It’s not over yet. Take action on the Kingstonian project process

By Rebecca Martin

On Wednesday, January 20 at 9:00am, the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) approved a 25-year $26.2 million dollar payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) for a luxury housing development. It’s really the first of its kind in Ulster County, unprecedented not only in its size but also in providing a whopping tax break for a private housing project without the consent of all of the impacted communities. It’s a stunner, too given the new information that has emerged about the harm PILOTs incur, including the massive hit to school district budgets. In this case, all for a monolithic prefab luxury housing and hotel project to be located in our beautiful historic Stockade District.

A $26.2 million dollar PILOT for a $17 million dollar parking garage?

Although it didn’t sway her colleagues, UCIDA board member Dr. Diane Eynon stated her concerns regarding the original framing of the Kingstonian PILOT. Last year, the request was made by the developer for its parking garage. Last week, it covered the entire project including its housing. This was only made possible of course by the IDA having amended its housing policy (twice) in order to provide PILOTs for mixed-use housing projects with or without the consent of all impacted municipalities, all in order to accommodate the developer’s project regardless of the board of education’s no vote. (click on the image below to hear Dr. Eynon’s comments and ‘no’ vote)

“In the application and in the presentation of developers to this board in July they came to us seeking the PILOT based on a parking garage responding to an RFQ that went out by the city (of Kingston) to help solve the problem around parking. The way it was framed, the way it was presented to us was around a parking garage. When I look at the parking garage and the “but for” and the developer standing in front of us at our July meeting and saying “but for” as related to the parking garage…for those reasons I don’t support the PILOT.”
– Dr. Diane E. Eynon, Ulster County IDA

To understand what Dr. Eynon is referring to when she speaks of the developer’s “But for”, you have to go back to the July, 2020 UCIDA meeting where Kingstonian developer Joesph Bonura (alongside the City of Kingston’s Mayor Steve Noble) gave a presentation on their PILOT request for a parking garage. (click on the image below to hear Bonura’s “But for” explanation)

 “The reason we need a PILOT agreement, it’s all about the parking. If there was no parking garage as part of this project we wouldn’t need a PILOT agreement…if you deny the project there’s no way for us to move forward…this is a true but for…”
– Kingstonian Developer Joe Bonura

Communities throughout Ulster County take a stand.

There could be grave consequences for all communities in Ulster County going forward now that private mixed-use housing projects can qualify for PILOT applications and the IDA may override any impacted municipality who opposes it. The Village of New Paltz (VoNP) Mayor Tim Rogers and Deputy Mayor KT Tobin understood that early on and with their Town Board passed a position statement that PILOT agreements are harmful to local governments and school districts, especially now.

Fortunately for VoNP residents, their representatives have acted on all of their behalf, having been vocal throughout the entire Kingstonian PILOT process. Mayor Rogers in fact held the IDA accountable right up to the final moments of their meeting last week. Because of their advocacy, other impacted communities are starting to come forward. On January 13, the Town of Rosendale passed a memorializing resolution calling on the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency to exercise their authority and responsibility to uphold the Board of Education’s “no” vote and deny the Kingstonian’s application for a PILOT. (click on the image below to watch Mayor Tim Rogers during last week’s IDA meeting)

“Do you have any suggestions for local governments and school districts if you’re expanding IDA policy to grant PILOTs for-profit housing and mixed use where you do not need approvals from local governments or school districts who may object? In our village we rely on property tax revenue to fund things like snow plowing, fire trucks and health insurance for our staff. What will we do?” – Mayor Tim Rogers, Village of New Paltz

Unlike in the City of Kingston where on August 4, 2020, the Kingston Common Council voted unanimously to approve the Kingstonian PILOT where at that time the terms were worse than they are now and approved the Kingstonian’s $30.6 million dollar PILOT

It’s not over. Take Action on the Kingstonian Project Process.

A growing number of community members throughout Ulster County are concerned and wanting to engage. Luckily, there is still time to make a difference in the outcome and to potentially rein in the UCIDA in the long run.

The Kingston Common Council still has an approval to relinquish Fair Street Extension to the Kingstonian Developers, an action that would eliminate a city street to provide an entrance to the project’s luxury housing and hotel parking garage.

“By concluding that the Kingstonian will have little or no impact on the character of the district, the Planning Board is essentially saying that buildings of the size, scale, type, density, and architectural style as the Kingstonian already exist in the district. They are also essentially stating that there will be no change to the historic development pattern; that closing a street and altering the natural topography of the the 362-year-old settlement—a key feature of the historic district’s significance—to accommodate a parking garage entrance on Fair Street Extension are inconsequential impacts. It also sets a precedent for future development of this scale in the Stockade Historic District.” “Planning Board sees no potential impact on character of Stockade District by Kingstonian Project ” By Marissa Marvelli

TAKE ACTION: Every seat of the Kingston Common Council is up for grabs next year. If you live in the City of Kingston, contact your council member and tell them that you want to be informed as to when they will vote to give away the Fair Street Extension to the Kingstonian Developers. Let them know that you are against the closing of this important city street for a parking garage. CONTACT THE KINGSTON COMMON COUNCIL

The Ulster County Legislature collectively approves appointments to the Ulster County IDA, but it is the Ulster County Legislature’s Economic Development, Tourism, Housing, Planning & Transit Committee that makes the appointment recommendations.

TAKE ACTION: Hold the Ulster County Legislature’s Economic Development Committee accountable. Demand that they review the recent policy changes (twice in a year during a project review!) by their IDA appointments that allowed PILOTs for private mixed-use housing projects as well as to stack the deck to override any impacted community’s dissenting vote, such as the Board of Education’s “no” vote in the case of the Kingstonian. CONTACT THE ULSTER COUNTY LEGISLATURE’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE

Even though the Ulster County IDA has voted to approve the Kingstonian PILOT, it’s not too late for your impacted community to take a position against their decision to override the Board of Education’s “NO” vote.

TAKE ACTION: If you live in the Kingston City School District that includes the City of Kingston, the Towns of Kingston, Esopus, Hurley, Marbletown, New Paltz, Kingston, Saugerties, Rosendale, Ulster, and Woodstock, ask your elected officials to take a position against the UCIDA recent action to override the Board of Education’s ‘no’ vote. To help you, we’ve created a draft memorializing resolution that can be used or amended by your representatives. DRAFT MEMORIALIZING RESOLUTION LANGUAGE

Finally, in today’s Daily Freeman:

Why is a $17m garage costing us $27 million in tax breaks?
“If they could build without the PILOT, why is a $17 million parking garage costing us $26 million in tax breaks? Changing the policy of the IDA twice in six months just for the purpose of giving The Kingstonian a PILOT is not only wrong, but unethical. I would like an investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s Office into this action. I request all interested members of the county to go back and watch the IDA meetings and make the decision yourself. If you see what I see, start calling and filling out the forms as I am.” – Herb Lamb, City of Kingston Board of Education Trustee

Officials, please hit reset on Kingstonian approval
“Look at the variety of cogent arguments against and concerning ramifications of approval that your own engagement processes and investigations into it did not unearth, glossed over, or minimized. Please update your perspectives, analysis, and responses to this PILOT, and instead of ignoring and dismissing critical information and concerns, incorporate the missing negatives that many have brought to you with respect to this project and the immense tax break it was just granted. – Village of New Paltz Deputy Mayor KT Tobin

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