Brooklyn Real Estate Management Company Negatively Impacts Quality of Life in Ulster County.

 

Last evening, we attended the Sunset Gardens Tenant Association meeting at the Town of Ulster’s Senior Center.  One after another, tenants of apartment complexes in the Towns of Ulster and Esopus spoke of the shocking disrepair, unsafe conditions and treatment of those living at Sunset Gardens (ToU), Lakeshore Villas (ToE) and Black Creek Road (ToE).  Special thanks to Laura Hartmann and all of the citizens from Sunset Gardens who had the courage to organize.

The culprit – E & M Management – the real estate investment and management company based in Brooklyn, NY is mostly new to the area, gobbling up apartment complexes that include “68 apartments across from the Rondout Creek” in downtown Kingston and a vacant parcel near the Maritime Museum to build the “Kingston Waterfront Plaza”, a mixed-use project.  There is speculation that they are looking at Dutch Village, too – in uptown Kingston.

Although the planning process in Kingston is complete for their new build downtown – with a negative declaration in SEQR which is absolutely unbelievable – we are continuing our efforts to advocate for an improved development process for our planning department and planning board. We will keep a close eye on this company and work with our neighbors to assure that if E & M and all of their LLC partners want to come to our community, it is not on their terms.

Thanks to Clark Richters of The Kingston News for filming the event, brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

 

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…

TONIGHT. Important Topics at Kingston’s Planning Board Meeting. What They Are and What You Can Do.

By Rebecca Martin

At tonight’s City of Kingston Planning Board meeting, there are three topics that we are following. You can view them below to learn what they are and suggestions for what the public can do.

The meeting will be held at Kingston City Hall (420 Broadway) 3rd Floor, Council Chambers. For items without a public hearing, please arrive early to sign-up to speak. Public comment occurs at the top of the planning board meeting.  Tonight’s meeting will be filmed by The Kingston News thanks to KingstonCitizens.org

###

 

Verizon Wireless Communication Tower in Ward 7

Item #7: #261 Flatbush Avenue SPECIAL PERMIT/SITE PLAN to install a wireless service facility/communication tower. SBL 48.74-4-31. SEQR Determination. Zone RR. Ward 7. Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless/applicant; John & Tirzah Sheehy/owner.


WHAT IS THIS?

When this item came up last month at the October Planning Board meeting,  the Board “voted unanimously to table the application and refer it to the Ulster County Planning Board. Staff will work with the applicants on preparation of visual simulations as well as a balloon test to show the height of the tower. The public hearing will remain open until the November Planning Board meeting.”  Ward 7 Alderman Patrick O’Reilly spoke during public comment (O’Reilly represents Ward 7 where the communication tower is being proposed).  According to last month’s minutes, O’Reilly was  “interested in knowing how much radiation is emitted from these types of towers. He said that there are already cell towers on top of the neighboring water tower and that this would be in addition to those. Also, he is interested in the visual of the tower and how it would look from the surrounding neighborhoods. He said that there are beautiful views in that area and he would like to know how these views would be affected.”

Of note, the location of this tower is in close proximity to one of Kingston’s public housing complexes.  

Read more…

2018 General Election Ballot and Proposal No. One “An Amendment for Independent Redistricting”.


 

By Rebecca Martin

(Click on the image to view the Ulster County Board of Elections Sample Ballot)

Attached is a copy of the 2018 General Election Ballot that includes Proposal Number One, “An Amendment Shall Section C-10 of the Ulster County Charter be amended to provide for the creation of an independent Redistricting Commission, designed to exclude political influence in revising county legislative districts, as proposed and unanimously approved by the Ulster County Charter Revision Commission.”  Make sure on election day, that you turn the ballot over to find the referendum, located on the back of the ballot. 

Read more…

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…

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…

“Strong” Turnout for Press Conference on the Proposed GlidePath Fossil-Fuel Power Plant in Town of Ulster.

Today, over 25 residents gathered at a press conference organized by TownOfUlsterCitizens.org and Pat Strong, candidate for District 46 State Senate. The group met on Riesely Street in the Town of Ulster, a densely populated residential neighborhood and ‘ground zero’ for the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired fossil power plant project by GlidePath.

“Glidepath, a company from Illinois, who has never built a fossil fuel project, wants to come into our town, and build something we don’t want, we don’t need, and that gives us no benefits whatsoever.” said Laura Hartmann, one of the founding members of TownOfUlsterCitizens.org. “They come because they can get their emissions permits easier because of our clean air.  They come because of the financial incentive from NYS of $1.4 million before they even flip the on switch.”

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…

SAMPLE BALLOT. Primary Day is September 13th. Vote!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Rebecca Martin

On Thursday, September 13th, the primary election will occur with polls open from 12:00pm – 9:00pm.  FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE.

In the City of Kingston, registered Democrats and members of the Reform party will have the opportunity to choose their candidate for the races listed below.   You may REVIEW the sample ballot in advance as well as to click on the links below to be taken to the webpages of each individual candidate.

Please vote!

Read more…

Town of Ulster Lawyer Reject Professionals and ToU Residents Request for Temporary Moratorium on Construction of Power Plants for Zoning Review.

Last evening, the Town of Ulster Town Board met for their regular monthly meeting. Although Town of Ulster residents and coalition partners/professionals requested that a “…temporary moratorium be placed on power plants to allow time to review zoning” be added to the agenda prior to the Monday deadline at 4:00 pm of this week, the Town Board rejected their request.

Because the item was not placed on the agenda, the public – who filled the room – were made to wait until the end of the meeting to address the Town Board. Items on the agenda can be addressed by the public prior to the start of the meeting. Items not on the agenda can be addressed by the public at the end of regular business.

During the meeting (where the Town Board approved one negative declaration in SEQR after another on new build projects in the town), when inquiring citizens asked questions about projects that were being discussed, they were met with eye rolls and sneers by some of the developers, town board members and even the Supervisor himself, “…so you’re asking the town board to stop development…no I’m serious. What are you asking of the town board?”  (31:55 -34:14)

Incomplete segments of the public comment period were reported in today’s local paper, having left out important points that were made. Fortunately, you can review the audio from last evening as well as to tune into some of the key moments identified below.

 

 

40:51 -43:26
Laura Hartmann
Town of Ulster resident
TownOfUlsterCitizens.org

Submits 177 signatures from a letter submitted by residents of the Town of Ulster requesting that the Town Supervisor and Town Board publically state whether they consider the “GlidePath project a “Utility Company Structure” permitted as-of-right in the OM zone as GlidePath have been claiming and; That a growing number of ToU residents ask for a temporary moratorium on construction of power plants while it considers zoning that specifically regulates power plants.” When asked when/if the Town Board would comment or make a decision on these requests, Supervisor Quigley responded, “You’re making your comments to the town board, we acknowledge hearing you. Thank you.”

Read more…

TOOLKIT AND VIDEO – Residents of Ulster County and ‘G’ Zone Counties: Temporary Moratorium on Fossil-Fuel Power Plants To Address Zoning.

By Rebecca Martin

Last evening, approximately 150 people attended our public forum and community BBQ “Living in the ‘G’ Zone: GlidePath, Peak Power and Ulster County.

We learned that residents of Ulster County and vulnerable communities throughout the ‘G’ zone have no time to waste to address 25 MW fossil fuel power plants (where local communities have oversight) in their zoning ordinances.

As promised, we have created action items for both Town of Ulster residents AND all Ulster County residents and all of those living in the ‘G’ zone.

Video and PowerPoint from both presentations are available following our step by step actions.

We would like to keep track of the communities who pursue this information, so please send any updates to Rebecca Martin at rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org


Additional Resources
:

1.  VIEW  Ulster County Executive Mike Hein Statement re: GlidePath.

2. VIEW Coalition Letter to Town of Ulster: Temporary Moratorium on Power Plants to Address Zoning Code.  

 

TOOLKIT: Step by Step to Address Zoning and Peak Power Plants
This resident action was made possible by the generous support of Scenic Hudson, Citizens for Local Power and KingstonCitizens.org

 

ACTION FOR TOWN OF ULSTER RESIDENTS

Urge your municipality to place a moratorium on fossil-fuel burning power plants while they consider zoning that specifically addresses power plants.

The next Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting will occur on Thursday, August 16th at 7:00pm at the Town of Ulster Town Hall, 1 Town Hall Drive, Lake Katrine, NY.

1.First, in towns, zoning Must Be Consistent with Comprehensive Plans (NYS Town Law §  263)

2.Please request that the Town of Ulster Supervisor and Town Board adopt a temporary moratorium on construction of power plants while it considers zoning that specifically regulates power plants.

3.Demand that the town Supervisor and Town Board publicly state whether they consider the GlidePath project a “utility company structure” permitted as-of-right in the OM zone as GlidePath has been claiming.

 

ACTION FOR ULSTER COUNTY RESIDENTS AND ALL LIVING IN VULNERABLE AREAS IN THE ‘G’ ZONE. (Ulster, Greene, Orange, Dutchess, Rockland, Putnam Counties).

To ensure that your town doesn’t end up with a gas-fired power plant proposed just feet from a residential neighborhood, urge your municipality to place a moratorium on fossil-fuel burning power plants while they consider zoning that specifically addresses power plants.

Smaller “peaker” power plants (25 MW or less) are primarily under jurisdiction of local governments, and not “New York State” and are going to become increasingly prevalent throughout the Hudson Valley.

Most municipalities do not have zoning specifically regulating power plants.

Q.  Should power plants be allowed at all in our town? Would prohibiting them constitute impermissible exclusionary zoning? 

Not necessarily. NYS courts have stated that municipalities can ban industrial uses as long as prohibiting a use is a reasonable exercise of its police powers to prevent damage to the rights of others and to promote the interests of the community as a whole.
(Gernatt Asphalt Products v. Town of Sardinia)

If power plants are permitted in your town, how should our zoning regulate them?  They should only be permitted:

•In heavy industrial zones that are designated for uses that generate significant noise, traffic or pollutants and are far away from important environmental areas and residences;

•With a special use permit;

•Subject to strict conditions related to noise, stack height, etc.;

•Subject to minimum lot size and coverage (subject to underlying zoning requirements or can create specific new standards); and;

•With an enforceable decommissioning plan requiring restoration of the site to original condition or better.

 

VIDEO #1: “Living in the ‘G’ Zone: GlidePath, Peak Power and Ulster County.”

1:16 – 15:02
County Executive Mike Hein
“You’re here because you care about something that is fundamentally wrong and stopping it…your county executive is going to fight like hell to push back on this.”

15:10 – 17:55
Amanda LaValle, Department of the Environment, Ulster County
“Executive Order #2 of 2018 speaks to Ulster County’s commitment to renewable energy and insuring more renewable projects like the Town of Ulster Solar Landfill project, as well as to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our operations and going further to expand with a community emissions reduction goal of 80% over the 2012 baseline by 2050.

18:01 – 23:13
Laura Hartmann, TownOfUlsterCitizens.org
Welcome and Thanks

23:15 – 30:00
Rebecca Martin, KingstonCitizens.org
Welcome, Coalition Partners and Panel Opening

30:38 – 53:25
Evelyn Wright, Citizens for Local Power
Please follow along with her powerpoint available HERE

Solutions to GlidePath’s peak power plant proposal in the Town of Ulster:

1.Serve the distribution system: Non-wires alternatives. ConEd is actively looking for storage developers for projects downstate.

2. Hybridize existing peaker plants. NYS has 3000 MW of very old, very dirty peaker plants that need to make changes to meet new air regulations (again mostly downstate).

3. Partner with an industrial or commercial site that can use some of the batteries’ services.

4. Storage-plus-renewables. Renewables do not have to be co-located on the same site in order to get state incentives!

5. Storage only. Actively participate in the evolving NYISO and NYSERDA/PSC processes that will change the storage market landscape over the next two years AND design a storage-one project that benefits from those incentives.

53:40 – end
Hayley Carlock, Scenic Hudson
Please follow along with her powerpoint available HERE

The role that local zoning plays with smaller power plants generally. Urge your municipality to place a moratorium on fossil-fuel burning power plants while they consider zoning that specifically addresses power plants.

Here’s how.

1. First, in towns, zoning must be consistent with “Comprehensive Plans” (NYS Town Law § 263).

2. If power plants are permitted in our town, how should our zoning regulate them?

They should only be permitted:

•In heavy industrial zones that are designated for uses that generate significant noise, traffic or pollutants and are far away from important environmental areas and residences;

•With a special use permit;

•Subject to strict conditions related to noise, stack height, etc.;

•Subject to minimum lot size and coverage (subject to underlying zoning requirements or can create specific new standards); and;

•With an enforceable decommissioning plan requiring restoration of the site to original condition or better.

 

VIDEO #2:  “Living in the ‘G’ Zone: GlidePath, Peak Power and Ulster County.”

Hayley Carlock, Scenic Hudson (Continued)

00:00 – 1:35
ToU History on Solar Moratorium.

1:36 – 4:03
Action for Town of Ulster Residents

4:04 – 10:06
Action for Residents if you don’t live in the ToU.

10:07 – 12:46
Update on GlidePath and SEQR process

13:00 – End
Question and Answer period

Coalition Partners and Citizens Request Temporary Moratorium on GlidePath Power Plant Project in Town of Ulster

Coalition partners ask about a temporary moratorium on power plants in the Town of Ulster to review zoning code, as they did on Solar Energy Systems last September.

Out ahead of this evening’s Public Forum (8/10/18) “Living In the “G” Zone: Glidepath, Peak Power and Ulster County“, coalition partners, who have been working together since November of 2017 to encourage a fully transparent, public process as it pertains to the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center (a gas-fired power plant in the Town of Ulster, NY), have requested a temporary moratorium on the proposal for the Town of Ulster Town Board to give “…clarity on whether the Town of Ulster Zoning Code (the “Zoning Code”) currently regulates gas-fired power plants, and specifically request a statement as to how the Town is treating the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center (the “Project”) under the Zoning Code.”

“In 2017, the Town proposed a temporary moratorium on the installation of freestanding or ground-mounted solar energy systems. The Town’s stated rationale for doing so was that solar energy facilities are “not currently regulated in the Town of Ulster Zoning Code.” Therefore, a solar power generation facility does not, in the Town’s view, constitute a “utility company structure”. As both solar facilities and gas-fired power plants generate electricity, and a solar facility would very likely have fewer negative impacts than a gas-fired power plant, it makes no sense that a gas-fired power plant would be considered a “utility company structure” while a commercial solar facility would not. Therefore, we request that the Town clarify that the proposed Project is not an as-of-right permitted use within the OM District in the Town.”

TownOfUlsterCitizens.org will deliver a copy of the letter with signatures from residents at the Town of Ulster’s next Town Board meeting on August 16th.

An action for communities who are vulnerable in the “G” Zone (living in an attainment area that includes upper Orange, Ulster, Dutchess and Greene counties) will be led through steps to encourage their municipalities to shore up their zoning for peak energy plants that are 25mw’s or less at tonight’s public forum.  All materials, including video from today’s event, will be provided as a tool kit to be shared.

Read more…

CoK Mayor Steve Noble Advocates for Public Participation Plan for ToU Power Plant Proposal in Rondout’s Potential Environmental Justice Area.

In April, we learned that in during the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) SEQR Scoping comments regarding the Lincoln Park Grid Support Center (a gas-fired peak energy power plant in the Town of Ulster), state officials wrote that “If the air data indicates that the project’s potential impact area includes the Potential Environment Justice Area (in the City of Kingston’s Rondout) the applicant will be required to incorporate environmental justice into the permitting process and prepare a public participation plan as described in the attached environmental justice fact sheet.”

In the DEC’s Commissioner Policy #29 Environmental Justice and Permitting, the “policy amends the DEC environmental permit process by identifying potential environmental justice areas; providing information on environmental justice to applicants with proposed projects in those communities; enhancing public participation requirements for proposed projects in those communities; establishing requirements for projects in potential environmental justice areas with the potential for at least one significant adverse environmental impact; and providing alternative dispute resolution opportunities to allow communities and project sponsors to resolve issues of concern to the community.”

In the the City of Kingston, there are two “Potential Environmental Justice Areas“. One in Uptown and in the Rondout, downwind of potential emissions produced by the gas-fired power plant that is being proposed.

It was reported that the other comments about the environmental review of the project from the state include:

  1. Finding that the project is located within an area of potential historical or archeological significance and may have visual impacts on the Hudson River National Landmark Historic District.
  2. Requesting an evaluation of whether the project is consistent with the state energy plan and suggested the developer consult with the state Department of Public Service.
  3. Noting that the project site has the potential for a “high abundance and diversity of amphibians and other vernal pool associated wildlife.” State officials added that there are also potential impacts on habitat for the Northern Long-eared and Indiana bats due to planned tree removal.
  4. A reminder that some of the property appears on federal wetlands maps and that the developer will need to conduct surveys to establish precise boundaries.

Since then, the City of Kingston has not heard another word on how the project sponsor intends to respond to the DEC’s request.  On Tuesday of this week, Mayor Steve Noble sent a letter to the DEC’s Region 3 Regional Director Kelly Turturro to follow-up.

” … I ask that the DEC send a written notice to the applicant requesting that it immediately commence compliance with the requirements of the Department’s Environmental Justice Policy, as specific in the Department’s March 20, 2018 Comments on the Draft Scope. The City of Kingston, in which the PEJA area is located, specifically requests that the Department direct the Applicant to prepare and submit an enhanced participation plan for review and approval, so that it can be implemented before the public comment on the DEIS is opened. In this way, the intent of the Commissioner’s Policy is honored, and Kingston’s identified environmental justice community will be provided with sufficient time, tools and the opportunity to clearly voice, and have their comments be considered, on the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center. “

For today, you can reach out to our Mayor and thank him for taking a proactive approach on this. Without having done so, it isn’t clear whether or not the applicant would have complied.  This will most certainly help.

Send your thanks to:  mayor@kingston-ny.gov

We’ll follow-up as we learn 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…