Zoning, the Mixed Use Overlay District, Comprehensive Plans and the Kingstonian Project

A comprehensive plan is a powerful document in New York State that creates a framework for making important decisions while guiding growth and development. Kingston’s own plan, adopted by the Common Council in April 2016, quite forcefully calls for an affordable housing requirement in new developments:

“Strategy 1.1.2: Require affordable housing for any new or expanded residential building or development project.  The City should consider expanding the number of projects that must provide a ‘fair share’ of affordable housing. Currently, affordable housing is only required for projects taking advantage of the mixed-use overlay district provisions.” (p. 21, Kingston 2025)

The City of Kingston continued to promote that goal in its 2017 Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) application in which the Kingstonian Project was proposed:

“Housing development in the Stockade Business District (SBD) has been limited, and a significant percentage of renters in the SBD and surrounding area are cost burdened, spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing costs.”  (Executive Summary of the City of Kingston’s 2017 DRI application).

However, in February of 2019, the developers of the Kingstonian Project submitted an application that includes 129 market-rate residential units in the Stockade District. The mandate for affordable housing that is outlined in Kingston’s Comprehensive Plan seems to be ignored with this substantial project.

At its first hearing on April 10th, the Kingston Planning Board began accepting public comments for the proposed Kingstonian. To date, the Board has not provided a timeline for review, a date for when the public comment period will close, or indicated when the Planning Board as lead agency will likely make a positive or negative declaration (pos or neg dec) in the project’s State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), a decision that is meant to be made within 20-days following the acceptance of lead agency.

Since February, KingstonCitizens.org has spoken with many stakeholders about potential significant environmental impacts as it pertains to the Kingstonian Project. We have also fielded questions about the applicant’s zoning listed in its  Environmental Assessment Form (EAF).

 

 

What is a C-2 Zone in the City of Kingston?

The mixed residential and commercial Kingstonian Project is located in a C-2 zone where residential use is not a permitted as-of-right use. The City of Kingston Zoning Code for a C-2, short for Central Commercial District (§ 405.17), outlines uses that are permitted as-of-right:

A building may be erected, altered, arranged, designed or used, and a lot of premises may be used, for any of the following purposes by right and for no other: Retail stores; banks, including drive-in windows; service businesses, such as, but not limited to, barbershops, beauty parlors, tailors and dry-cleaning stores, custom dressmakers, jewelry repair, shoe repair, travel agents, auto rental offices, appliance repair and duplicating businesses and job printing establishments having not more than 10 persons engaged therein; business, professional and governmental offices; theaters and assembly halls; restaurants, art or craft studios or studios for teaching the performing arts; libraries, museums and art galleries; manufacturing, assembling, converting, altering, finishing, cleaning or any other processing of products where goods so produced or processed are to be sold at retail, exclusively on the premises, in accordance with the requirements of § 405-16B(13); public and private off-street parking lots and parking garages unless accessory to and on the same lot with a use otherwise permitted, such garages and parking lots shall be limited to use by passenger automobiles exclusively.”

Wouldn’t the Kingstonian Project be required to gain a variance for residential use by the City of Kingston Zoning Board of Appeals? It doesn’t appear to due to it being within a Mixed Use Overlay District.

What is the Mixed Use Overlay in the Stockade District?

The Mixed Use Overlay District (MUOD) was adopted in 2005 as an amendment to the City’s Zoning Code following three years of debate. (See “Kingston council OKs Uptown/Midtown loft law,Daily Freeman, 5 January 2005. ) The primary purpose of it was to ease the regulatory burden of converting upper floors in existing commercial buildings to residential use. Instead of applying for a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, building owners could apply for a less onerous Special Use Permit from the Planning Board.

There are two MUODs in the city: the Stockade and Midtown. The thinking of council members at the time was that by making the adaptive reuse of commercial buildings in these districts for residential lofts easier, it would incentivize the creation of affordable housing units. Much of the text of the amendment (which was created with assistance by Greenplan, a planning consultant out of Rhinebeck) focuses on affordable housing, which is “intended” to be based on guidelines outlined therein. It is intended to apply to adaptive reuse projects containing five or more residential units wherein 20% of those units must be maintained as affordable (defined as 80% of the Ulster County median income.) Such units are to be dispersed throughout the proposed housing project, be indistinguishable from market-rate units, and the affordable unit rents are not to exceed 30% of a household’s income.  

But there are few (if any) buildings in the Stockade that could accommodate five units or more. An analysis of these properties is likely to show that no affordable units have been created in the Stockade District with this regulation. (See  Upstairs Apartments Fail to Materialize in Stockade, Midtown Kingston,” Daily Freeman, 11 February 2007.)

In addition to promoting the creation of affordable housing, the MUOD text describes a second underlying purpose: “to encourage mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian-based neighborhoods.” (§ 405-27.1, subparagraph B-2) It seems that the Kingstonian Project, which neither proposes any affordable housing nor seeks to adaptively reuse any buildings, is narrowly interpreting this second clause as the basis for its qualifying for the more expeditious Special Use Permit application process. (In its Environmental Assessment Form, the applicant flags the MUOD as an applicable zoning measure.) To achieve this second purpose, the amendment allows “site and building enhancements that promote a mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian-based neighborhood” to qualify for a Special Use Permit. Apparently, “site enhancements” can be interpreted to mean new construction.

More on Market-Rate and Affordable Housing.

At this time, all of the residential units planned for the Kingstonian Project will be market rate, which has no rent restrictions. A landlord who owns marketrate housing is free to attempt to rent the space at whatever price the local market may tolerate. In other words, the term applies to conventional rentals that are not restricted by affordable housing laws. So while the project entirely skips over the affordable housing purpose of MUOD, it is availing itself of the special use permit perk that comes with being in a MUOD.

A decade ago, the Teicher organization proposed a similar mixed-use project— though shaped differently and without a street closure—on a portion of the Kingstonian site. It received a positive declaration in SEQR with the attendant public scoping process. In its final scoping document, the Teicher team outlined an affordable housing plan where they would “…present a program and procedures that will result in at least 10% of the proposed housing units being set aside as affordable/workforce housing units as defined in the City Zoning Law.” It also stated that “…the plan may identify any appropriate options for promoting or creating such affordable housing units in off-site locations in lieu of within the proposed development.”

It is important to note that the City of Kingston’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) application touts the goals of the MUOD and places them in context of Kingston’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan as it pertains to affordable housing in commercial districts:

“…the overlay was mapped in 2005 to allow for the adaptive reuse of industrial and commercial buildings for rental and affordable housing and to promote the development of a mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian- based neighborhood. Properties within the overlay district have certain affordable housing requirements and pedestrian-friendly design standards. In addition, the City has a goal to simplify the district’s affordability standards while allowing for the adaptive reuse of former industrial and commercial buildings throughout the city, not just in the overlay district… . Kingston 2025 identifies the Stockade Business District (SBD) as the “Uptown Mixed-Use Core” neighborhood and specifies goals and strategies specifically pertaining to this area. The vision for the SBD as articulated in Kingston 2025 is to be a center ‘for local life providing nutritious fresh food, necessary personal services, transportation and mass transit options, employment opportunities at a range of incomes, a diversity of housing options, and nearby public and private recreational facilities…’. Kingston 2025 outlines several strategies for residential development in the SBD, including allowing mixed- uses in the C-2 zoning district, and moving toward city-wide standards for adaptive reuse and affordable housing. Therefore, it is likely development guided by the Comprehensive Plan will include more housing opportunities in the SBD.”

If not now, when?

Why are only some of the goals of the City’s Zoning Code being followed? Over the past generation, public officials and members of the community have repeatedly identified a clear need to keep housing affordable in Kingston. It is why the MUOD was created. As has been stated earlier, our 2025 Comprehensive Plan also recognizes the need for affordability throughout the city, which is also in keeping with the Courts’ recognition of the requirement for inclusionary zoning. Now that we have an adopted plan that states this, it has the full force of law, as noted by the NY State Department of State in Zoning and the Comprehensive Plan: “New York’s zoning enabling statutes (the state statutes which give cities, towns and villages the power to enact local zoning laws) require that zoning laws be adopted in accordance with a comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan should provide the backbone for the local zoning law.”

It goes on to note that public spending at any level of government must be in accordance with that plan: “Once a comprehensive plan is adopted using the State zoning enabling statutes, all land use regulations of the community must be consistent with the comprehensive plan. In the future, the plan must be consulted prior to adoption or amendment of any land use regulation. In addition, other governmental agencies that are considering capital projects on lands covered by the adopted comprehensive plan must take the plan into consideration.

At what point will Kingston do more than aspire for 20% affordable housing in all new development projects, reuse or otherwise? With each passing year that we lack good planning, we lose precious time in balancing the new opportunities coming to Kingston and the pressing needs of our existing community.

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.

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.

 

Invitation to Webinar (Earn Credits) Tuesday, September 25 @ 3pm: Living in the “G” Zone: GlidePath, Peak Energy Power Plants and Zoning.

KingstonCitizens.org is presenting a webinar specifically for all planning and zoning professionals living in the “G” Zone (Ulster, Orange, Greene, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess Counties). We hope that you or someone you delegate can attend on Tuesday, September 25 from 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm.     A Q&A segment will be allotted at the end of the presentations moderated by Rebecca Martin of KingstonCitizens.org.

WATCH Webinar

Attendance to this free webinar event provides credits for the following: AICP (American Institute of Professional Planners) and NYS Planning and Zoning Board

This webinar event is brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with Scenic Hudson, Citizens for Local Power and Riverkeeper.   With support from TownOfUlsterCitizens.org, CAPP-NY, Catskill Mountainkeeper, NP Climate Action Coalition. Additional supporters TBA. 

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…

Lincoln Park Grid Support Center (a Gas-Fired Power Plant proposed in the Town of Ulster) and SEQR.

 

Citizen Call To Action 

Please attend the upcoming Town of Ulster (ToU) Regular Town Board Meeting on Thursday, December 21st at 7:00pm and request the following during public comment (*)

  1. Support the Town of Ulster Town Board to declare a positive declaration for the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center project.  VIEW our Facebook Event
  2. Suggest that the proposal that seeks to reconnect natural gas infrastructure consider creating a 100% renewable project with battery storage.

(*) Citizens are invited to give public testimony at the beginning of the regular ToU Town Board meeting on any items that are listed on the agenda (at this time, the agenda is not yet posted. We will update the public on our Facebook event page when it is available.  Please ‘like’ our event for updates VIEW). Citizens will have another opportunity to speak that evening on items not on the agenda at the end of the Town Board meeting.  We ask that citizens be respectful when addressing the Town Board, and particularly those who do not live in the municipality.  Keep your testimony to 3 minutes or less. 

###

On Thanksgiving day while making a holiday meal for friends and family, I received news from a guest that a gas-fired power plant had recently been proposed in the Town of Ulster.

“Fracked gas” they said.

In addition, the Town of Ulster had its regular Town Board meeting a few days prior to the Thanksgiving holiday where the applicant and consultant gave a short presentation followed by the Town of Ulster making a request to be Lead Agency in SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review). That gave Involved Agencies only a 30 day window starting before one holiday to another (figures) to dispute their request, if applicable.

After eleven years, I had planned to step away from my volunteer work at KingstonCitizens.org to focus my efforts solely on my part time position in Water Quality at Riverkeeper (which I love, by the way) and my music career, come 2018. The news certainly dashed my plans.  The balancing act continues!

A peaker project in the Town of Ulster.  It wasn’t unfamiliar to me. In February of 2015, when Niagara Bottling pulled their proposal from a Tech City location in the Town of Ulster,  I remembered hearing rumors of such a project and thinking to myself that after coordinating an intense five month citizen campaign and now having to find a way to move a timely charter change to address water powers with a referendum in the fall of that year, I’d have to come back to it if or when it appeared.

In November of 2017, here it was.

Didn’t Ulster County just recently install a large solar array near this location (and that feeds into the Lincoln Park substation, the same substation that would be used by this proposed project)?  Furthermore, in December of 2016, Ulster County was prominently featured by National Geographic  to highlight some of the County’s environmental achievements.  That’s international coverage. So how would a natural gas power plant fit into our progress? Who attracted a midwestern company to come to the Town of Ulster with such confidence to propose such a thing?  At the December 7th Town or Ulster Town Board Workshop meeting during public testimony, a citizen called it a ‘tale of two cities’. “How do you have a solar array project on one end of a property and a natural gas power plant on the other?”

READ the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF)

I’m about to get into a whole bunch of technical stuff to the best of my ability, only because I want readers to understand how the coalition letter came to pass as well as our call to action.  SEQR is nothing new. I’m hoping that you will recall some of this language from the Niagara Bottling and/or the Pilgrim Pipeline proposals.  If you need a refresher, you can go here  VIEW

In the project’s environmental assessment form (link above), the “Lincoln Park Grid Support Center” is described, in part, in this way:

“The Applicant, Lincoln Park DG, LLC, is under contract to acquire three tax parcels between NYS Route 32 and US Route 9W in the Town of Ulster which total 120.92 acres, and proposes to construct the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center on a 4± acre portion of the property, with access from Frank Sottile Boulevard. The proposed facility is a natural gas-fired power plant that will supply power to the electric grid in the region….The facility will include a system of containerized batteries and a reciprocating engine generator system that is fueled by natural gas, with the capability to use on-site diesel when the gas supply is disrupted. The generator system will be housed within a steel Butler building and will require two exhaust stacks for combustion emissions which will be a maximum of 100 feet in height. The system will be available to the grid 24 hours a day and will operate based on the needs of the grid, with very little operation on some days and continuous operations on other days. The facility is expected to operate an average of 6 to 14 hours per day. Fuel combustion will result in primary emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), and carbon monoxide (CO), and will require an air permit from the NYSDEC. Some ancillary waste will also be produced including used lubricating oil and reagent as part of equipment maintenance.”

On first glance looking at the list of Involved Agencies, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) seemed the best choice for a project that could be seen as a regional one, with potential environmental impacts that include air emissions, visual impacts, wetlands, the project footprint being within close proximity of a principal aquifer, cultural resources and threatened/endangered species  There might be others. As a local matter, there were potential inconsistencies in the Town’s comprehensive plan and zoning code and concerns of something like this being built only approx. 600 feet away from a residential area.

Once a Lead Agency is designated, they may make a determination of significance for the proposed action (project) as being a positive declaration (pos dec) or negative declaration (neg dec) in SEQR.  A pos dec in simple terms means that the project may result in having one or more significant adverse environmental impacts, triggering a full scoping process (to identify all of the potential impacts) with opportunities for public comment and then for appropriate studies to be identified and paid for by the applicant.   A neg dec, means that the proposed action benefits “outweigh its adverse impacts” and would move the project to its site plan without any public comment. As a side note, a neg dec allows the applicant to apply/secure any public funding that might be available to its project.

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…

Public Educational Forum “The Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline: What Ulster County Citizens Need To Know” on January 28, 2017

Jon Bowermaster will be in attendance to speak and to show his film “A Pipeline Runs Through It’ to be presented at the beginning of the event.

By Rebecca Martin

KingstonCitizens.org to host a public educational forum and discussion called “The Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline: What Ulster County Citizens Need To Know and How Local Action Makes Global Impacts” on Saturday, January 28, 2017, at Kingston City Hall Council Chambers located at 420 Broadway, in Kingston NY from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.  Guest panelists include Jeremy Cherson of Riverkeeper, Sue Rosenberg of Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline/CAPP-NY, Jen Metzger of Citizens For Local Power and a Rosendale Town Councilwoman and Andy Bicking of Scenic Hudson. The short film “Hudson River at Risk 6: A Pipeline Runs Through It” will be presented by Writer, filmmaker and adventurer and six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council Jon Bowermaster.

The event is brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org. Co-sponsored by Riverkeeper, Citizens for Local Power, Scenic Hudson, CAPP-NY, the Local Economies Project and the Hudson Valley Farm Hub, Kingston Land Trust, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Woodstock Land Conservancy, Earth Guardians NY, Citizen Action NY and Sustainable Hudson Valley. With support from the City of Kingston, the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council, Town of Rosendale, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, Ulster County Legislature and 103rd District Assemblyman Kevin Cahill.

 

VIEW Event on Facebook for up-to-date information on this important local event.

 

Kingston, NY – Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, LLC has proposed to construct two parallel pipelines that would run along the NYS Thruway and through private property—one pipeline carrying Bakken crude oil south from Albany, NY, to a refinery in Linden, NJ, and the other carrying refined products north. The 170+ miles of pipelines, together with nearly 13 miles of lateral pipelines, would impact 31 communities in Albany, Rensselaer, Greene, Ulster, Orange, and Rockland counties, as well as 30+ communities in New Jersey. The carrying capacity of each pipeline would be 200,000 barrels (or 8.4 million gallons) per day, which would more than double the number of trains carrying volatile Bakken crude to the Port of Albany at the peak of Bakken crude production in 2014.  The increase in crude-by-rail volume means that the project will also impact many communities north and west of Albany through which the CSX and Canadian Pacific rail lines run.

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What’s the Process? New Public Hearing Scheduled for the ICC (Irish Cultural Center)

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Last night, the Kingston Planning Board held its regular meeting with many items to discuss, one of which was the ongoing Irish Cultural Center (ICC) being planned in downtown Kingston. In September, citizens anticipated the planning board to make its determination in October for the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA),  but it was postponed because the ICC’s proposal scaled down its size (by 4.5%) after what appeared to be the public’s insistence for a project smaller in size and scale, and in pressing for a positive declaration in SEQR.  Later we also learned that it might have been influenced by a recent communication from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in late September.

When speaking to scale, they reported that, “The scale is very large in comparison to surrounding commercial and residential buildings.”  In regard to ‘Massing and Design Features’:  “The rectangular flat roofed façade with full width double height porches, does relate to the historic façade of the D+H Paymaster Building that was located adjacent to this site. Though the scale of the proposed building is much larger.

READ   SHPO’s letter to the Kingston Planning Board dated 9/30/16

No matter. A new draft of plans were presented last evening. The good news is that the ICC is listening. They have removed a proposed banquet facility and commercial kitchen that would eliminate parking by 2 parking spots (from 39 to 37). The proposed theater also decreased in size to 171 seats in total. There is a good description of all of these things in the attached video.

VIEW video from last evening’s meeting.

So what are the next steps in the process for the public? 

A public hearing is imminent, where the public will have the opportunity to view the new draft plan (available in the planning office, and not online) and then provide comments to the planning board for their consideration.  Last night, the client presented its new draft and the planning board announced what appeared to be a decided upon date for a public hearing of November 2nd.

According to the City of Kingston Zoning Code Section 405-30 , it states that #6 “ The Planning Board may hold a public hearing on the site plan if it determines that the matter is of wide public interest. If such a hearing is held, it shall be held within 62 days of the official submission date of the application, and notice shall be given at least five days prior to the date of such hearing by publication in the official City newspaper.”

If we are correct, that means that the planning board has 62 days to orchestrate a public hearing.  In this case based on a November 2nd public hearing, there are only 12 business days to respond and, according to comments made in the video, a final draft plan isn’t yet complete for your review even though the clock is already ticking.

So how does the planning board conclude review time before public comment? What’s their process and in this case, does it provide ample time for all parties involved?  It all seems so arbitrary even if it isn’t.

Finally, in an article released by the Daily Freeman today about the meeting last night, we were disheartened by the headline,  “Irish Cultural Center attorney says opponents of Kingston project are ‘dishonest’“.   After reviewing video from last night, we realized that Mr. Pordy’s comments were not taken out of context. In our 10 years of doing this work,  we can tell you that citizens truly advocating for their community are not dishonest. They deserve respect, and are wading through a maze of new information while trying to understand how city government works. It’s a very steep learning curve, and the majority of citizens that we have had the privilege in getting to know all want nothing more than to support their city’s best interests where they live and do business.   –  RM