Kingston Council Laws and Rules Committee Continue to Discuss the Executive Branch’s Decision to not Enforce “Building/Zoning” Law

By Rebecca Martin

In April, community members impacted by the proposed Irish Cultural Center (ICC) located at 32 Abeel Street in the Rondout co-authored a letter to the Common Council Laws and Rules Committee ostensibly asking, “Why does the City of Kingston have laws on its books that it won’t enforce?”   The letter was referring to a recent decision by the Building Safety and Code Enforcement Department guided by the Executive Branch’s Corporation Counsel in the City of Kingston, where it was determined that the ICC’s expired permit (the third since 2011) would not be upheld due to the city not having found  “… an instance of its usage” and that it would be “unfair to arbitrarily enforce said article by invalidating (the ICC’s) building permit.”

The Laws and Rules Committee took up the question at its May meeting where they decided to send an inquiry to the Director of Building Safety and Code Enforcement.  In an email, Chairman of the Council’s Laws & Rules Committee and Ward 1 Alderman Jeffrey Ventura-Morrell asked, “In your letter to the developers, you mentioned that you found no previous instance of its (the article’s) enforcement and therefore you determined that it would be unfair and arbitrary to enforce it in this instance. Can you please expand on why you reached that conclusion?”

The Director replied, “Following a review of a number of files, conversations with current staff and speaking with former inspectors, no one could remember an instance when a permit had been invalidated for this reason. Building Safety issued 1350 permits last year and we have no mechanism to alert us when each permit has reached the six months’ revocation limit. The recognition of a permit’s potential invalidation date is only the first step in the process. An actual inspection of the premises would be needed to verify the presence or absence of construction work. I am of the belief that this code, if strictly enforced, would overwhelm the capacity of the department and frankly is not necessary.”

What is notable here is that the Building Safety, with guidance from the Executive Branch’s Corporation Counsel, provided two explanations.  In his letter dated March 10 to the ICC, the law would not be upheld because the city hadn’t used it before and concluded that it would be unfair to the applicant if it were enforced.  In the June 2 reaction to the chair of the Laws and Rules Committee’s inquiry, the reason was because of a lack of mechanism to alert his department of the six month expiration for each permit that they have approved. 

It’s problematic for Kingston going forward, as enforcement of the law is critical. If the law is flawed, then it should be reformed.  Additionally, in the 21st century, technology must exist to provide a ‘mechanism’ that would allow the City of Kingston Building Department to assure compliance of all of its 1,350 approved building permits. (Note to City: Check out Airtable)

The City of Kingston’s Common Council Laws & Rules Committee will continue the discussion “Building / Zoning Laws” during their remote meeting on Wednesday, June 17th at 6:30pm.

You can dial in using your phone:

United States (Toll Free): 1 877 568 4106 
United States: +1 (646) 749-3129 
Access Code: 325-387-989

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We are pleased to have been provided permission to repost Lynn Woods’s recent article in Hudson Valley One “Despite delays, Kingston’s Irish Cultural Center gets another reprieve from building safety”.  

Below is the original, unedited version.

UNEDITED: The Tale of a Pit: Despite delays, Irish Cultural Center Gets Another Reprieve from Building Safety/Hudson Valley One/by Lynn Woods/May 25, 2020

Neighbors refer to it as “the pit.” Excavated two years ago, the site of the Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley (ICCHV), at 32 Abeel Street in Kingston’s Rondout, is an eyesore for all who venture up Company Path and has been a safety hazard for the neighboring properties. First proposed in 2011, the 16,000-square-foot structure, which would include a pub, exhibit space, 171-seat theater, and classrooms, has yet to be built. A couple of times, its backers have gone through the process of approval, only to fail to properly renew or apply for the required building permit—and then got a reprieve from the city. The latest instance of this occurred in March, when the Building Safety Department extended the ICCHV’s building permit, even though the ICCHV hadn’t done any work on the site as the city code requires.

The ICCHV received its building permit on June 18, 2019. According to City Code Chapter 172, Article 172-5:I, work must commence within six months of issuance of the permit, or the permit will be revoked. The ICCHV hadn’t done any work by mid December, when six months had passed, but instead of revoking the permit as the law requires, the Building Safety and City Engineering Department extended it to June 17 of this year.

The decision to extend the permit was documented in a letter dated March 10, 2020, from Stephan Knox, the city’s Director of Building Safety & Zoning Enforcement, to William Kearney, president of the ICCHV. Knox wrote that neither his department nor the City Engineering Department could confirm that work had been done at the site since issuance of the permit, and he cited the code that required this. But because “a review of building department files has not revealed an instance of its usage”–Chapter 172, Article 172-5:I was put on the books less than two years ago–Knox wrote that his department had determined “it would be unfair to arbitrarily enforce said Article by invalidating the building permit #19564 at this time.” 

Fed up with the ICCHV’s continued negligence of the site—the silt fencing has collapsed in places, temporary metal fencing along the perimeter has not been replaced after more than a year, and a section of city-owned historic bluestone retaining wall along Company Path that collapsed due to the excavation still has not been repaired, as the Kingston Planning Board required—a group of citizens sent a letter to Common Council President Andrea Shaut on April 22 asking the Common Council to look into why the group allege the law wasn’t followed (full disclosure: this reporter was one of the signatories on the letter). In response, the Common Council’s Laws and Rules Committee discussed the building permit extension at its May 20 meeting. Members of the committee agreed to investigate, pledging to further address the issue once it had more information at a future meeting. 

“This is the first time we know of that the law was not enforced,” said Shaut at the meeting. “If the law is not strong enough to be enforced, as lawmakers we should consider amending it.” Reynolds Scott-Childress, Ward 3 alderman, and Jeffrey Morell, chair of the committee and Ward 1 alderman, agreed to follow up by examining the relevant legislation and contacting the building department for more information. 

In a subsequent email to this reporter, Morell wrote, “if it was a requirement for any new portion of the code to have a precedent in order to be enforceable, then no new portion of the code would be enforced, so I’m really interested to find out why he [Knox] came to this conclusion. And, if we find out that this portion of the code is in fact arbitrary then we as lawmakers have a responsibility to look into amending it.”

In their letter, the Kingston residents challenged the Building Safety Department’s reasoning for extending the permit. “Requiring historical instances of usage as a criteria for enforcement would mean that any new or modified ordinance, rule, regulation and local law put forth by the Common Council and approved by the mayor would be unenforceable because there would be no instances of ‘usage,’” it noted. “New codes could never meet this criteria…the same is true of codes which are updated, since they obviously would have no precedent of usage either.” 

“Building Safety isn’t following the law,” said Barbara Scott, a signatory of the letter. “Nowhere does it say these things are up for a discretionary decision. And they didn’t spell out their criteria as to how they came to that decision. It’s especially egregious because of the lack of straightforwardness the ICCHV developers have shown.” 

Initially, ICCHV neighbors Owen and Hillary Harvey had intended to appeal Building Safety’s extension of the permit with the Zoning Board of Appeals. But they dropped their appeal and instead chose to bring up the issue with the Common Council, in the form of the letter, reasoning that as the city’s legislative body it is the Common Council, not Building Safety, that decides if a law is enforceable or not. “If there are safety laws in Kingston that are not enforceable, then the public is not safe, and the Council as the legislative body has the oversight to address that,” Owen Harvey wrote in an email. 

At the Common Council meeting, Kingston’s assistant corporation counsel Dan Gartenstein said the Harveys’ decision to drop their appeal was problematic. “The Harveys exercise a right to file an appeal, which is required under the code,” he said. “The Zoning Board of Appeals was prepared to hear their appeal, but they withdrew it. The Zoning Board of Appeals would have heard testimony from the Building Department, along with legal arguments presented by the ICCHV and the Harveys. We could then decide the real issue of what constituted work [at the site].” 

But Gartenstein’s contention that work was done on the site “is not factual,” Owen Harvey told this reporter. “The Building Safety and City Engineering Department had both determined that work hadn’t been done and the permit was technically invalid, but because this code involving time limits had never been enforced before, they weren’t going to enforce it,” he said. Indeed, the March 10 letter to the ICCHV signed by Knox points to the ICCHV’s notable lack of progress. “An extension of the building permit would be required to continue construction after June 17, 2020. Considering the miniscule headway made to date, an application for a permit extension would receive an unfavorable recommendation for approval absent substantial progress with respect to construction of the concrete foundation structure. You should also be aware that the inability to secure a building permit or permit extension would necessitate resubmitting the project for Planning Department review,” Knox wrote.  

The letter also alluded to the problems that have plagued the site, which include two violations issued by the Building Safety Department. One was issued in August 2018, after eroding soil and rocks from the site spilled onto Company Path, blocking access along the public walkway, which abuts the ICCHV site on the south, and damaging neighbor Deanna Baum’s driveway. Building Safety required the ICCHV to install terraced silt fencing on the eroding land as well as temporary metal fencing along the perimeter of the site. The second was issued eight months later in April 2019, after the Harvey’s seven-year-old son nearly fell into the 12-foot-deep pit when he was playing on the Harvey’s property and the ground collapsed beneath him. The Harveys and Baum said the site continues to be a hazard, given how the excavation, which extends all the way to both property lines, has destabilized their land. The Harveys have forbidden their three children, two of whom are under age 12, from going onto their section of lawn adjoining the pit. 

Baum’s patio is literally hanging off the edge of what is now a cliff bordering her property. “Living next to it is a nightmare,” she said. The excavation “chopped off my patio,” cracking the bluestone paving and causing a sinkhole to form, she said. While a rep from the ICCHV repaired “the huge gap” that appeared in her driveway after the excavation, no one from the ICCHV has fixed her patio, which she claims would cost $50,000, requiring construction of a massive retaining wall along the edge of the excavation site to stabilize it. 

Knox’s letter to ICCHV’s Kearney acknowledges the continuing hazards. “Regular inspection of the site, particularly following rainstorms, is still required with any severe erosion issues corrected immediately,” he wrote. “Site safety also remains a concern so security fencing must also be inspected frequently for stability.” 

In a May 13, 2019 Kingston Times article entitled “With a Giant Hole in the ground and clock ticking, questions remain about Irish Cultural Center’s ability to pay for the project,” Jesse Smith reported that “Mayor Steve Noble and City Planner Suzanne Cahill have both said that they would like to see construction get underway soon and raised the possibility that the ICCHV could be required to fill in the excavation if it did not.” Around that time, the Harveys met with the mayor, who told them “he was going to fill the hole to ensure the safety of our children if no work got started,” according to Owen Harvey. “The risk is still there, and it’s disheartening.”

Emails sent by this reporter to the city’s communications director Summer Smith went unanswered as of press time.  

The building permit extension follows a string of controversial decisions made by the city to approve the 16,000-square-foot cultural center, which is located in a historic district. Though Abeel Street is zoned residential, the Zoning Board of Appeals gave the ICCHV a zoning variance, claiming it abutted West Strand, which is zoned commercial (the site is actually adjacent to Company Hill path, which climbs the city-owned slope of land above West Strand). The Kingston Planning Board also gave the project a parking waiver, allowing it to have a fraction of the parking spaces a structure of that size would normally require, and the Zoning Board of Appeals overruled the city’s Historic Preservation Landmark Commission’s rejection of the ICCHV’s plan, which was based on the building’s large size and failure to conform to the historic character of the area. 

After getting site approval from the city, the ICCHV excavated the site in the spring of 2018—but then failed to get a permit for construction within the required six-month time frame. It went through the approval process a second time and was granted a permit last June. The ICCHV excavated the site without a permit—a deficiency in the city code that has since been remedied, with excavations only allowed if they are accompanied by a permit for a foundation–and failed to comply with state standards under the Department of State, nor was subject to any oversight, according to Owen Harvey. “We’ve lost part of our yard because of the irresponsible excavation allowed by the city,” he said. 

Despite the repeated delays, ICCHV president William Kearney told this reporter the project was on track. “Everything’s set,” he said. “As soon as the state lets us”—presumably this week; the state’s prohibition on construction and other activities due to the Covid-19 virus will be lifted on May 26—“we’ll be ready to go on phase one,” which he explained is for the foundation and the building (an extension of the permit, which is for the foundation, would be required for the building). Although Kearney refused to provide details, beyond mentioning the ICCHV would apply for LEED certification, he said the project is “fully funded.” 

When I reported on the project for an article in the Kingston Times back in 2016, Bob Carey, then the ICCHV director, said the total project cost was $8 million, “which would be raised through a combination of grants, donations and borrowed money.” The cost of the foundation is estimated at $200,000 but it wasn’t until this March, according to the newsletter published by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a membership organization that established the ICCHV, that the ICCHV received a signed commitment letter of the loan from Ulster Savings Bank. 

In his May 13, 2019 article, Jesse Smith reported that according to a 2016 project summary submitted to the New York State Dormitory Authority as part of a grant application, the total projected cost of the center is $4.68 million. The summary lists funding sources as $2 million in state grants, including $1.5 million from Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (who also provided the money to the ICCHV to purchase the site) and $500,000 from state Senator George Amedore.

Tom Hoffay, grants director for Assemblyman Cahill, confirmed that the state assemblyman was still committed to helping fund the project. “Our office has been working closely with the Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley to advance their project and secure the state grant for which they successfully applied some time ago,” he wrote in an email. “We are pleased to learn that the planning process and construction preparation is advancing, that they are seeking the highest level of environmental recognition for their project – LEED status – and that they are proceeding apace, particularly in view of obstacles that they have been obligated to overcome by individual opponents of the project.”   

Asked whether the fiscal crisis caused by the pandemic threatened the amount of state funding, Hoffay responded, “We fully expect that the grants that our office and the office of Senator George Amedore helped secure for the organization will be fully awarded at the appropriate time.

“Assemblymember Cahill continues to have full faith and confidence in ICCHV President William Kearney, as well as the almost exclusively volunteer team of professional contractors who are demonstrating great patience and fortitude in sticking with this project.”

Rondout resident Scott had a different view of the project. “The general problem is the ICCHV has not operated in good faith. They haven’t been willing to negotiate in terms of what the neighborhood would like to see. They’ve never had enough money to make this a reality. This has been a fantasy project.” 

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

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

By Rebecca Martin

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

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

Read more…

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

By Rebecca Martin

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

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

The developers for the Kingstonian tabled their project yesterday afternoon.

Read more…

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

By Marissa Marvelli

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

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

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

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

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

Read more…

VIDEO: Kingston Planning Board – ICCHV, Verizon Communication Tower, “Super Garage” Proposal

By Rebecca Martin

There was a big turn-out at last evening’s Planning Board meeting, where several items of interest were discussed. They included a Communications Tower being proposed near Colonel Gardens (a public housing complex in Ward 7);  The Irish Cultural Center’s (ICCHV) site plan public hearing; and a new proposed project, the ‘Super Garage’ located in the Rondout, Kingston. 

Here are highlights. 

The outcomes were mostly predictable.  The proposed Communications Tower was tabled while the applicant performs a balloon test for visual impacts and looks at a secondary site in the Town of Ulster; the ICCHV was also tabled, although there was some confusion from the public as to what they were expected to comment on without materials or any communication/guidance by the planning department, and the “Super Garage” project and lot line revisions were both tabled as well.

We asked the planning board to table the proposed communication tower project (which they were going to do anyway), in light of learning about New Hempstead’s model law for cell towers.  In order to allow the Kingston common council to analyze the overall planning issue and to decide where and under what conditions tower constructions may proceed, a brief moratorium on cell towers given our ongoing comprehensive plan and zoning amendment work could be requested.

VIEW
Model Law (New Hempstead)

VIEW
NYSDOS Recommendation on Communication Towers

VIEW 
NYSDOS Moratoria on Land Use

Robert Iannucci, the project applicant for the “Super Garage” project, will host a public informational hearing on Thursday, December 6th at 6:00pm at the Cornell Steamboat Building located at 108 East Strand in the Rondout.

VIEW
Facebook Event on “Super Garage” Public Informational Hearing

Read more…

The Irish Cultural Center Gets a Pass to Move on to Site Plan Review

 

 

Click on the image of the map provided in the ICC’s FEAF regarding their parking waiver request.

CITIZEN CALL TO ACTION

Attend the Planning Board’s public hearing and speak to the ICC’s Site Plans and Parking Waiver.

WHEN:
Monday, April 16th, 2018
6:00pm

WHERE:
City Hall Council Chambers, 420 Broadway in Kingston

VIEW
The ICC Site Plan from March of 2018

 

by Hillary Harvey

On March 8, 2018, the Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley (ICC) got a pass from the City of Kingston’s Zoning Board of Appeals to move on to the Planning Board’s Site Plan Review when it overturned another City Commission’s decision.

BACKGROUND

In what appears to be the City of Kingston’s first-ever appeal of a Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) decision, the ICC appealed the September 25th, 2017, decision by the HLPC to deny the application a preservation notice of action, the approval necessary for the application to obtain a building permit from Kingston Building and Safety.  HLPC commissioners cited concerns

HLPC commissioners cited concerns with:

  • the width of the building
  • the proposal’s harmony with existing buildings and the desired character of the neighborhood
  • relation of the proposed building to neighboring buildings surrounding it
  • and proportion (how it fits in overall with the district)

The Zoning Board of Appeals heard evidence on the appeal and decided that the HLPC had approved the application in the past. They rendered their decision to overturn the HLPC’s decision and issue the preservation notice of action itself on March 8, 2018..

We looked for another instance where an HLPC decision was appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals in the City of Kingston but weren’t able to find any evidence of one.  The City’s Corporation Counsel together with the ICC’s lawyer determined that next step in an appeals process from their interpretation of the City’s Zoning Law for the HLPC:

§ 405-69 Appeals. 

Any person aggrieved by an action of the Commission in disapproving or limiting a preservation notice of action application and the Zoning Board’s support of such Commission action may bring a proceeding to review in a manner provided by Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules in a court of record on the ground that such decisions are illegal, in whole or in part.

What Are the Next Steps in the Process for the Public

On March 19th, 2018, the ICC returned to the City of Kingston’s Planning Board for Site Plan Review and a Parking Waiver request.  The Planning Board decided at that meeting to schedule a public hearing on those two elements of the application to be held on Monday, April 16th. 

The Site Plan has been updated to address some of the comments from the HLPC. The ICC is required by the City to provide 55 parking spaces, based upon calculations of the square footage of the building.  The ICC is offering to provide 8 parking spaces in a private parking lot next to the proposed building.  They are requesting a Parking Waiver for the remaining 47 spaces based on the availability of municipal and street parking within 400 feet of the ICC property.

Call to Action

Citizens are invited to attend the Planning Board’s public hearing and speak to the ICC’s Site Plans and Parking Waiver on Monday, April 16th, 2018, beginning at 6:00 pm. Kingston City Hall is located at 420 Broadway in Kingston.

Talking Points

PARKING:

*The ICC would be but one element of commercial activity in the Rondout.  Nearby restaurants, museums, and waterfront attractions already compete for parking.  The ICC’s proposed uses and inability to provide sufficient parking for itself would increase stress on other local businesses and Rondout economic development.

*The Rondout neighborhood is a deeply residential neighborhood where the majority of housing does not have driveways and residents rely upon street and municipal parking, particularly in the event of snow emergency parking restrictions.  The ICC would greatly increase stress on residents in relying heavily on municipal and street parking by preventing them from finding parking near their homes.

*The ICC’s proposal to use municipal lots for their parking needs would take away from mandated public access to the Marina and other water-based activities as outlined in the LWRP.

SAFETY (We don’t want the construction site to become an attractive nuisance.):

* The construction site needs to be secured with sturdy fencing or security guard every day.

ACCESS:

* Any closure of Company Hill Path will affect business and restrict public access to a National Register of Historic Places site.

LOGISTICS:

* What kind of funding do they have to complete the construction in a timely manner?
* What is their timeframe for construction?  What happens if they don’t meet the timeframe?

REQUEST:

  1. Don’t make a decision on the application on the same night as the public hearing.  The Planning Board members need time to digest the information submitted at the public hearing and in some cases, may need to conduct further research.  A vote that evening would appear to be a rush to approve the project.
  2. Deny the parking waiver.
  3. If site plan approval is granted, it should be contingent upon:
    1. No banquet hall use allowed, as the ICC promised.
    2. No noise permits granted and no outside speakers.
    3. No uses not fully enclosed in a structure allowed.
    4. Additional changes to the exterior should be reviewed by the HLPC.
    5. Only upon satisfactory answers to safety, access, and funding questions above.


Hillary Harvey is a journalist, and a zoning code activist, working for transparency and responsible development that considers the welfare of residents and small businesses. Together with her neighbors, she runs Grow the R-T Responsibly , a neighborhood collective dedicated to that cause.  A yogi and devoted traveler, she lives in an old house in Kingston’s historic Rondout district with her college sweetheart and their three muses.

A More Democratic Approach to Public Meeting Discussions in the City of Kingston.

By Hillary Harvey
hillary@kingstoncitizens.org

The Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) recently chose to change its format to allow the public an opportunity to participate on applications in real time, creating a more democratic format for both the applicant and the public. The changes provide a model of a more participatory meeting format that all City of Kingston boards, committees and commissions  might consider applying.

Currently, in the City of Kingston, the majority of committees and subcommittees offer public speaking at the discretion of the committee chair.  It is possible to reach out to the chair ahead of a meeting to let him/her know that citizens would like time to present comments or questions.

Read more…

Understanding the Latest Changes to the Irish Cultural Center

WHAT
Come to the public hearing at City Hall, Council Chambers, on Monday, July 10th at 6:00 pm, and weigh in on the latest changes to the proposed  Irish Cultural Center (ICC) project.

WHERE
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway
Kingston, NY
Council Chambers (top floor)

WHEN
Monday, July 10th
6:00 pm
Sign-up to speak at 5:45pm

If you can’t attend the meeting, you can submit the comments in the body of this EMAIL and any other additional concerns you might have. The email will go directly to the Kingston Planning Board and City of Kingston.  We will receive a copy, too, and will compile a packet to submit to the Board at the public hearing on July 10th.

Deadline for email submissions is July 7th.

WHY
Public input on this project proposal so far has helped to make for a stronger Irish Cultural Center proposal. The public needs to keep weighing in until the project fully fits the Kingston waterfront community, or the ICC determines another location that is suited to their goals.

 

 

By Hillary Harvey 

The Irish Cultural Center proposed for Abeel Street on the Rondout in Kingston has just come back to the Planning Board with the latest in a series of updates to their project site plan.

ICC Site Plans, March 8, 2017     VIEW
Floor Plans, March 2, 2017      VIEW

Included are responses to the State Historic Preservation Office, the City of Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the Ulster County Planning Board, all of which were presented at the June 12th City of Kingston Planning Board meeting.

VIDEO: Planning Board Meeting 6/12/2017   VIEW

 

What the ICC Looks Like Now.

The Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley is proposed to be a 16,213 square foot newly constructed building on a 0.43-acre parcel at 32 Abeel Street with rights, granted by the City of Kingston’s Zoning Board of Appeals, to follow the zoning for West Strand Street.  New designs indicate a red, brick building of three stories measuring 49.5′ from the Company Hill Path side (South Elevation), with one story underground on the Abeel Street side (North Elevation).  There would also be an elevator accessible roof garden, with outdoor seating and a 12’ tall room that rises above the height of the building.  On the Company Hill Path side, there would be three full balconies with exterior gathering space that each run the width of the building.  The building would be a “community center” with a 171-seat theater, exhibition space, commercial kitchen, 70-seat pub/restaurant, flex space, offices for the ICC and the Ancient Order of Hibernians (the ICC’s parent organization), radio station, map room, etc.  The project would have 8 on-site parking spots and seek a parking waiver from the Planning Board for 47 parking spaces.

There will be a public hearing on these changes at the City of Kingston’s Planning Board meeting on July 10th, during their regular meeting, and comments can be made via email to the Planning Board before July 7th.  We encourage everyone to weigh in.

Read more…