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Established in 2006, KingstonCitizens.org is a non-partisan, grassroots, volunteer organization committed to nurturing transparency in local government through citizen engagement and participation.

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“Think Globally Act Locally” Strategies at Work. GlidePath Introduces Battery Energy Storage Facility in the Town of Catskill.

By Rebecca Martin

Thanks to the hard work (and good timing) of our coalition in partnership with municipal and county elected officials, the ripple effect of our collective efforts on the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a fracked gas fossil fuel power plant turned battery energy storage facility can now be seen in the Town of Catskill. 

Interested members of the Catskill community have been invited to attend an informational session about “Battery energy storage and GlidePath’s proposed North Catskill Grid Support Center project” this Wednesday, September 18.  If you are able to attend, please share your experience with us in the comment section here.

The Town Supervisor outreached to members of KingstonCitizens, Citizens for Local Power and Scenic Hudson weeks ago to learn of our process where we were able to share our collective story in transitioning a fossil fuel infrastructure project to a battery storage for 25mw plants in the G Zone.  The site that the project has identified appears to be a suitable one, too. 

This is an instance that illustrates the great wisdom in how defining strategies to ‘think globally act locally’ can work.  It was a model project that posed not only a major threat to the Town of Ulster and its surrounding communities, but to approximately 127 communities throughout 6 counties that make up the G Zone.  

We hope that you can celebrate this success before having to quickly turn your attention towards other important challenges on the fossil fuel infrastructure front. 

VIEW our blog posts to review the timeline to learn the story of the coalition’s advocacy. Please scroll to the bottom to start at the beginning.

VIDEO: Kingston Planning Board Special Kingstonian Project Meeting 9/11/19

By Rebecca Martin

Last week the Kingstonian project team made a formal presentation to the City of Kingston Planning Board, the lead agency in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process for the proposal. They have made similar presentations over the past couple of weeks to both the Heritage Area and Historic Landmarks Preservation Commissions’.

It was determined that the Planning Board would request more information regarding the traffic and visual impact studies. A joint meeting between the Kingston Planning Board, Heritage Area and Historic Landmarks Preservation Commissions’ will occur sometime in October. In the meantime the Kingston Planning Board is still waiting for comments regarding the studies acquired by the applicant from the Ulster County Planning Board, Department of Transportation and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

In closing, the applicant’s attorney volunteered to fill out the EAF Part Two of the SEQR process for the Planning Department and Assistant Corporation Counsel’s review. He will proceed once the outstanding comments from the remaining boards and agencies were collected and the joint meeting described above occurs.

We will be interested in reviewing this document, particularly Sections 17 (c) and 18 (c).

Click on image to review a blank “Full Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) Part 2 – Identification of Potential Project Impacts

The next full Kingston Planning Board meeting will occur on Monday, September 16th at 6:00pm. Currently, there is nothing on the Agenda for the Kingstonian project. Visit the City of Kingston’s website and scroll down to ‘meeting events’ to review agendas to check throughout the day on the 16th to see whether or not any new Kingstonian items have been added to the planning board agenda (or visit us on Facebook for updates). We don’t anticipate any major decisions to be made this month.

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Video #1 (Filmed by the Kingston News and brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org)

Public Comment
3:25 – 6:10: Gai Galitzine, Resident of Kingston
6:22 – 9:00: Ilona Ross, Resident of Kingston
9:24 – 11:06: Jane Eisenberg, Resident of Town of Ulster

11:17 – End: Kingstonian project team presentation

Video #2 (Filmed by the Kingston News and brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org)

00:00 – End: Kingstonian project team presentation (continued)

KingstonCitizens.org Challenges Kingstonian Applicant’s Zoning Interpretation and Citizen Action of New York Submits FOIL Request to City of Kingston

City of Kingston Zoning Map. The boundaries of the Uptown MUOD mirror those of the Stockade Historic District shown in gray.

By Rebecca Martin

For months, many concerned citizens have asked the City of Kingston to provide its interpretation of the Mixed Use Overlay District—an overlay that adds a 20% affordable housing requirement to any adaptive reuse project with five or more residential units—as it relates to the Kingstonian project, a new construction that does not include affordable housing. This interpretation should have been provided to the applicant in writing prior to the start of the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process.

Presumably, it should be easy enough for the City to upload this existing document to the Planning Office’s project page for the Kingstonian. If not, then the public can FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) it. If such a document does not exist, then the City ought to provide an explanation about how it assists applicants with complicated zoning interpretations.

On August 16th, in a letter oddly addressed to just three private citizens, the City of Kingston Corporation Counsel’s office outlined its process for the current Zoning Officer to issue a formal interpretation of the “relevant sections of the Code.” The letter states that any additional submissions or written arguments regarding the proper interpretation may be sent to the Zoning Enforcement Officer on or before the close of business on August 30th. 



Click on image to read the Corporation Council’s formal zoning interpretation process letter for the MUOD and the Kingstonian Project.

On August 28th, the attorney representing the Kingstonian applicant, Michael Moriello, submitted his written interpretation of the MUOD, concluding that “…there has been no waiver or violation of any zoning law 20% affordable housing requirement with respect to issuance of a Special Use Permit, as affordable housing guidelines do not apply to new construction within the Mixed Use Overlay District under the City of Kingston Zoning Law.”      


Click on image to read the Kingstonian applicant’s interpretation of the MUOD as it pertains to the Kingstonian Project.

On August 30th, the City forwarded that interpretation via email to the same three citizens with the instruction that “…written responses to the arguments submitted will be accepted for a period of one additional week.” That deadline is today, September 9th. 

So today, KingstonCitizens.org, assisted by attorney and counselor at law Emily B. Svenson, submitted a letter to the City of Kingston’s Zoning Officer rebutting the applicant’s attorney’s interpretation.  


Click on image to read KingstonCitizens.org and attorney Emily B. Svenson’s letter to the City of Kingston’s Zoning Officer rebutting the applicant’s attorney’s interpretation

What follows is a condensed version of our letter:

“KingstonCitizens.org is a non-partisan, grassroots, volunteer organization. Its purpose in commenting is to advocate for fair and proper application of the City’s zoning code, in accordance with the group’s ongoing advocacy for equitable housing, historic preservation, and environmental protection to benefit the Kingston community. Particularly for a project that is receiving significant public funding, it is vital to ensure that the project truly benefits the community.”

“In response to the applicant’s recent submittal, we respectfully ask that you expand your interpretation to determine whether the code authorizes new construction of residential uses at the proposed Kingstonian location. As this letter will show, it does not.”

“The applicant’s strenuous argument that the provisions of the MUOD do not apply to the Kingstonian raises an important question: Does the MUOD support the project at all?”

“The only authorization within the MUOD to establish a residential use is by converting an existing structure into apartments or live/work spaces. As the applicant agrees, that type of adaptive reuse would be subject to affordable housing requirements.”

“If the City of Kingston Common Council had intended for the MUOD to allow construction of new housing complexes, it would have written that into the overlay district. It did not. The Council was clearly attempting to facilitate the adaptive reuse of outdated buildings, while ensuring the resulting apartments would include affordable units. It defies logic to posit that the Council intended to simultaneously allow new construction of apartments without affordable units. Indeed, nothing in the code authorizes that use.”

“Because there is no authorization within the zoning code for new construction of housing at this location, we ask that you issue a determination that the project does not conform to the zoning code. The applicant would have multiple options to proceed, including pursuing a use variance or zoning change, or modifying the project to conform to the code.”

Citizen Action of New York submits FOIL to City of Kingston 

Meanwhile, on September 6th, Citizen Action of New York submitted a FOIL request to the City of Kingston for all communications between  the applicable City staff identified in the Kingstonian applicant’s Environmental Assessment Form and Addendum letter: 

“…copies of all records and documented communications, including written correspondence and emails between former City of Kingston Building and Safety Division Deputy Chief Tom Tiano, City of Kingston Fire Department Fire Chief Mark Brown, Kingston Planning Director Suzanne Cahill, City of Kingston assistant planner Kyla Haber and the Kingstonian applicant and development team from January 1, 2018 – May 1, 2019.”

Citizen Action also requested a 45-day extension of the review process for the Kingstonian applicant’s zoning amendment application in order to give the organization time to review the forthcoming information provided by the City. These communications may shed light on any discussions that the City had with the applicant regarding the interpretation of the zoning for the Kingstonian project site prior to the commencement of the project’s SEQR process.

Click on image to read Citizen Action of New York’s FOIL request to the City of Kingston and 45-day process extension.

What’s next?

On Wednesday September 11th, the Planning Board will convene for a special meeting to discuss the studies and comments it has received in relation to the Kingstonian project’s potential environmental impact. While it is unlikely that the Board will issue its SEQR determination at this meeting, the discussion should shed some light on the viewpoints of the individual members.  

VIEW Facebook event

Kingstonian Architect Presents Visual Impact Analysis at Heritage Area Commission.

At last evening’s Heritage Area Commission (HAC) meeting, Steve MacKenzie of Mackenzie Architects P.C. presented his firm’s visual impact analysis for the Kingstonian project. It is the first time the architect has personally presented his design proposal to the community. Included in his presentation were new renderings not before seen by the public.

Although the HAC will play only an advisory role in this case, two of its members also serve on the Historic Landmarks Commission (HLPC), a decision-making body in the review process for the Kingstonian project. At last night’s meeting, HAC Chair Hayes Clement confirmed that no deliberations would be occurring before the project’s SEQR process has been completed.

MacKenzie noted that he will be making the same presentation to the HLPC at its meeting on Thursday September 5th.

Click on image watch the Visual Analysis Study review of the Kingstonian Project.

Kingstonian Visual Impact Analysis by MacKenzie Architects P.C.

Giovanna Righini, a Kingston resident and former longtime member of the HAC, spoke during the public comment portion of last night’s meeting. Righini was one of four volunteers who stepped down this spring in the wake of the City of Kingston executive branch’s efforts to merge the HLPC and HAC commissions against the will of council members, preservationists, civic advocates, and residents. Righini’s comments addressed the general role and responsibilities of the HAC:

I know that the Commissioners are all familiar with the Kingston Urban Cultural Park Draft Management Plan, which serves as the original basis for the Heritage Area Commission’s advisory work. Tonight I am here to put a reminder of it on the public record. As you review tonight’s materials, the HAC should have a clear understanding of the responsibility of its advisory role in structuring comments for the HLPC.

Per the Preservation Plan Approach in Part V, page 28, the Review Board is clearly laid out as follows:

“One of the most potent tools in promoting preservation is architectural and design review. The areas identified above [which include the Stockade District and West Strand] will be placed under the jurisdiction of the HLPC, the City’s existing preservation-oriented board. Standards and procedures set forth in the local laws establishing this Commission and creating the Stockade Historic and Architectural Design District will be applied to these areas as will applicable provisions in the recently adopted City zoning law and preservation standards established by the Secretary of the Interior…”

Continued under Preservation Standards and Guidelines in Part V, page 35, the Zoning Ordinance is noted as establishing preservation standards, guidelines and procedures within the City’s historic districts.

“Applicable portions of the Revised Zoning Ordinance require Landmark Commission review and approval of all applications for any changes made within these districts including construction, reconstruction, alteration, restoration, removal, demolition or painting. These requirements apply to all buildings, structures, out-buildings, walls, fences, steps, topographical fixtures, earthworks, landscaping, paving and signs.”

It goes on to describe requirements imposed by the ordinance pertaining to all aspects of compatibility with existing and adjacent architecture and character. “In short, every conceivable element of significance and compatibility.”

And so, also in short, if it is in a historic district, design review decisions are the purview of the HLPC. While the HAC can and should make comments, it should also make sure to clearly defer final decisions to the HLPC.

SEQR Process for Kingstonian Project Possibly to be ‘Segmented’

On Wednesday, August 21st at 6:30pm, the Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee will have their monthly meeting where they are expected to discuss the Kingstonian Development Group’s petition request to amend the Mixed Use Overlay District (MUOD) boundaries to include approximately 12% of its project site that is currently located outside of the district. The request came in June, and council members, at the direction of  Kingston’s Assistant Corporation Counsel, outlined a required 90-day time frame to include amending the zoning law. It included a public hearing that occurred last week.

At that meeting, members of the public pressed the city’s law-makers to not extend the MUOD zoning district without first seeking clarification about the overlay’s intent and applicability to the Kingstonian project. How does an overlay district that mandates the adaptive reuse of existing buildings and that 20% of the new residential units must be maintained as affordable housing — as the MUOD does — apply to the Kingstonian project, which proposes to be all new construction without any affordable housing?

As it turns out, initiating the 90-day time frame while the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for this project is still underway would have been segmentation, which is contrary to the intent of SEQR. The Assistant Corporation Counsel has all but admitted this truth and has since stated that the 90-day requirement was firm unless the applicant requested or agreed to additional time. This is information that had not been provided at the July 19th Laws and Rules Committee meeting.

What is Segmentation? “Segmentation means the division of the environmental review of an action such that various activities or stages are addressed under this Part as though they were independent, unrelated activities, needing individual determinations of significance.”
(SEQR Handbook, page 59)

As there is only one action, or project, outlined in the Kingstonian’s Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), neither the zoning amendment nor the Common Council’s role in the matter is listed in the EAF.

IF A ZONING CHANGE IS REQUIRED THEN A NEW ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT FORM (EAF) IS TOO. It is now clear that the applicant’s EAF is incorrect. On page 3 of the form it asks: “Is a zoning change requested as part of the proposed action?” The applicant checked “No” (see image below). The applicant needs to amend its EAF to correct this and list the amendment as one of the Common Council’s discretionary actions.  It is critical that all anticipated decisions by a particular agency be identified from the start in both the EAF and the addendum so that the potential environmental impacts associated with them can be considered together.

A revised lead agency coordination letter should then be sent to all involved agencies with accurate information about all of the approvals that would be required including the zoning amendment.


(caption) Top image: Page 3 of the applicant’s EAF asks whether a zoning change is part of the proposed action. The applicants answered “no.” Middle image: On page 2 of the addendum in the EAF where anticipated decisions by agency are listed, the zoning amendment is not identified. Bottom image: Page 6 of the addendum in the EAF the applicant notes that all planned uses were permitted when an amendment is required.


JUSTIFYING A SEGMENTED REVIEW AT THE TIME OF ITS DETERMINATION OF SIGNIFICANCE BY LEAD AGENCY.  According to SEQR law 617.3 (g) (1), if the EAF is not amended, then the Planning Board as lead agency will effectively be conducting a “segmented review” of the project. If they do that, the Planning Board “ must clearly state in its determination of significance, and any subsequent EIS, the supporting reasons and must demonstrate that such review is clearly no less protective of the environment. Related actions should be identified and discussed to the fullest extent possible.”

Planning Board to Accept Public Comments on Kingstonian Studies at August 19 Hearing

From the Visual Impact Analysis report by MACKENZIE ARCHITECTS, P.C.. Vantage point of the proposed Kingstonian project from the Kingston Plaza Parking Lot at MAC Fitness Entrance.

Group Editorial

At the end of July, the City of Kingston’s Planning Office posted nine consultant reports pertaining to the proposed Kingstonian project to the City’s website. They were produced on behalf of the applicant, Kingstonian Development LLC, at the request of the Planning Board which they made in their June 4 meeting (see video of that meeting here). The Planning Board as lead agency in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) of this project will weigh this information as it determines its environmental impact.

In that same meeting, in response to a question about the estimated timeline for review, Kingston Planning Director Suzanne Cahill stated that there would be no hearings on the project in the month of August. But on August 2 the Mayor issued a notice announcing two separate hearings for the Kingstonian that month, including one on Monday August 19 in which the Planning Board will hear public testimony on the consultant reports. The August 19 hearing will probably be the only opportunity for the public to raise questions directly to the Planning Board before it makes its determination.

Kingston Planning Board: Public Hearing on Kingstonian Premlinary Studies  Monday, August 19 at 6:00pm.  Kingston City Hall, 420 Broadway.

This means that the community was given just 19 days to digest nine reports worth of information about archaeological resources, visual impacts, geotechnical aspects, stormwater capacity, building demolition, traffic, water supply, sewage, and more—subjects few of us are experts in. Feeling overwhelmed? So are we. 

TAKE ACTION: Submit a request in writing to the Planning Board that they allow the public more time to review the reports.  planning@kingston-ny.gov

Kingstonian Consultant Reports

Herzog’s Warehouse Building Asbestos Survey Report (pdf)

Green Features of the Kingstonian Development (pdf)

Geotechnical Report (pdf)

Threatened and Endangered Species Habitat Suitability Assessment Report (pdf)

Preliminary Storm Water Report (pdf)

Traffic Impact Study (pdf)

Water Supply and Wastewater Capacity Preliminary Report (pdf)

Phase 1A Cultural Resource Investigation (pdf)

Visual Impact Analysis (pdf)


SEQR and Cultural Resources

There is a prevalent misconception that the “environment” in a State Environmental Quality Review pertains only to natural resources when in fact, according to the SEQR Handbook, “The terms ‘archeological’ and ‘historic’ are specifically included in the definition of the ‘environment’ at Part 617.2(l) as physical conditions potentially affected by a project.” The Handbook explains that such resources are:

“… also often referred to as cultural resources. These resources may be located above ground, underground or underwater, and have significance in the history, pre-history, architecture or culture of the nation, the state, or local or tribal communities. Examples include: 

  • Buildings (houses, barns, factories, churches, hotels, etc.), 
  • Structures (dams, bridges, canals, aqueducts, lighthouses, etc.), 
  • Districts (group of buildings or structures that have a common basis in history or architecture), 
  • Sites (battlefields, historic forts, prehistoric encampments, shipwrecks, etc.), 
  • Objects (ships, etc.), and 
  • Areas (gorges, parks, etc.).” 

The Kingstonian project site features more than one of these resource examples. The site is in an archaeologically-sensitive area; it contains a historic building—the late 19th century hotel building today the Herzog’s Warehouse; and most of the site lies within the National Register Stockade Historic District. It is also in close proximity to the Senate House State Historic Site. 

The boundaries of the Stockade Historic District. The project site is highlighted yellow.


Archaeological Resources

At the behest of the applicant, Joseph Diamond, a well regarded local archaeologist and professor at SUNY New Paltz, conducted a Phase 1A archaeological survey of the project site. A Phase 1A is an initial survey carried out to evaluate the overall sensitivity of the project area for the presence of cultural resources, as well as to guide the field investigation that follows. No subsurface probing is involved. (More information about archaeological surveys can be found here.) In his summary report, Diamond notes that: 

“The project area borders a National Register Historic District in a location where subsurface testing has never been undertaken. Potential archaeological deposits include, but are not limited to 1) the 1658 Stockade along the northern edge of North Front Street, 2) the moat constructed by Stuyvesant in June of 1658 which surrounds 3 sides of the stockade area, 3) deposits associated with the 17th-century Dutch and British Colonial Periods, and 4) deposits of Native American origin which may be mixed with or underlie the deposits from the 17th-century Dutch and British.”

Because of the site’s potential to yield significant pre-historic and historic archaeological information, Diamond recommends a Phase 1B field investigation, which would involve subsurface testing at select locations with the use of a backhoe.


Historic Resources

In a letter to the Planning Board dated March 11, 2019, the Kingston Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) outlined its concerns about the Kingstonian project. In submitting this letter—which was unanimously approved by the Commission at its March 7 meeting—the HLPC was fulfilling its role as an involved agency in SEQR. However, for reasons that remain dubious, Planning Director Suzanne Cahill advised the Planning Board to disregard that letter as they were reviewing responses from various agencies about the project at its June 4 meeting, confirming that it was still being “deliberated.” 

A relevant side note: Shortly after the HLPC’s letter was submitted to the Planning Board, two highly qualified members—a historic preservation specialist and an architect—were dismissed from the HLPC by Mayor Steve Noble. Two other members resigned in protest of his action. Since April, he has appointed four new individuals to the Commission. (See “CoK’s Executive Branch Move to Streamline Commissions May Impair Historic Preservation Efforts,” KingstonCitizens.org, April 4, 2019)

The concerns outlined in the HLPC’s March letter closely follow the SEQR criteria for determining significance, focusing on criterion “(v) the impairment of the character or quality of important historical, archeological, architectural, or aesthetic resources or of existing community or neighborhood character.” Specific concerns identified by the Commission include the potential to uncover archaeological resources; the demolition of the old hotel building and the potential to create a false sense of history by replicating it; the potential for negative impacts on nearby buildings from excavation and pile-driving; the degree of change to the visual context of the historic district and the Senate House caused by the new construction; and the altering of a major geographic feature, the bluff, which is a key element of the district’s significance (this bluff is discussed in a recent editorial in the Kingston Times, “Building on the past: the Stockade District’s tipping point,” July 28, 2019). 

While the reports prepared by the applicant’s consultants touch on some of the HLPC’s concerns, many remain open questions. 

Suggested requests that members of the public can make to the Planning Board as they review the applicant’s consultant reports:

  • When will the Phase 1B archaeological investigation be conducted? If significant archaeological resources are discovered, such as evidence of the original stockade, what contingencies will there be to mitigate adverse impacts to them during construction? When will those contingencies be established?
  • The geotechnical engineer should provide a summary assessment of the risks posed to nearby buildings by excavation and pile-driving for the project and how such risks can be mitigated. This assessment should be comprehensible to the general public. 
  • The applicant must demonstrate in photos and engineering reports the necessity of demolishing the old hotel building. The historic building should be documented in detailed drawings, including floor plans, elevations, and sections.
  • The applicant must illustrate the measures that will be taken to avoid creating a false sense of history with the replica hotel building. The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Reconstruction state that “Reconstruction will be based on the accurate duplication of historic features and elements substantiated by documentary or physical evidence rather than on conjectural designs or the availability of different features from other historic properties. A reconstructed property will re-create the appearance of the non-surviving historic property in materials, design, color and texture.”
  • Of the ten vantage points illustrated in the visual impact analysis, none show the proposed plaza in any detail, either of it or from it. This is an important experience to understand as it will be wholly new to the Stockade. Another vantage point that needs to be studied is from the intersection of Fair and North Front Street. Oddly, one of the vantage points included in the analysis is a view south along Wall Street with the Kingstonian out of frame. The purpose of showing this is lost on us.
  • The visual impact analysis does not include a vantage point of the Kingstonian from farther south along Wall Street. The usefulness of the perspective is to demonstrate whether or not the Schwenk Drive side of the Kingstonian development is visible from within the historic district. Other simulations suggest that the north side rises to a greater height than the development’s North Front Street building. 
  • The rendered perspectives show that the North Front Street garage entrance will be on axis Wall Street making this utilitarian building feature visible from a great distance.
  • Recognizing that the bluff is significant not only to the story of the historic district but to the history of the settlement of New York state and the nation and that the proposed changes to this feature would be irreversible, what options are there to mitigate this negative impact? The applicant and their architect should study this question carefully.

These questions address only the historic and  archaeological aspects of the project. Not touched upon here are concerns about traffic, storm water management, water supply, sewage, sustainability, and the lack of affordable housing. Each merit careful scrutiny by the community. With just four days left before the Planning Board’s public hearing, it is not likely that will happen.

TAKE ACTION AND VIDEO: Written Comments Accepted for Kingstonian Zoning Amendment Through Friday, August 16.

PUBLIC ACTION: The public may submit written comments regarding the proposed zoning amendment for the Kingstonian Project to members of the Kingston Laws and Rules Committee through end of business on Friday, August 16th. READ: “Kingstonian Zoning Amendment and the Kingston Common Council”

Please send your comments to:

Andrea Shaut, Ward 9 Alderwoman: ward9@kingston-ny.gov
Chair, Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee

Include members (especially if they represent you as a constituent):

Jeffrey Ventura-Morell, Ward 1 Alderman:   ward1@kingston-ny.gov
Reynolds Scott Childress, Ward 3 Alderman: ward3@kingston-ny.gov
Bill Carey, Ward 5 Alderman: ward5@kingston-ny.gov
Patrick O’Reilly, Ward 7 Alderman: ward7@kingston-ny.gov

By Rebecca Martin

At last night’s Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee hearing, citizens provided their testimonies regarding the Kingstonian Development Group’s petition request to amend the Mixed Use Overlay District (MUOD) boundaries to include approximately 12% of its project site that is currently located outside of the district. The request came in June, and council members, at the direction of  Kingston’s Assistant Corporation Counsel, outlined a required 90-day time frame to include amending the zoning law. It included the public hearing that occurred last night.

As it turns out, initiating the 90-day time frame while the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for this project is still underway would have been illegal in SEQR. The Assistant Corporation Counsel has all but admitted this truth and has since stated that the 90-day requirement was firm unless the applicant wanted or approved additional time. This is information that had not been provided at the July 19th Laws and Rules Committee meeting.

Read more…

Decision Makers Need To Clarify Zoning Petition Time Frame and Request Written Record of Zoning Interpretation for Kingstonian Project.

PUBLIC REQUEST: Please request that the Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee collect the official record from city staff (zoning officer, city planner and/or corporation council) to show – in writing – the city’s interpretation and application of the Stockade Mixed Use Overlay District (a zoning law created for adaptive reuse projects and affordable housing) to the Kingstonian Project (a new construction with market rate housing.)

By Rebecca Martin

Over the past many months upon discovering the Stockade Mixed Use Overlay District (MUOD) listed in the Kingstonian project’s application, we have asked how the overlay, created to encourage adaptive reuse to existing buildings for housing and including a percentage of affordable housing, could apply to a new construction without the affordable housing requirement.  The answer to that question has been virtually ignored by the City of Kingston so far. 

VIEW the original 2005 SEQR Findings Statement and Resolution that established the Stockade and Midtown Mixed Use Overlay district

Then, on June 4th, the Kingstonian development team delivered a zoning petition to the city requesting a zoning amendment to the MUOD to include a portion of the project property lot (about 0.313 acres, approximately 12% of the project) that was currently outside of the MUOD for inclusion.

Read more…

Kingstonian Preliminary Studies Now Available.

“Ideally, new buildings in historic neighborhoods build on the place’s pre-existing narrative. They neither imitate nor snub it, but instead engage in a subtle architectural dialogue with the past. To achieve this requires a deep reading of the context and its significance. If a new project can’t contribute to the neighborhood’s narrative, then the next best hope is that it’s neutral to the neighborhood’s context; it neither adds to nor detracts from it. In other words, it doesn’t spoil the magic.” From “Building on the past: the Stockade District’s tipping point” by Marissa Marvelli in the Kingston Times.

By Rebecca Martin

The Kingstonian Project studies are now available on the City of Kingston’s website. There are nine of them: Cultural Resources, Visual Impacts, Traffic Impacts, Water and Sewer, Demolition, Stormwater, Habitat, Geotechnical and Green Concepts. 

The next Kingston planning board meeting is Wednesday September 4th at 6:00pm. A generic agenda is up, but you can keep track by following our FACEBOOK EVENT for updated information. We’re expecting that the planning board will set a public comment period for the studies, though that information is not yet available.

Please follow KingstonCitizens.org (sign up for our newsletter on the front page of our website) and friend us on FACEBOOK for updated event information.

Read more…

Kingstonian Zoning Amendment and the Kingston Common Council

By Rebecca Martin

As the community waits for the Planning Board to issue a positive or negative declaration in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the Kingstonian project, it has come to light that a portion of the Kingstonian site is located outside of the Mixed-Use Overlay District (MUOD) in Uptown Kingston and therefore requires an additional approval by the Kingston Common Council.

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. ) Its primary purpose 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 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 to build any affordable housing units 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. 

Read more…

“Education is Key”. Kingston Common Council Takes Up Charter Revision Discussion

By Rebecca Martin

At last evening’s Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee meeting, Andrea Shaut (Chair of Laws and Rules and Ward 9 Alderwoman) introduced a discussion on Charter Reform for Kingston.

“Education is key, but every person has a different learning technique that works for them. What I would like to discuss today are some ideas on the best approach to educate not only ourselves, but the public, as we move forward with this discussion. This document is important; therefore, it is crucial we take our time and do it right.”

You can review the video that we captured thanks to Clark Richters of The Kingston News.  Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org

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VIDEO: Special Kingstonian Meeting 6/3/19

“The purpose of tonight’s meeting is for the planning board to determine specific areas/studies which we believe will be critical for the decision making process with regard to the Kingstonian” – Wayne Platt, Chair of the Kingston Planning Board

At last night’s special Kingstonian meeting, the mood was oddly calm.  In about 1 1/2 hours, the planning board and applicant moved through their plans of what studies would be required in order for the board to make a determination of significance (pos or neg dec).  Outside of the planning board chair, only two members of the board posed any questions to the applicant, though they voted unanimously to pass a resolution for studies.  The applicant will provide its studies to the planning board for distribution in early July. A meeting will be scheduled for September for the planning board to make a determination or, to request more information from the applicant.

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VIDEO: SEQR 101 Public Educational Forum

By Rebecca Martin

On Tuesday, May 21, KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with the Kingston Tenants Union hosted a public educational forum on SEQR 101.  Video from our event was created by The Kingston News brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

The event’s AGENDA is available with valuable links to resources on page two.

Thanks to Jennifer O’Donnell for bringing her knowledge and experience on the subject to our community.

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Give Every Ulster County Resident the Ability to Vote.

URGENT CALL TO ACTION

CALL OR WRITE to the Ulster County Board of Election Commissioners 845-334-5430 or elections@co.ulster.ny.us

Tell the Ulster County Board of Elections to give the greatest number of people the opportunity to vote by placing early voting locations  in the county’s largest population centers.

ATTEND the Ulster County Legislature Laws and Rules, Governmental Services Committee meeting on Monday May 20th at 6:30pm at the Ulster County Office Building located at 244 Fair Street in Kingston. The meeting will be held at the KL Binder Library on the 6th Floor.

Express your support for Chairman David B. Donaldson’s draft resolution that calls for early polling sites to be located in the City of Kingston and the Villages of Ellenville, New Paltz, and Saugerties.

 

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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.

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