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

On March 7th, the Historic Preservation Landmarks Commission at their monthly meeting identified a number of potential significant environmental impacts for the proposed Kingstonian Project.  The City of Kingston’s Planning Director currently serves as an administrator for the Commission. She is also the administrator for the Planning Board, which is the Lead Agency for the SEQR process for the Kingstonian (meant to be an impartial body responsible for administering the environmental review process) and a key member of the executive branch that wrote the successful Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) application to secure the $10 million dollar grant to be used in part to fund the Kingstonian Project. This official recently spent nearly 15 minutes trying to dissuade the Landmarks Commission from amending their agenda to include a discussion of the project and its potential impacts as it pertained to the historical, archeological and community character of the project, even though they had requested that the discussion item be put on the agenda at their previous meeting . The HLPC is one of 10 involved agencies that will have a discretionary decision to make for the Kingstonian Project. Although anyone can point out potential significant environmental impacts, it is required as per the SEQR regulations that the Commission in their capacity to “state their concerns (of the)…potential (environmental) impacts of the overall action.”

A few weeks after their March meeting, Mayor Steve Noble called Marvelli and Baer into his office separately, removing them from the Historic Preservation Landmarks Commission (the mayor says that he chose to not “reinstate” and was not “removing” them – however, their terms expired seven months ago without any action taken by the Mayor who understood that both commissioners wished to continue to serve). The City of Kingston’s Charter provides the Mayor of Kingston full authority to appoint and remove members from all boards, committees and commissions without requiring any guidance, oversight or reason.

Since the Mayor’s decision, citizen volunteers have chosen to resign. Melvin would be the third so far.

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)).

 

 

By Rebecca Martin

On April 10th, the Kingston Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed Kingstonian project regarding the following approvals (in bold) and a SEQR Determination:

AGENDA

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

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

The Significance of State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) Determinations. 

What is SEQR?

The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) “establishes a process to systematically consider environmental factors early in the planning stages of actions that are directly undertaken, funded or approved by local, regional and state agencies. By incorporating environmental review early in the planning stages, projects can be modified as needed to avoid adverse impacts on the environment.”

What step are we at in the process?

On April 10th, the City of Kingston Planning Board will collect public comment on its next step in making a “determination of significance.” This is the most critical step in the SEQR process. This is the step in which the lead agency must decide whether or not a proposed action is likely to have a significant adverse impact upon the environment. If the lead agency finds one or more significant adverse environmental impacts, it must prepare a positive declaration identifying the significant adverse impact(s) and requiring the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

At this time, environmental impacts must be cited before the social or economic concerns are included in an Environmental Impact “Scope” (p. 93, SEQR Handbook), and a pos dec would be required in order for a public scoping process to occur.

FOR YOUR REFERENCE: SEQR Handbook

The project would seem to be justifiably determined as a pos dec, as only one potential adverse environmental impact is required in order for a pos dec to be triggered (p. 85, #5).   Uptown Kingston’s significance as a National Historic District is a reason for a pos dec. Traffic (the traffic for this project appears to be over the threshold for peak hour outlined in the law) would be a trigger. Visual and Aesthetic and Neighborhood Character are all legitimate environmental impacts (p. 90 of the SEQR Handbook).

As the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commissions (HLPC) has already weighed in as an “involved agency” to indicate the potential significant adverse environmental impact on the character of the Stockade National Historic District, the Planning Board, as the “lead agency” is obligated to take a “hard look” according to important case law precedents that have invalidated findings by lead agencies that have failed to do so.

VIEW:
Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) Identifies Potential Significant Environmental Impacts of the Kingstonian Project.

Other important questions that the public should ask on Wednesday include:

1. Where is the planning board currently in the SEQR determination process?

2. When will the planning board make that determination?

3. Is the project being modified and will it be modified by the applicant and developer to try to address or mitigate potential impacts?

4. Will the public be notified of those modifications and have an additional opportunity to comment on the modified project before the Board makes a SEQR determination?

Below are excerpts from the SEQR Handbook to help you to identify good information to shape your public comment for Wednesday evening.

From pages 90 of the SEQR Handbook onward:

34. May determinations of significance be based on economic costs and social impacts?  No. A determination of significance is based on the regulatory criteria relating to environmental significance. If an EIS is required, its primary purpose is to analyze environmental impacts and to identify alternatives and mitigation measures to avoid or lessen those impacts. Since the definition of “environment” includes community character, these impacts are considered environmental. However, potential impacts relating to lowered real estate values, or net jobs created, would be considered economic, not environmental. Social and economic benefits of, and need for, an action must be included in an EIS. Further, in the findings which must be issued after a final EIS is completed, environmental impacts or benefits may be balanced with social and economic considerations.”

23. Are there impacts on non-physical resources that should be considered when determining significance?  Yes. There may be environmental impacts related to various community or regional values not necessarily associated with physical resources. Examples would include aesthetic impacts, impairment of community character, growth inducement and social and economic conditions, which are discussed below.

24. Why should the significance of visual and aesthetic impacts be considered under SEQR?The courts have upheld inclusion of effects on scenic views as an element of the SEQR review process; for example, in the case of a new radio transmission tower proposed to be constructed near the F.D. Roosevelt estate on the Hudson River (see WEOKBroadcasting Corp. V. Planning Board of Town of Lloyd 1992).

25. What methods or resources may a lead agency use in assessing potential visual and aesthetic impacts?  Because the quality of an aesthetic resource cannot be determined by a precise formula and because opinions may vary concerning the evaluation of visual impacts, there exists a widespread, but erroneous, notion that aesthetics analysis is hopelessly subjective. Instead, research has clearly established that landscape preference and perception are not arbitrary or random, so that along with some variability there is substantial regularity in the perceptions of significant adverse and beneficial visual impacts. It is upon this regularity of human judgement concerning aesthetics that objective decision making depends.  Developing an objective process for considering visual impacts is most effective if undertaken before controversial projects appear. To establish or clarify values, policies and priorities related to existing visual resources, agencies or municipalities should conduct an inventory of visual resources within their jurisdictions. Such surveys need not be elaborate, but are a recommended feature of any comprehensive planning process that the agencies or municipalities may undertake. The prime objective is to be proactive and identify visual resources that are significant within that jurisdiction and could be adversely affected by potential development.

To evaluate potential visual impacts likely to result from individual proposed projects, the Visual EAF Addendum [(Appendix B of 617.20) (pdf, 936 kb)] may be used by the lead agency to supplement the EAF. The Visual EAF Addendum form highlights the following objective components of visual impact analysis are generally considered:

• Whether the value of the aesthetic resource has been established by designation; for example: state park, designated scenic vista, designated open space, etc.

• The number of people who could observe the potential impacts.

• The circumstances or contexts under which impacts would be visible.

• The distance the viewer is from the aesthetic resource.

When the responses to these and other pertinent questions about potential impacts to aesthetic resources are compiled, the lead agency will know, for example, whether the resource is designated as important, is viewed by thousands of people annually when they use the resource (e.g. park), or if the potential impact is adjacent to that resource. Based on this systematic assessment, the lead agency will then be able to consider visual and aesthetic impacts in developing its determination of significance.

26. Has the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) developed any additional resources for assessing aesthetic and visual impacts?  The DEC guidance policy “Assessing and Mitigating Visual Impacts” was developed to provide direction to DEC staff for evaluating visual and aesthetic impacts generated from proposed facilities. The policy and guidance defines what visual and aesthetic impacts are; describes when a visual assessment is necessary; provides guidelines on how to review a visual impact assessment; differentiates State from local concerns; and defines avoidance, mitigation and offset measures that eliminate, reduce, or compensate for negative visual effects.

The cornerstone of the DEC guidance document is its inventory of aesthetic resources of statewide or national significance. The scenic and aesthetic resources identified in the guidance have all been protected by law or regulation, and are therefore special places that the public has deemed worthy of protection due to the inherent aesthetic value associated with the resource. For example, one category is state and national parks which havebeen established by government to protect unique resources, and are accessible for use and appreciation by the public.

The DEC guidance defines State regulatory concerns, and separates them from local concerns. However, the DEC guidance may be used as a model by other agencies or municipalities. Once local authorities have officially identified locally important visual resources, the guidance may be used to assist a lead agency in systematically evaluating potential visual and aesthetic impacts from a proposed development.

27. How do aesthetic and visual impacts differ from community character impacts? Visual impact assessment considers a single class of resource. While visual resources may contribute to a community’s perception of its character, a number of other resources should also be assessed or evaluated to enable a more thorough description of a community’s character.

28. Why is “community character an environmental issue?  The Legislature has defined “environment” to include, among other things, “…existing patterns of population concentration, distribution or growth, and existing community or neighborhood character” (see ECL 8-0105.6). Court decisions have held that impacts upon community character must be considered in making determinations of significance even if there are no other impacts on the physical environment.

29.  How can you determine whether an impact upon community character may be significant? Community character relates not only to the built and natural environments of a community, but also to how people function within, and perceive, that community. Evaluation of potential impacts upon community or neighborhood character is often difficult to define by quantitative measures. Courts have supported reliance upon a municipality’s comprehensive plan and zoning as expressions of the community’s desired future state or character. (See Village of Chestnut Ridge v. Town of Ramapo, 2007.) In addition, if other resource-focused plans such as Local Waterfront Revitalization Plans (LWRP), Greenway plans or Heritage Area plans have been adopted, those plans may further articulate desired future uses within the planning area.

In the absence of a current, adopted comprehensive plan, a lead agency has little formal basis for determining whether a significant impact upon community character may occur.

  • Examples of actions affecting community character that have been found to be significant include the introduction of luxury housing into a working-class ethnic community and construction of a prison in a rural community.

• Examples of actions found not to be significant include low-income housing and shelters for the homeless proposed to be located within existing residential areas.

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.

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

KingstonCitizens.org with its partners spent most of last year advocating in support of the HLPC and HAC remaining independent commissions. We encouraged the Planning Department to create flowcharts and development guidebooks. (The Planning Department still doesn’t have these materials in any completed fashion even though the Planning Director has been in their position for over 30 years.) We also encouraged them to explore other ways to improve the review process for development projects, including coordinated reviews and a reconsideration of the HAC’s responsibilities. For months, we worked with members of the  Common Council to make the case that streamlining commissions was the wrong approach. The concept was finally thrown out by the Council’s Laws & Rules Committee last year.

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

GO BACK TO REVIEW 
Advocacy efforts to protect the HLPC all throughout 2018.

At their March meeting, the HLPC, as an Involved Agency in SEQR for the proposed Kingstonian Project, discussed recommendations to submit to the planning board.  Marvelli outlined the potential significant environmental impacts of the proposal. It is the Commission’s view that these impacts weigh towards a positive declaration, which would require a comprehensive, transparent public process that could help to improve the project on items that were within the HLPC’s purview.

VIEW
“Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) Identifies Potential Significant Environmental Impacts of the Kingstonian Project”

The following month, Marvelli was abruptly told that she would not be given another a term. (Her term had expired last fall without any communication from the City about the fate of her service until this Wednesday.)

At last evening’s HLPC meeting, Hayes Clement was introduced as serving on both the HAC and newly appointed to the HLPC. These actions no doubt advance the Mayor’s goal to streamline commissions, overriding the outcome of the hard work by citizens and Council members over the past year.

Following the news that Marissa was not reappointed, long-standing Heritage Area Commissioner and Kingston resident Giovanna Righini resigned.

“It was with great disappointment that I learned of your decision not to renew the appointments of Marissa Marvelli and Alan Baer to the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC)….Through their involvement, the HLPC was finally beginning to transform into a strong organized force for historic preservation in Kingston. It has been refreshing to see an enthusiastic approach and a true professional understanding of preservation process: two things, which, quite frankly, have been lacking in the existing local preservation community and certain government departments…As a Heritage Area Commissioner and as a citizen of Kingston, the timing of your decision makes me very uncomfortable. With a huge project in Uptown currently on the table, hobbling the HLPC has the appearance of being a politically and financially motivated action. It does not serve our community well. And, worse, it does not serve the ideal of a democratic process for ALL members of our community….Sadly, it is with these thoughts in mind that I have decided to resign my position as Heritage Area Commissioner, effective immediately”

Their statements are available in full below.

###

Statement delivered to the HLPC April 4, 2019.

My fellow colleagues:

As you can see I am not sitting at the table with you tonight nor is Alan Baer. Yesterday we both got the boot from Mayor Noble. He told me he was dismissing me because our visions for historic preservation did not align. He also said I was not fit to be a Landmarks Commissioner.

About his vision, the entirety of it can be summed in two words: merging commissions. It is the only preservation policy initiative he has put forward since he has been in office. He will point to the new administrator position that he recently created as evidence that he supports a strong municipal preservation program. While I agree it’s better than having no administrative support (which was our situation for more than a year), the annual salary—less than $19,000—is far from commensurate with the qualifications he seeks, which includes an advanced degree in historic preservation or a related field. I thought it was his administration’s desire to attract talented professionals to work in local government. I suppose it still is as long as that new talent is willing to work for peanuts.

My vision—and I think the collective vision of this body in recent years—has been to increase the professionalism and credibility of the Kingston Landmarks Commission. I am incredibly proud of the improvements we have made together. First, we have come into compliance as a Certified Local Government by submitting annual reports and receiving annual commissioner training. This state-administered program provides us valuable technical support and grant funding. I hope we maintain our compliance going forward.

We have also made great strides in adhering to proper procedure in terms of how our meetings are conducted, delivering clear findings of fact that are tied to our review criteria, and making sure our written decisions are thorough enough to be easily understood by a judge. (I have included in the materials I handed out a template that I created as a guide for making findings of fact.)

Most importantly, I am proud of our engagement with applicants. Education, open dialogue, and reasoned decisions form the core of this commission’s service.

It was my hope that in my tenure we would designate a new historic district and in tandem, have it nominated to the National Register so that property owners within it qualify for historic tax credits for undertaking rehabilitation work. It’s been 30 long years since this Commission last designated a historic district. However, with Kevin McEvoy’s help and the support of the Kingston Land Trust, a Preserve New York grant application was submitted two weeks ago to fund work to certify the Fair Street Historic District, which as you know is a local district only. With certification, property owners will qualify for the tax credits. I should add that certification is possible because Kingston is a Certified Local Government.

It was also my hope to work with the Common Council to improve the existing preservation ordinance so that it is more in keeping with the 2014 New York State Model Preservation Law. I doubt that that effort will be moving forward now.

It was also my hope that there would be a collegial working relationship between our Commission and members of the administration. Unfortunately, they are not welcoming of new ideas that are not their own. Some members tend to be obstinate, incurious, uncommunicative, and at times, resentful of being questioned. I would argue that some officials have occupied their desks for far too long to the detriment of our changing city.

This Commission is the backbone of historic preservation in Kingston. This is why it is so incredibly important that this citizen body maintain an independent voice in city government. You are not here to carry out one mayor’s agenda nor should you be distracted with caring for a planter box in Uptown. Your legislative intent is to promote and protect Kingston’s landmarks and historic districts for the education, pleasure, and general welfare of our community today and tomorrow. Please keep your focus on that.

Thank you for your service. It was an honor to serve with you.

Respectfully,

Marissa Marvelli

Marissa Marvelli is a Kingston resident and former vice chair of Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission. She works as a freelance historic preservation specialist for preservation-focused development projects and community groups seeking to protect their historic resources. She draws from a decade of experience with an award-winning Manhattan architecture firm and extensive involvement with non-profit preservation advocacy groups. She earned her Masters degree in historic preservation from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

###

Subject: HLPC changes

Dear Mayor Noble,

It was with great disappointment that I learned of your decision not to renew the appointments of Marissa Marvelli and Alan Baer to the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC).

Through their involvement, the HLPC was finally beginning to transform into a strong organized force for historic preservation in Kingston. It has been refreshing to see an enthusiastic approach and a true professional understanding of preservation process: two things, which, quite frankly, have been lacking in the existing local preservation community and certain government departments. I understand that this could sometimes be at odds with what is considered politically expedient, but such is the nature of a healthy discourse.

As a Heritage Area Commissioner and as a citizen of Kingston, the timing of your decision makes me very uncomfortable. With a huge project in Uptown currently on the table, hobbling the HLPC has the appearance of being a politically and financially motivated action. It does not serve our community well. And, worse, it does not serve the ideal of a democratic process for ALL members of our community.

Sadly, it is with these thoughts in mind that I have decided to resign my position as Heritage Area Commissioner, effective immediately.

Sincerely,

Giovanna Righini
Kingston, NY
Content Research + Clearance Specialist

Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) Identifies Potential Significant Environmental Impacts of the Kingstonian Project.

By Rebecca Martin

At last evening’s meeting of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC), the Commission as an involved agency in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the proposed Kingstonian Project put forward a motion to amend the agenda to include a discussion of the Kingstonian Project and its “potential significant environmental impacts” pertaining to historic preservation. With the clock ticking on a 20-day window for the Planning Board, as lead agency, to make a Positive or Negative Declaration in SEQR (the deadline being March 20th), the HLPC’s March meeting would have effectively been their last opportunity to discuss their concerns as a collective body. Apparently it was the desire of the entire Commission to have this discussion placed on its March agenda beforehand, but their request was not honored by the Commission’s administrative staff in the Planning Department.

VIDEO ONE:  4:00 – 20:00

KingstonCitizens.org found it deeply troubling that the City of Kingston’s Planning Director — who is both affiliated with the Planning Board as Lead Agency (meant to be an impartial body responsible for administering the environmental review process) and as staff of the executive branch that wrote the successful Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) application to secure the $10 million dollar grant to be used in part to fund the Kingstonian Project — spent nearly 15 minutes trying to dissuade the Commission from amending their agenda to include a discussion of the project and its potential impacts as it pertained to the historical, archeological and community character of the project.   The Commissioners had also requested that the item be placed on the agenda, but Suzanne Cahill, who now is responsible for the HLPC’s administrative duties, would not agree to do so.

The HLPC is one of 10 involved agencies that will have a discretionary decision to make for the Kingstonian Project. Although anyone can point out potential significant environmental impacts, it is required in the SEQR regulations for the Commission in their capacity to “state their concerns (of the)…potential (environmental) impacts of the overall action”.

In the SEQR Handbook, Page 66, “How is the lead agency chosen?” it says about all Involved Agencies:

“The agency undertaking a direct action or the first agency to receive a request for funding or approval should circulate a letter, Part I of the EAF, and a copy of the application, including a site map, to other potentially involved agencies. That agency may choose to indicate its desire to serve as lead or may point out that its jurisdiction may be minimal compared to other agencies. If it has indicated a desire to become lead agency, it may also note its intended determination of significance. The letter should request all other involved agencies to state their interests and concerns regarding selection of lead agency and potential impacts of the overall action. The letter should also note that an agency’s failure to respond within 30 days of the date of the letter will be interpreted as having no interest in the choice of lead agency and having no comments on the action at this time.”

“Dan,” said Kingston Planning Director Suzanne Cahill, as a seemingly last resort for support of her efforts to squash the item from the agenda. “I’m with you,” replied Dan Gartenstein, the City of Kingston’s Assistant Corporation Counsel, who serves at the pleasure of the Mayor. “I don’t think this item should be discussed if it was not on a publicly distributed agenda…based on open meetings law.” However, there is no reference to agendas in the NYS Open Meetings Law.

  1. Public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto shall be given or electronically transmitted to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at least seventy-two hours before such meeting.
  2. Public notice of the time and place of every other meeting shall be given or electronically transmitted, to the extent practicable, to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at a reasonable time prior thereto.
  3. The public notice provided for by this section shall not be construed to require publication as a legal notice.
  4. If video conferencing is used to conduct a meeting, the public notice for the meeting shall inform the public that video conferencing will be used, identify the locations for the meeting, and state that the public has the right to attend the meeting at any of the locations.
  5. If a meeting will be streamed live over the internet, the public notice for the meeting shall inform the public of the internet address of the website streaming such meeting.
  6. When a public body has the ability to do so, notice of the time and place of a meeting given in accordance with subdivision one or two of this section shall also be conspicuously posted on the public body’s internet website.

KingstonCitizens.org is all for good policy, but the City of Kingston’s elected and appointed officials have a responsibility to not mislead the public or its citizen volunteer commissioners at any time. In the case of the Kingstonian Project, the meeting filmed last night raises the question of whether it is even possible for any municipal body to be lead agency and remain impartial in SEQR given what it stands to gain in a public/private partnership. Maybe, but the perceived errors in the actions of city staff last night ought to be enough to inspire the Planning Board to follow the rules to the letter to insure a transparent process.

 

VIDEO TWO: 5:34 – 18:08

 

The HLPC discusses the potential significant environmental impacts as it pertains to historic preservation for the proposed Kingstonian Project.

  • The project site has the potential to yield information important in history or prehistory, such as evidence of the former presence of the stockade which crossed on or near to this site and/or other previously unknown archaeological resources. Such evidence was unearthed nearby on Clinton Avenue in 1970. This site has been identified as archaeologically sensitive by the NY State Historic Preservation Office.
  • This project involves the demolition of an existing architectural resource in the Stockade Historic District and may seek to replicate this resource, which has the potential to create a false historical record.
  • This project involves new construction in the Stockade Historic District. Potential impacts include those that are construction-related, such as falling objects, vibration (from blasting or pile-driving), dewatering, flooding, subsidence, or collapse. The project’s close proximity to two architectural resources—the Senate House and grounds and the John Tremper House at 1 North Front Street—may negatively impact them if adequate precautions are not taken.
  • New construction may impact the visual context of the district, including the architectural components of the district’s buildings in this area (e.g. height, scale, proportion, massing, fenestration, ground-floor configuration, style), streetscapes, skyline, landforms, and openness to the sky. The project may also impact the visual context of the Senate House, a significant state landmark.
  • This project proposes changes to a significant historic landscape feature of this historic district: the bluff, an important element to interpreting the district’s history. The National Register nomination for the Stockade Historic District recognizes the following:

“To this day, the boundary lines of this stockade are formed by Green Street, Main Street, Clinton Avenue, and North Front Street and are still intact. Also, amazingly enough, almost the entire bluff promontory forming the perimeter of this area, elevated above the lowland, is still comparatively intact. Therefore, of the three first settlements in New York State—Albany (Fort Orange, New York (New Amsterdam), and Kingston—it is only Kingston that the authentic elements of an original fortification remain. Documents indicate that this log palisade was in existence until the early eighteenth century, having been kept in repair as protection against later Indian raids. While this area at present is surrounded by commercial development, aerial photography has recently indicated the existence of outlines suggesting that the angle itself may as yet be relatively undisturbed. This area forms a sharp bluff and this may account for its preservation.”

 

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

 

 

 

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

***

 

 

 

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

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

By Marissa Marvelli

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

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

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

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

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

Read more…

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

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

 

By Rebecca Martin

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

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

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

 

GUEST EDITORIAL: A Landmark Day for Landmarks

By Marissa Marvelli

October 17 was a great day for historic preservation in Kingston for three reasons:

1) Mayor Noble, in presenting his proposed budget for 2019, announced that he is creating a permanent part-time preservation administrator position in the Planning Department. Members of the community have been advocating for such a position for years. If the Common Council approves the Mayor’s budget, The City of Kingston will soon have a knowledgeable person on staff to answer questions about district boundaries, help applicants with projects needing commission approval, promote historic tax credit opportunities, advance municipal preservation goals, and more.   (Click on image to review Mayor Steve Noble’s 2019 Budget Announcement starting at 15:50 – 16:36)

2) Following the Mayor’s budget presentation, the Common Council’s Laws & Rules Committee convened for its monthly meeting. Chair Bill Carey announced that the committee is no longer considering the Corporation Counsel’s draft legislation to merge the Heritage Area and Historic Landmarks Preservation Commissions (HLPC). Instead, other solutions are being studied to improve the efficiency of the two commissions, such as eliminating overlapping application reviews.  

Read more…

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.

Read more…

GUEST EDITORIAL: Beyond ‘Streamlining’ – Improving Kingston’s Preservation and Heritage Programs

Click on Imagine to review educational panel “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Re-thinking the Review Process”

By Marissa Marvelli

On September 19th, the Kingston Common Council’s Laws & Rules Committee may discuss whether or not to throw out or to table the Corporation Counsel office’s draft legislation to merge the Heritage Area and Historic Landmarks Preservation Commissions. It will be nearly the fourth consecutive meeting for which this matter has been a topic, and it’s our opinion that the Council should not hesitate to throw out the legislation and instead, continue on the promising path that they are on now.

The council members who serve on the committee deserve praise for their careful study of the Corporation Counsel’s draft legislation and the reasons why it is being proposed. After a lot of information-gathering—particularly at their meeting in July where they heard directly from program administrators—it appears the broad consensus of the committee is that merging the commissions will not meaningfully address issues concerning the regulatory review process, and in fact, may create new problems.  

And what are the issues exactly? What problems is “streamlining” meant to solve? Were other solutions considered before the legislation was put forward? No one could say for sure. The reasons repeated by city administration is that merging the commissions is a recommendation of the now disbanded Comp Plan Re-zoning Subcommittee without sharing any notes that show how that conclusion was reached. At face value, the idea to eliminate one step in the public review process by combining two related volunteer commissions would seem like a rational change. Why make an applicant appear before two separate commissions for a new business sign? No one is arguing in favor of such redundancy, but is there another way to solve this?

Read more…

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…

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.

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?

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.”

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.