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

By Rebecca Martin

Please read to the end to review the call to action.

In December of 2017, the consultant Shuster/Turner Planning & Zoning Consultants, hired to lead Kingston in its Comprehensive Planning (CP) process, completed its work by submitting its CP Zoning recommendations.

The recommendations, shaped in part by a CP Zoning Sub-Committee of appointed citizens that met sporadically over the years, were uploaded to the City of Kingston’s website in January of 2018.  VIEW

There have been many concerns voiced both publicly and in private, with whispers throughout historic, planning and zoning circles about this document. Those concerns were heard, and seemingly addressed by the Mayor of Kingston, in his state of the city address this year:

“In 2018….my administration will be focusing on overhauling our Zoning Code…I want to thank the past members of the Comprehensive Plan Zoning Sub-Committee for their work over the past few years reviewing our zoning and recommending changes to ensure we are consistent with State law. In 2018, I will be launching the second stage of the zoning update and will be recruiting local volunteers to delve into such complex subjects as affordable housing, urban agriculture, parking and parking waivers, form-based codes and much more. This work is necessary in order to ensure that our zoning is consistent with our Comprehensive Plan, spurs responsible economic development and preserves our community high quality of life.”

Currently, the Mayor is determining some sort of new CP Zoning group, and a process in how citizens will be able to participate. That was a bold move, and we all appreciated his leadership on the matter then.

City of Kingston Corporation Council Submits Legislation to Kingston Common Council, Applied to the Council Laws and Rules Committee.

While we wait, on March 28th, the City of Kingston’s Corporation Council Daniel Gartenstein submitted a communication to the common council requesting that, “In the interests of coordinating the review of proposed projects in the City of Kingston, our office is recommending that the Council move forward with combining the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Heritage Commission.”  VIEW

Legislation was submitted along with his communication and assigned to the Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee that will meet on Wednesday, April 18th at 6:30 pm.

This was curious to me as “Streamlining Historic Preservation, Cultural and Design Review 5264-1” is an item in the Comp Plan Zoning Recommendations document (Part III, Section C, #4).  It is also one of the items that have been a point of contention for professional preservationists and others.

Anyone following this process can’t help but wonder – why has the executive branch chosen a single item from the CP Zoning recommendations to present legislation to be reviewed by the Common Council before a new CP Zoning group is established?

Corporation council serves at the pleasure of the Mayor, so this request seems out-of-step with the Mayor’s intent to establish a new CP zoning group, who I assume will be charged in looking at the document comprehensively before presenting recommendations to the council for discussion, debate and, passage.

This presents a confusing conflict outwardly to the public.

What does the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) and the Heritage Area Commission (HAC) do in the City of Kingston? 

As a citizen, you’d be hard-pressed to understand what the HLPC and HAC do by visiting the City of Kingston’s website. To look at the “Boards and Commissions” tab, you’ll find that on either page, there isn’t any information about their work. Only mostly a list of those who serve. To find information about either commission, you’d have to know to look in the City of Kingston’s code. There are no instructions to the public to do so, making it nearly impossible for anyone except experienced city government watchers to know.

Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, as I understand it, is a regulatory body, charged in part by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). You can review the meat and potatoes of their work by visiting  HERE.

The Heritage Area Commission, established in 1986 and overseen by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), is entirely different in their scope of work. You can review their role by visiting  HERE

It’s possible that combining them isn’t a bad idea. But there are many questions still in doing so, including the real possibility of losing funding opportunities for the city if not done properly. As a good friend told me recently in discussing the matter, “the devil is in the details.”

Approaching CP Zoning Recommendations Comprehensively.

Our comprehensive plan hasn’t been updated since 1961. Zoning to match, for as long – although zoning amendments are a regular occurrence. Is cherrypicking an item from the new CP Zoning recommendations an emergency?  If so, why? If not, a better course might be to allow a newly established group, which is imminent, to look at the CP Zoning recommendations comprehensively, and that includes streamlining commissions.

Citizen Call to Action.

On Wednesday, April 18th at 6:30pm in Conference Room #1 at Kingston City Hall (420 Broadway), the Kingston Common Council Laws and Rules Committee will meet. On their agenda, is legislation to ‘streamline the HLPC and HAC’.

We have been told by council members who sit on the Laws and Rules committee that no decision on this legislation will be determined. However, the language has been introduced and is now in the pipeline. That is significant.

Therefore, we suggest citizens who are interested in the topic to ask the following questions and make the following requests:

  1. That Corporation Council, who I presume will be present that evening, explain why legislation to streamline the HLPC and HAC has been pulled out of the CP Zoning Recommendations to start the review process before a new CP Zoning Committee or workgroup has been established.
  2. Request that the Kingston Common Council committee table the discussion for a time when the new CP Zoning committee/workgroup has completed its work.

Kingston’s Got Skin in the Game. The Lincoln Park Power Plant Final Scope Delay and Rescheduled Balloon Test.

By Rebecca Martin

At last week’s Town of Ulster Workshop meeting, we learned that the Town of Ulster Town Board as Lead Agency did not submit the Final Scope to Glidepath (the applicant) to make the April 2nd deadline.  What happened?

DEC Requests Additional Air Quality Review and Comments.

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.”

City of Kingston’s Got Skin in the Game.

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.

“If the air data indicates that the project’s potential impact area includes the Potential Environment Justice Area 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.” state officials wrote.

In the Daily Freeman, 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.

DAILY FREEMAN  “Town of Ulster gets Two additional weeks to frame review of proposed electric generator”


Rescheduled Balloon Tests Monday, April 9th at 8:00am.

“Town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley noted “that developers have agreed to find a way to conduct balloon tests that will accurately reflect the proposed height of emission stacks for the project. Tests attempted on Thursday were aborted early because balloons were popping when blown into trees, with the balloons that were seen above the tree line actually flown at 128 feet instead of the anticipated 100-foot height of planned stacks.”  (Daily Freeman)

In a letter submitted to the Town of Ulster alerting the town of rescheduled Balloon Tests:

The Project sponsors plan to fly a five (5) foot diameter weather balloon at a height of 80 feet to simulate the height of the exhaust stack of the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center. The balloon flight is tentatively scheduled for Monday April 9th at 8AM and is weather dependent.   If winds or weather conditions are not favorable, this work will be rescheduled.  It is anticipated that a red balloon will be flown at 80 feet and a yellow spotter balloon at 100 or 120 feet- all subject to field conditions.

This work will aid the Town in evaluating the potential visual impacts of the proposed facility located on property located between Frank Sottile Boulevard and Miron Lane.  The site is identified on Town of Ulster Tax Map as Section 48.12 Block 1 Lot 20, Section 48.16 Block 1 Lot 1, and Section 48.16 Block 1 Lot 2.210. 

Once the balloon is up, it will remain aloft for approximately two hours (again subject to weather conditions) to allow project representatives to photograph the balloon from sites within a five (5) mile radius of the site.

Receptors for visual analysis include the following locations based on the draft scope and a public document. One of our coalition partners, Scenic Hudson, suggests that members of the public near the following locations at the time of the balloon tests to please take and submit photos and impressions to

  • View from Hudson Valley Mall on Frank Sottile Boulevard;
    • Not sure where the best place would be.
  • View from westbound lane of the Kingston Rhinecliff Bridge;
    • Cannot stop on the bridge. Maybe the consultants have obtained permission.
  • View from Tivoli Bay State Unique Area;
    • Suggested Poet’s Walk Park instead.
  • View from Dutchess County Route 103 in vicinity of Ryan Road;
    • Not sure if Ryan Road is the best spot. May be too far south.
  • View from Lucas Avenue near Town-City boundary;
    • This is too far. Only the plume would be an issue.
  • View from NYS Route 209 in the vicinity of NYS Route 28;
    • Possibly relevant. Plume would certainly be an issueÂ
  • View from eastern shore of Hudson River looking toward project site;
    • Rhinecliff waterfront park is the most likely location. Unless they drive north along the RR. Scenic Hudson will cover this
  • View from Van Kleeck Lane (Between Quail Dr. and Ledge Road)
    • Important location. Residents should be aware. Scenic Hudson will also check.
  • Other critical receptors identified during balloon test;
    • We should all be looking for the balloons from important places in the community
  • Other locations of significance;
    • Poet’s Walk Park
      • Scenic Hudson will be there
    • Ferncliff Fire Tower
      • Scenic Hudson will be there

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



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


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

Monday, April 16th, 2018

City Hall Council Chambers, 420 Broadway in Kingston

The ICC Site Plan from March of 2018


by Hillary Harvey

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


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

HLPC commissioners cited concerns with:

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

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

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

§ 405-69 Appeals. 

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

What Are the Next Steps in the Process for the Public

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

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

Call to Action

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

Talking Points


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

Next Steps in SEQR and the Proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center in the Town of Ulster.

By Rebecca Martin

Today, the Final Scope is due to be delivered to the applicant (GlidePath) by the Lead Agency (Town of Ulster Town Board) in the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired power plant in the Town of Ulster.  Hundreds of comments were submitted over the course of 50 days, and we anticipate a copy of the Final Scope to review and to share to our readers when we do.

In the meantime, here is a 30,000-foot view of the next steps in the SEQR process to help citizens to plan.  We, of course, will continue to break each step down to the best of our ability as they occur.


The proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired power plant in the Town of Ulster

REVIEW: Follow along and learn more detail by reading “The SEQR Handbook”


1. FINAL SCOPE.  The Final Scope is created by the Lead Agency to be delivered to the applicant, Involved Agencies and the public on Monday, April 2nd, 2018.

At the Lead Agency’s discretion, comments that were submitted during the Draft Scope public comment period (February 1 – March 22) may be found in the Final Scope.

What if my comments are not represented in the Final Scope?

Commenters can submit a written statement of anything missing from the Final Scope to the Lead Agency. At the applicant’s discretion, they may be included in the DEIS.


2. DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) is released.  The DEIS is the “primary source of environmental information to help involved agencies consider environmental concerns in making decisions about a proposed action. The draft also provides a basis for public review of, and comment on, an action’s potential environmental effects. The DEIS accomplishes those goals by examining the nature and extent of identified potential environmental impacts of an action, as well as steps that could be taken to avoid or minimize adverse impacts.”

  • The DEIS is based on the Final Scope and prepared by the applicant.
  • There is no set time-frame for when the DEIS is delivered to the Lead Agency.
  • Once the DEIS is released to the Lead Agency, they will have forty-five (45) days to determine its adequacy before either releasing it to the public or returning it to the applicant for further review.

If the Lead Agency Deems the DEIS as INADEQUATE: 

If the Lead Agency determines any part of the DEIS as inadequate, it is sent back to the applicant, “…specifying the reasons for its unacceptability.”

  • There is no time-frame for when it is to be further revised and returned to the Lead Agency.
  • Upon its return, the Lead Agency has thirty (30) days to review the resubmitted DEIS to again determine whether or not it is adequate. There is no maximum time, however, for public comment and Lead Agency consideration of the DEIS.
  • “The SEQR regulations place no limit on rejections of a submitted draft EIS, other than requiring that the lead agency must identify the deficiencies in writing to the project sponsor” 

If the Lead Agency Deems the DEIS as ADEQUATE:

The Lead Agency must prepare and file a “Notice of Completion” to announce that it has accepted the DEIS and open the public review and comment period. A copy of the DEIS, must be filed with the appropriate DEC regional office, and with the involved agencies.

  • The minimum public review period is thirty (30) days calculated from the filing date of the “Notice of Completion”.

What can the public request once the DEIS is released?   

“The public may request a longer public comment period at this time as well as a public hearing, although public hearings are optional under SEQR.  Lead Agency determines public hearings according to SEQR in the following ways.

  • The degree of interest in the action shown by the public or involved agencies;
  • Whether substantive or significant environmental issues have been raised;
  • The adequacy of the mitigation measures proposed;
  • The extent of alternatives considered; and
  • The degree to which a public hearing can aid the agency decision-making process by providing an efficient mechanism for the collection of public comments.

In addition, in determining whether to hold a SEQR hearing, the lead agency should consider if there is a need for:

  • An opportunity for broader public disclosure;
  • Solicitation of important and informative comment by certain interest groups, technical specialists, or community representatives; or
  • An opportunity for a project sponsor to briefly discuss the project and DEIS.”

3. FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement) “The Lead Agency is responsible for the adequacy and accuracy of the FEIS.  The applicant may be requested to prepare draft responses to some or all of the substantive comments received on a DEIS. However, Lead Agency must still review any responses prepared by the applicant to ensure that the analyses and conclusions accurately represent the lead agency’s assessment. The Lead Agency may need to edit a sponsor’s draft responses. The Lead Agency may also consult with other involved agencies, or with outside consultants, but this in no way reduces the responsibility of the Lead Agency for the final product.”

SEQR does not require a public hearing or comment period on the FEIS.  “Interested parties or agencies may choose to submit comments on a final EIS to clarify points made earlier, or to identify comments that have not been satisfactorily responded to in the final EIS. These comments could influence the lead agency, or other involved agencies, in making findings and taking final actions.”

There is such a thing as a “supplemental EIS” that “provides an analysis of one or more significant adverse environment impacts which were not addressed, or inadequately addressed, in a draft or final EIS. A supplemental EIS may also be required to analyze the site-specific effects of an action previously discussed in a generic EIS.”  This is nothing to pay mind to now, but if necessary, it is a tool for further study.

4.  FINDINGS.   The preparation of written SEQR findings is required by the SEQR regulations for any action that has been the subject of a FEIS and are made by ALL Involved Agencies.

“A findings statement is a written document, prepared following acceptance of a FEIS, which declares that all SEQR requirements for making decisions on an action have been met. The findings statement identifies the social and economic, as well as environmental, considerations that have been weighed in making a decision to approve or disapprove an action.”

When the action is not approved.

If the action cannot be approved based on analyses in the FEIS, a negative findings statement must be prepared, documenting the reasons for the denial.

When the action is approved. 

“A positive findings statement means that, after consideration of the FEIS, the project or action can be approved, and the action chosen is the one that minimizes or avoids environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable. For an action which can be approved, an agency’s findings statement must articulate that agency’s balancing of adverse environmental impacts against the needs for and benefits of the action.

Each involved agency, not only the lead agency, must prepare its own SEQR findings following acceptance of a FEIS. Findings provide “the teeth” in the SEQR process because they articulate the basis for substantive aspects of each agency’s decision, including supporting any conditions to be imposed by the agency. Whether findings support approval or denial of an action, the agency’s reasoning must be stated in the form of facts and conclusions that are derived from the FEIS.”

When findings differ between Involved Agencies.

“Agencies involved in the same action may have entirely different findings. This can result from agencies’ differing balancing of environmental with social and economic factors, as well as from fundamental differences among agencies’ underlying jurisdictions. An involved agency is not obligated to make the same findings as the lead agency or any other involved agency. However, findings must be based on, and related to, information in the EIS record. If one agency prepares positive findings, and another prepares negative findings, the action cannot go forward unless the conflict is resolved.”’s Early Years. It All Began With a Ward Group.

By Rebecca Martin

While cleaning out boxes of old materials, I came across three of the original “Ward 9 Community Group” newsletters from back in 2007.  We’ve been at this a long time.  The Ward 9 Community Group was the effort that ultimately established as it is known today.

Enjoy these.


June 21st, 2007 (Click on image for full newsletter)

Our monthly educational forum featured former Mayor James Sottile and GAR Associates to discuss the revaluation process in Kingston.   The outcome, some residents saw their taxes double within a years time.

Minutes from a prior month’s educational forum on Sex offenders and current County Laws with former legislators Frank Dart and Jeannette Provenzano as well as DA Don Williams and more.

July 19th, 2007  (Click on image for full newsletter)

Our monthly educational forum featured the historian Lowell Thing to discuss how to care and repair your historic Bluestone Sidewalk.

Minutes from a prior month’s educational forum on GAR Associates and Former Mayor James Sottile to explain the revaluation process, and more.

August 16th, 2007  (Click on image for full newsletter)

Our monthly educational forum featured then Director of SUNY Ulster Retired and Senior Volunteer Program “Volunteering in your community: citizenship can make a difference!”   The following month, we hosted the first educational forum on updating the City of Kingston Comprehensive Plan with Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Suzanne Cahill and Dennis Doyle.  There were over 100 citizens in attendance!

Minutes from a prior month’s educational forum on caring for your Bluestone Sidewalks with Lowell Thing, and more.