VIDEO: Kingston Common Council Sends Streamlining Historic Commissions and Legislation Back to Committee.

Click on image to review the legislation packet from last night’s Council meeting. Scroll down to see Resolution #107 and accompanying legislation.

By Rebecca Martin

In what might might very well be in my top 10 most perplexing processes I’ve witnessed in 12 years at,  good sense prevailed and Resolution #107 of 2018 “Common Council of the City of Kingston Establishing a Public Hearing Regarding the Possible Merger of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Heritage Area Commission” (with accompanying legislation from 5/16/18 to be sent out to Involved Agencies)   was referred back to the Laws and Rules Committee for proper vetting with a  7 / 2 vote.

In favor: Morrell, Worthington, Carey, Davis, O’Reilly, Schabot, Shaut
Against: Scott-Childress, Koop

The good news is that I think Kingston is venturing into a new kind of conversation to better understand Historic Preservation in Kingston with a secondary goal to identify best practices so to make the review process for development more efficient.

Thanks to council members for a thoughtful and robust debate.

It’s also a moment for the executive branch to contemplate better boundaries for its corporation counsel.  I hope that the Kingston Common Council will also consider advocating for a budget line to provide its own council on retainer for second opinions. With a new budget cycle coming up, it’s the perfect time to be putting that forward. I think the public might readily support that this year given this flub. The council should have staff, too. What happened to the council clerk position that began last summer and ended in the fall?

A refreshed value may be placed on the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC), with the council allocating a council liaison and/or, assigning the HLPC to a council committee (perhaps Laws and Rules) for an ongoing dialogue to allow relationships to be built and for council members to have the opportunity to get to know Historic Preservation items and issues in real time, as well as to come to a new appreciation of the work that our commission is doing on Kingston’s behalf. That seems entirely possible to me now.

Below is video from the recent council caucus and meeting with excerpts. Thanks to my partner Clark Richters of the Kingston News for his great work in recording video for this, and all of the meetings that we cover. I couldn’t do it without him.

City of Kingston 
Common Council Caucus

Click on image to review video from Kingston’s Common Caucus, 6/4/18.

21:20- End

Andrea Shaut, Ward 9 Alderwoman 

“It’s been presented, but there hasn’t been any formal discussion about it. I think that we as a committee need to answer questions and we’ll have a stronger document to send out to a public hearing….if we go to the public hearing in June, we make no amendments, which means we’re not actually listening to the public we’re just passing it through, we have a first reading and second reading. That gets us to August and means we are all content with everything…I don’t think any of you are perfectly content with how it is now. We’re not going to get this done by August (as per Corporation Council’s suggestion)…if we pass it on now, then the public has to do the legwork and I think that’s our job.”


City of Kingston
Kingston Common Council Meeting


Click on image to review Part 1 of Video from Kingston’s Common Meeting, 6/5/18.

11:52 – 16:11.  Lowell Thing former member, Historic Preservation Landmarks Commission (HLPC)

“There’s only one way to keep the historic  architecture that you have for the basis of Kingston’s future, and that is to take actions to preserve it by making a strong commitment to support the city’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission.  Unfortunately, a revision of the city’s landmarks law has been proposed that did not involve the people most likely to be understand the process of the two commissions that are supposed to be combined, or the insight of the state agencies…the proposed revision undermines the purpose of the preservation landmarks review…”

 16:20 – 23:40,  Rebecca Martin,

“There hasn’t been any request made to the Planning Department to provide a map matrix of the current city process for projects both in and outside of historic districts. Without that, there is no way to know whether or not streamlining the HLPC and HAC is the best solution for efficiency or, whether changing the steps in the sequence or a coordinated review is our best foot forward.”

23:46 – 31:04. Owen Harvey

“If timing is no longer an issue, then the legislation should be sent back to  committee for proper vetting before it’s sent out to the public and involved agencies.  The public hearing is being framed as being about ‘just getting additional information’, but the public needs to trust that the council has done its work in assuring that the legislation has been carefully considered. The Laws and Rules committee has admitted that they have not had the chance to do that because of a false claim of urgency that was presented by Kingston’s Corporation Council at the Laws and Rules committee meeting last month (NOTE: see below)…and that there were issues related to timing that his “office is not comfortable talking about in a public session.”  If the council doesn’t know what he was referring to, then it would behoove you not to approve Resolution #107…and if you do know what the Assistant Corporation Council was referring to and it relates to my article 78 petition around the HLPC’s appeals process, then voting in favor of the resolution is allowing Corporation Council an abuse of power to use this council to change a law that could impact the outcome of pending litigation. What concerns me is that the proposed legislation actually changes the current HLPC appeals process and creates a different appeals process for the new commission.” 

31:23 – 32:00   Giovanna Righini, Vice Chair of the CoK’s Heritage Area Commission

“The legislation should be sent back for further review and vetting in order to assure that we don’t lose valuable checks and balances in protecting our architectural heritage.”

32:02 – 34:08  Marissa Marvelli, Vice Chair, CoK’s HLPC

“We are eager to work with the Laws and Rules committee to draft legislation that improves the review process and improves the language and the clarity of the legislation. We’ve been speaking with the Mayor at our own public meetings before this legislation came out, and it was my understanding we would have that opporutnity….this legislation came out of left field and we’ve been working in overdrive to get information to the Laws and Rules committee that we felt they needed to consider when looking at this legislation. It goes beyond just merging two commissions. I think the corporation council office tinkered with other parts of the ordinance while the hood was up. That’s not how legislation should be crafted in our community….I urge the council to send this back to Laws and Rules for further development with the people who live and breathe this stuff.”

34:16 – 42:00  Leslie Melvin, Member, HLPC

“I thought I understood the intent behind combining commissions, though given the variety and types of responsibilities of them including the Coastal Consistency Review, Overlying District Design and Historic Preservation Ordinances, I’m not so certain it’s feasible.  Many of my colleagues across both commissions feel the same. Just ask us.  Noone’s really asked us. What we keep hearing feels true. This could work, but the Devil is in the details. I’m troubled by this process, we’re told to change quick…there will be time to improve the Preservation code in the future.  But I’m not sure it’s that easy…triage to unclear and fragmented Preservation code will only result in slightly more clear and still fragmented Preservation code. To be certain, fast tracking piecemeal Preservation code only serves short-term goals. How often have you heard – if you’d going to do it, do it right?  We have an opportunity to be really thoughtful.”

42:07 – 45:25   Ellen DiFalco

“Much to my dismay, I have attempted to review why time is of the essence to streamline the process for applicants appearing before these commissions…there are many concerns and red flags that have popped up for the inquiring public to question…I ask that you gather as much information as you can and then present it to the public for review and comments.” 

45:34 – 50:03.  Jennifer Berky, former member of the HLPC

“…What makes a good law? We consider all the factors that shape the physical economic and social features of our built environment. I have never seen such a significant decision that could affect land use in one of the States most valuable resources move so quickly to a public hearing.  When we look at model law as best practices and consider economic impacts, we consult broadly with leaders in our field. We also meet with many community stakeholders prior to public hearings about local laws.”

50:15 – 54:35  Lynn Woods

“As one of the partners who made the documentary film ‘The Lost Rondout’, a story of urban removal, I learned of the misguided polices of the 1960’s that led to the destruction of most of Kingston’s commercial downtown and also how it was Preservation that halted the destruction by creating the Rondout Historic District and subsequently the three other historic districts, City Hall, and other buildings slated for destruction…the importance of holding and strengthening our Historic Preservation laws can not be overstated. Unfortunately, the proposed legislation written by Kingston’s Corporation Counsel to merge commissions does the opposite.”

54:52 – End   Tanya Garment

“(Ward 3 Alderman and Majority Leader) Rennie Scott Childress was talking last night (in caucus) about having the opportunity to hear as much public feedback and not just the experts as possible, and we should do it in a two-part way…in a public hearing and also sending it out to the Involved Agencies separately. We should not send it out to the Involved Agencies because there are parts left out of the legislation (it is incomplete). If it goes out tonight, it will go to Involved Agencies and you’ll lose your chance for the important missing parts that are not included here to give feedback later on.”  (NOTE: Involved Agencies look at legislation during a public hearing for a local law only one time).


Click on image to review Part 2 of Video from Kingston’s Common Meeting, 6/5/18.

Resolution #107 of 2018:  Common Council of the City of Kingston Establishing a Public Hearing Regarding the Possible Merger of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Heritage Area Commission (with accompanying legislation from 5/16/18 to be sent out to Involved Agencies)

7:43 – 26:18  Vote to refer back  streamline commissions legislation and  to committee adopted 7 / 2.

In favor: Morrell, Worthington, Carey, Davis, O’Reilly, Schabot, Shaut
Against: Scott-Childress, Koop

Ward 9 Andrea Shaut makes a motion.
“I believe we do not have a piece of legislation before us that the council stands behind, as we have not had enough time. This is also true fo rate L/R committee. We have heard from experts and have reached out to us who want to voice in here.I appreciate Alderman who want a public hearing to learn more. But to send it back to committee, we do not lost the public hearing.  We gain time to hear from experts, and to make sure this is what we want to send out to the public that we can stand behind this. I’d like to request to send this back to committee.

Seconded by Ward 1 Alderman Jeffrey Morell.

9:06  – 10:33  Ward 5 Alderman Bill Carey
Send back to Committee

10:36 – 13:35  Ward 3 Alderman and Majority Leader Rennie Scott Childress
In favor of public hearing

13:37 – 16:51  Ward 6 Alderman Tony Davis
Send back to Committee

16:54 – 17:56  Ward 4 Alderwoman RIta Worthington
Send back to Committee

17:58 – 19:58  Ward 2 Alderman Doug Koop
In favor of public hearing

20:05 -22:02  Ward 8 Alderman Steve Schabot
Send back to committee

22:03 – 22:37  Ward 7 Alderman Patrick O’Reillly
Send back to committee

22:38 – 23:28  Ward 1 Alderman Jeffrey Morrell
Send back to committee

Ward 9 Alderwoman Andrea Shaut
Send back to committee


Additional Reading/Viewing

  1. VIDEO: The Common Council Laws and Rules Committee Meeting from 5/16/18 regarding streamlining commissions and legislation. (starts at 1:28 and I encourage you to watch the whole discussion to witness the breadth, in my opinion, of the council being misled as it turns out.  The pivotal moment in the conversation for a swift local law process can be viewed at 40:44 – 42:32.  A transcription of the meeting can be downloaded  HERE.
  2. “The Proposed Legislation to Merge Kingston’s Historic Commissions is not Ready for a Public Hearing.”  VIEW
  3. VIDEO: “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Re-thinking the Review Process”


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