. Not because a public hearing was the correct next step, but mainly because I think the council members didn’t understand the weight of a public hearing at this time given the way this legislation was framed or explained.  This is all so complicated, so we appreciate you following along and connecting the dots.

A Brief History

For years, there have been conversations that seem to have come from the Kingston Planning Department, about developers trying to move projects through the city’s process with projects in historic districts getting help up in the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission domain.  Instead of looking at the sequence of these steps in what is called a coordinated review, some in the city believe that “merging historic commissions” was the best way in making the process for a development in historic landmark areas more ‘streamlined.”

The Local Law Process.

The city seems on a tear to want to pass this merger through whether or not preservation professionals have had the opportunity to participate.  At the May 2018 Laws and Rules Committee meeting, Kingston’s Corporation Council Dan Gartenstein laid out a timeline, recommending that the council hold a public hearing followed by two readings before a vote August to meet the City of Kingston’s budget cycle in September. When merged, the commission would be overseen by the planning department who could carve out a budget line in next years budget for funds in order for additional preservation work, such as identifying new historic districts or saving historic homes. When challenged to make the public hearing later in the summer, he stated that there was litigation in the wings that made the merger timely.

For the record, the HLPC is not concerned about a budget line at this time. The commission only wishes to make sure that their current ordinance is clear.

According to the Department of State’s document VIEW  “Adopting Local Laws in NYS” on page 14 under ‘Public Hearings’ in Step III, that the ‘law is presented to the municipal governing body and introduced by one of its members” and not the corporation council as has been done.  What is Kingston’s corporation doing introducing new legislation and then, placing pressure on council members to do so with speed?

Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan (CP) and Zoning and Historics.

The streamlining of commissions had come up as an item to place in Kingston’s new CP, but in 2015 – those who were concerned brought in State professionals from both SHPO and the Preservation League on the matter that led to it being retracted in the final document.  VIEW Daniel McKay’s Testimony.

Kingston City Planner Suzanne Cahill said to council members that the final CP had a goal to streamline commissions, it did not. However, it turned up again in the CP Zoning recommendations somehow.

On Gentrification. 

During the educational forum, the Mayor asked, “As properties are identified as 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.”

Erin Tobin, Vice President for Policy and Preservation, Preservation League of NY, said in response, “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.”

But it came up again in May’s Laws and Rules Committee meeting, where Majority Leader Rennie Scott Childress said, “…This is something that’s about rich people. And so we have to be very careful because we want to protect our historic heritage, but we also want to make sure that it’s not something that begins to price people out of living in Kingston. And so that’s something for us to keep in mind.”

You can watch the video where Erin Tobin dispelled this concern.   VIEW starts 27:31

“I believe justification does exist to maintain both the Heritage Area Commission and a Historic Landmarks Commission. I think an approach to look at is a coordinated review process which may include one application which would be reviewed by both Commissions collaboratively.” VIEW

In comments made by current City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble before he was Mayor portrays exactly what preservationists and citizen advocates are requesting.  What happened to Mayor Noble’s stance?

What’s at stake?

The Mayor believes that merging commissions without any substantive discussion about how the new combined commission will function and how the regulatory review process will change as a result (and that our state-level support will not be impeded) is not necessary to make clear beforehand. What is meant to be a marriage is more like a shotgun wedding.

Furthermore, the current legislation presented by Kingston’s Corporation Council has potential flaws, working with Kingston’s existing preservation ordinance that is based in part on a previous preservation model law that is 30 years old. It has been changed several times, to make that ordinance more murky  Because of which, the HLPC has taken up the preservation model law that is more up to date created in 2014, that provides NYS standards meant to help in providing good framework.

Streamlining isn’t yet consensual. If done at all, here are some of the real concerns:

1. Valuable state-level support in the way of training and grant opportunities may be in jeopardy if this new arrangement violates the terms of an agreement between CofK and NYS.

2. The proposed legislation goes beyond its stated intent to combine two commissions. Buried in the text are small but significant tweaks to the existing procedures of the HLPC, which prior to now have not been discussed or studied.

3. The proposed legislation misses a key opportunity to incorporate the 2014 Model Preservation Law, which offers clearer language and procedures.

4. The public is in the dark about the motivation for the accelerated timetable for this merging. At a recent Laws & Rules Committee meeting when asked what the hurry was, the deputy corporation counsel stated that there were other factors at play that he did not want to share in a public meeting.

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.”

KingstonCitizens.org presents a Public Educational Forum “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Rethinking the Review Process”

Photo courtesy of Friends of Historic Kingston.

KingstonCitizens.org presents the public educational forum “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Rethinking the Review Process” on Monday, May 14th from 6 – 8 pm at Kingston City Hall in partnership with the City of Kingston and Friends of Historic Kingston.  Guest panelists will include the Mayor of Kingston and experts from the Kingston Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, Heritage Area Commission, New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and Preservation League of New York.

Kingston, NY.  KingstonCitizens.org, in partnership with the City of Kingston and the Friends of Historic Kingston, will host the public educational forum “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Rethinking the Review Process” on Monday, May 14th from 6 – 8 pm at Kingston City Hall, Council Chambers located at 420 Broadway in Kingston.

Panelists will include City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble; Marissa Marvelli, Vice Chair of the City of Kingston Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission; Hayes Clement, Chair and Kevin McEvoy, Secretary of the City of Kingston Heritage Area; Linda Mackey, SHPO CLG (Certifed Local Government) Representative for Ulster County of NYS SHPO; and Erin Tobin, Vice President for Policy and Preservation of the Preservation League of New York.

The group was assembled to share best practices for streamlining Kingston’s Historic Commissions in response to recent legislation introduced to the Kingston Common Council by the Mayor’s office. Streamlining Historic Commissions was a recommendation made by the consultant Shuster and Turner in their document “Comprehensive Amendments to the City of Kingston’s Zoning Law” hired by the City of Kingston in 2013 to lead its first Comprehensive Planning process since 1961.

A public question and answer period will follow the panelist presentations. This event will be filmed by The Kingston News.

“We are pleased to work with our community partners to share best practices in historic preservation and explore the challenges and opportunities ahead as we consider updates to our City commissions,” said Mayor Steve Noble. “It is fitting that this educational forum will be held in one of Kingston’s most notable historic preservation projects- our beautiful City Hall. Its restoration is a testament to Kingston’s ability to work together for the betterment of our community.”“

“Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission was created in 1966 in direct response to the urban renewal-driven destruction of the Rondout.” said Marissa Marvelli, the Vice Chair of Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, who will also be a panelist on the 14th.  “The drafting of the city’s first preservation laws and amendments was a collaborative effort of preservation-minded citizens and members of the Common Council. Today’s Landmarks Commission continues its original purpose: ‘for the promotion of the educational, cultural, economic, and general welfare of the public through the protection, enhancement, perpetuation, and preservation of Landmarks and Landmarks Districts.’ The effectiveness of the city’s preservation program is dependent on the strength and clarity of its ordinance.”

“There are many pressing issues in the City of Kingston, and assuring the protection of our historic assets is certainly one of them,” says Rebecca Martin, lead organizer and, co-founder of KingstonCitizens.org, who will also moderate the event. “With legislation on the table, creating an opportunity to take an in-depth look at Kingston’s historic preservation is both timely and essential.”

For more information, contact Rebecca Martin at rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org or call 845/750-7295

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About KingstonCitizens.org.  Established in 2006, KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based group committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency of local government. By providing citizens with timely and factual information, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education, and advocacy.

About the City of Kingston.  Kingston, dating to the arrival of the Dutch in 1652, is a vibrant city with rich history and architecture, was the state’s first capital, and a thriving arts community.

About Friends of Historic Kingston.  The Friends of Historic Kingston are charged in preserving historical and architecturally significant buildings and sites in the City of Kingston; To promote and foster interest in the historical heritage and beauty of Kingston and, to acquire, preserve and exhibit materials relating to regional history and culture.

About the City of Kingston Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) is a quasi-judicial body of Kingston citizens whose duties and procedures are outlined in Chapter 405, Article IX of the city’s administrative code. Its seven volunteer members are appointed by the mayor to administer the designation and preservation of Kingston’s individual landmarks and four historic districts. Current members have expertise in preservation planning, historic architecture, restoration arts, law, history, and real estate. The commission holds public hearings the first Thursday of each month where it reviews applications for work to historic properties and discusses matters related to public education about the protection and perpetuation of the city’s built heritage.

About the City of Kingston’s Heritage Area Commission.  The Heritage Area Commission is charged with the responsibility of advising the Mayor and the Common Council on all matters related to the Kingston Heritage Area and its programs in a manner consistent with the concepts, goals and objectives set forth in relevant state and local legislation regarding New York State Heritage Areas and in the Urban Cultural Park Management Plan.

About the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).  The SHPO works with governments, the public, and educational and not-for-profit organizations to raise historic preservation awareness, to instill in New Yorkers a sense of pride in the state’s unique history and to encourage heritage tourism and community revitalization.  The SHPO administers programs authorized by both the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and the New York State Historic Preservation Act of 1980. These programs, including the Statewide Historic Resources Survey, the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places, the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit, the Certified Local Government program, the state historic preservation grants program, state and federal environmental review, and a wide range of technical assistance, are provided through a network of teams assigned to territories across the state.

About the Preservation League of New York.  The Preservation League of New York State invests in people and projects that champion the essential role of preservation in community revitalization, sustainable economic growth and the protection of our historic buildings and landscapes. We lead advocacy, economic development and education programs across the state.

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.