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.

Here’s a quick summation of the key points from the meeting:

  1. The planning board as lead agency presented potential impacts to the applicant submitted by New York State (State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Department of Transportation (DOT)) as the key potential impacts for the applicant to study.  The Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC), also attached, we learned was being ‘deliberated’ and therefore, any recommendations that they made (outside of any similarities to SHPO) were not included in the planning board’s resolution.
  2. The pedestrian bridge that connects two buildings on Fair Street (not to Herzog’s Plaza) was voluntarily removed from the project design.
  3. Of the 420 parking spots, 290 of them will be designated to the city and 130 will be for the project specifically. An allocation of some spaces within the Kingston Plaza will be made available for employees and/or residents that want a second car.  Additional parking discussions are being had regarding a multi-use building near Dutch Village.  Once SEQR is complete, the applicant will ask to waive the 1 1/2 car per apartment clause in Kingston’s zoning because there’s a municipal lot and two nearby properties controlled by the applicant nearby.
  4. The applicant will be responsible to build and operate the parking garage and to charge rates that are compatible with other public parking in the area.
  5. It is unclear how the planning board will implement the relevant public  concerns including affordable housing requirements and Kingston’s comprehensive plan, the overlay zoning confusion and community character (outside of visual impacts as it pertains to community character) as they were not raised last evening.

It appears as though the applicant and planning board as lead agency are doing their own version of scoping (as predicted in earlier months) to bring the project to a neg dec come September.  As a coordinated review, the planning board’s decision on the environment will apply to all of the involved agency’s discretionary decision making once SEQR concludes (a neg dec) going forward.

Tune into Radio Kingston today at 4:30pm. KingstonCitizens.org Radio will discuss what happened at last night’s meeting.

 

 

6:39    Concerns raised by NYSHPO.  Visual Impacts, facade, etc.

24:45  Concerns raised by the NYSDEC.  Protections of waters, wetlands, cultural resources, endangered species, sewer/water.

38:21   Traffic demand and impact analysis (NYS DOT)

51:10   Regarding the Kingston Common Council as an Involved Agency “….we can’t do anything with the Common Council taking action until a determination of significance is made under SEQR so any discussions have been preliminary at they point, but this is a coordinated review for SEQR so though that documentation has been sent to the Common Council, they’re free to comment during the pendency of SEQR…”

This is precisely what the Kingston HLPC provided, also an involved agency, in their letter submitted to the planning board back in March. Their concerns were mostly disregarded last evening due to recent ‘deliberation’.

 

0:00  The planning board states that they would rather not comment on the Kingston Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission letter at this time.

“Is this the official comment of the HLPC or are they still debating?”  (Jacobson)

“I believe that there’s still some debate going on with that.” (Platt)

“There’s a question about deliberation on that.” (Cahill)

“Are we going to get more input from them regarding these comments?”  (Jacobson)

“Correct.”  (Cahill)

“This is the preliminary letter that is part of the public record right now. It’s available for folks to see on our website, but there is some further deliberation going on by the HLPC and we’re waiting for further comment from them at this time.” (Platt)

“Is it time to make comments on architectural aspects of the project?” (Jacobson)

“I think it’s ok that we comment on architectural comments outside of what the HLPC recommends.” (Platt)

9:56:  Timeline for studies to be done for a determination to be made. 

“What do you believe would be an appropriate timeline to get all of these studies together?” (Platt)

“Early July.” (Larios)

“Joint meeting in September?” (Jacobson)

19:30:  Resolution read into the record VIEW

“The City of Kingston Planning Board in review of the Kingstonian Development LLC….along with a portion of fair street extension determining specific areas/studies which the planning board believes to be critical for their decision making process….one, a visual impact study with points as defined below the recommendations followed in the SHPO letter that was provided an archeological report and geotechnical report which includes plants and animals identified potential endangered species, a water supply report, sewer report, wastewater report, traffic impact analysis with parking demand and delivery applications for demolition HLPC notice for preservation and green technologies / energy efficiency and a timeline anticipated section – that the following location points will be examined for a visual impact analysis of the project…the appropriate agencies will be notified and materials will be posted on the city website that this meeting will be reconvened…” (Platt)

“The resolution doesn’t just limit us to these items, correct? I mean, if we get these materials and want further study we have the ability?” (Jacobson)

“….the following studies/reports to be submitted for further review and final determination on any environmental significance and or supplemental information that this board deems necessary…” (Platt)

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.

 

VIDEO #1 

What is SEQR?  
* Purpose (12:17)
* Environmental Factors (15:40)
* What is an “Agency”? (19:11)
* What is an “Action”?  (20:54)

SEQR Processes and Procedures
* SEQR timeline and process  (24:00)
* When does the SEQR process begin?  (34:18)
* Who starts SEQR?  (36:54)
* Classifying the Action: Type II, Type I, Unlisted  (37:12)
* Avoid Segmentation (43:52)
* Type II Action (49:25)
Type I Action (52:24)
* Unlisted (53:26)
* Establishing Lead Agency (55:15)

VIDEO #2

* Establishing Lead Agency (continued) (00:00)
* Coordinated  Review (and Uncoordinated Review) (5:00)
* Determination of Significance: Negative or Positive Declaration? (9:36)
* Environmental Assessment Form (10:20)
* Part 1: Project Information (10:49)
* Part 2: Identification of Potential Project Impacts (11:03)
* Part 3: Evaluation of Impacts (12:01)
* Determination of Significance (17:55)
* Criteria for Determination of Significance (19:20)
* Substantive and Literal Compliance (19:40)
* Evaluate Impacts in Context (21:32)
* More on Determination of Significance (27:00)
* Conditioned Negative Declaration (Unlisted actions only)  (27:16)
* Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)  (27:55)
* EIS Process (33:05)
* Scoping (33:30)
* Draft EIS (35:17)
* Public Comment (35:30)
* Final EIS (36:31)
* Generic EIS (37:33)
* Findings, File and Provide Notice, Final Decisions, SEQR Compliance (40:25)
* Recent Changes to SEQR (41:16)
* Questions and Answers (52:40)


VIDEO #3

* Questions and Answers (Continued)  (00:00)

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.

At its first hearing on April 10th, the Kingston Planning Board began accepting public comments for the proposed Kingstonian. To date, the Board has not provided a timeline for review, a date for when the public comment period will close, or indicated when the Planning Board as lead agency will likely make a positive or negative declaration (pos or neg dec) in the project’s State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), a decision that is meant to be made within 20-days following the acceptance of lead agency.

Since February, KingstonCitizens.org has spoken with many stakeholders about potential significant environmental impacts as it pertains to the Kingstonian Project. We have also fielded questions about the applicant’s zoning listed in its  Environmental Assessment Form (EAF).

 

 

What is a C-2 Zone in the City of Kingston?

The mixed residential and commercial Kingstonian Project is located in a C-2 zone where residential use is not a permitted as-of-right use. The City of Kingston Zoning Code for a C-2, short for Central Commercial District (§ 405.17), outlines uses that are permitted as-of-right:

A building may be erected, altered, arranged, designed or used, and a lot of premises may be used, for any of the following purposes by right and for no other: Retail stores; banks, including drive-in windows; service businesses, such as, but not limited to, barbershops, beauty parlors, tailors and dry-cleaning stores, custom dressmakers, jewelry repair, shoe repair, travel agents, auto rental offices, appliance repair and duplicating businesses and job printing establishments having not more than 10 persons engaged therein; business, professional and governmental offices; theaters and assembly halls; restaurants, art or craft studios or studios for teaching the performing arts; libraries, museums and art galleries; manufacturing, assembling, converting, altering, finishing, cleaning or any other processing of products where goods so produced or processed are to be sold at retail, exclusively on the premises, in accordance with the requirements of § 405-16B(13); public and private off-street parking lots and parking garages unless accessory to and on the same lot with a use otherwise permitted, such garages and parking lots shall be limited to use by passenger automobiles exclusively.”

Wouldn’t the Kingstonian Project be required to gain a variance for residential use by the City of Kingston Zoning Board of Appeals? It doesn’t appear to due to it being within a Mixed Use Overlay District.

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. ) The primary purpose of it 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 for residential lofts 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 any affordable housing 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.

More on Market-Rate and Affordable Housing.

At this time, all of the residential units planned for the Kingstonian Project will be market rate, which has no rent restrictions. A landlord who owns marketrate housing is free to attempt to rent the space at whatever price the local market may tolerate. In other words, the term applies to conventional rentals that are not restricted by affordable housing laws. So while the project entirely skips over the affordable housing purpose of MUOD, it is availing itself of the special use permit perk that comes with being in a MUOD.

A decade ago, the Teicher organization proposed a similar mixed-use project— though shaped differently and without a street closure—on a portion of the Kingstonian site. It received a positive declaration in SEQR with the attendant public scoping process. In its final scoping document, the Teicher team outlined an affordable housing plan where they would “…present a program and procedures that will result in at least 10% of the proposed housing units being set aside as affordable/workforce housing units as defined in the City Zoning Law.” It also stated that “…the plan may identify any appropriate options for promoting or creating such affordable housing units in off-site locations in lieu of within the proposed development.”

It is important to note that the City of Kingston’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) application touts the goals of the MUOD and places them in context of Kingston’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan as it pertains to affordable housing in commercial districts:

“…the overlay was mapped in 2005 to allow for the adaptive reuse of industrial and commercial buildings for rental and affordable housing and to promote the development of a mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian- based neighborhood. Properties within the overlay district have certain affordable housing requirements and pedestrian-friendly design standards. In addition, the City has a goal to simplify the district’s affordability standards while allowing for the adaptive reuse of former industrial and commercial buildings throughout the city, not just in the overlay district… . Kingston 2025 identifies the Stockade Business District (SBD) as the “Uptown Mixed-Use Core” neighborhood and specifies goals and strategies specifically pertaining to this area. The vision for the SBD as articulated in Kingston 2025 is to be a center ‘for local life providing nutritious fresh food, necessary personal services, transportation and mass transit options, employment opportunities at a range of incomes, a diversity of housing options, and nearby public and private recreational facilities…’. Kingston 2025 outlines several strategies for residential development in the SBD, including allowing mixed- uses in the C-2 zoning district, and moving toward city-wide standards for adaptive reuse and affordable housing. Therefore, it is likely development guided by the Comprehensive Plan will include more housing opportunities in the SBD.”

If not now, when?

Why are only some of the goals of the City’s Zoning Code being followed? Over the past generation, public officials and members of the community have repeatedly identified a clear need to keep housing affordable in Kingston. It is why the MUOD was created. As has been stated earlier, our 2025 Comprehensive Plan also recognizes the need for affordability throughout the city, which is also in keeping with the Courts’ recognition of the requirement for inclusionary zoning. Now that we have an adopted plan that states this, it has the full force of law, as noted by the NY State Department of State in Zoning and the Comprehensive Plan: “New York’s zoning enabling statutes (the state statutes which give cities, towns and villages the power to enact local zoning laws) require that zoning laws be adopted in accordance with a comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan should provide the backbone for the local zoning law.”

It goes on to note that public spending at any level of government must be in accordance with that plan: “Once a comprehensive plan is adopted using the State zoning enabling statutes, all land use regulations of the community must be consistent with the comprehensive plan. In the future, the plan must be consulted prior to adoption or amendment of any land use regulation. In addition, other governmental agencies that are considering capital projects on lands covered by the adopted comprehensive plan must take the plan into consideration.

At what point will Kingston do more than aspire for 20% affordable housing in all new development projects, reuse or otherwise? With each passing year that we lack good planning, we lose precious time in balancing the new opportunities coming to Kingston and the pressing needs of our existing community.

VIDEO/GOOGLE DOC: Public Comment Workshop for the Five Year CDBG Consolidated Strategy Plan

“Why does the city suggest that SEQR is viewed as a barrier when it’s a passive voice? By whom is it viewed as a barrier? The language should be more specific if that is the case….The environmental reviews are a part of doing business. A municipality should be careful about characterizing it negatively in a report as it is something that protects the environment, economic and social factors in our community.”   a comment from the public during the recent workshop re: the five year CDBG Consolidated Strategic Plan

By Rebecca Martin

Last week, KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with the Kingston Tenants Union and the Kingston Land Trust hosted a public comment workshop event for the Five-Year CDGB Consolidated Plan, Fair Housing Plan, and Annual Action Plan Federal Fiscal (2019).  With about 20 citizens in attendance, the group outlined 57 new comments that we’ll be submitting (along with more we hope) when the public comment closes on May 15th.

The City of Kingston extended the public comment deadline for 10 days (to May 15th) on the afternoon of our workshop. This will allow the public more time to look over and to comment on the plan.  It’s so important for the public to do so, as it is only created just once every five years.

You can join us by reviewing the materials below that include: the three hour workshop where many questions were addressed and the following materials:

Kingston 2019-2023 Consolidated Plan_DRAFT

AI – Executive Summary

Draft AI

We have created a public document and invite citizens to add your comments in your native language.  Please locate an empty line and provide us with your name, city and comment.

GOOGLE DOC:  Public Comments for CDBG Consolidated Strategy Plan (due date: 5/15/19)

You can also submit comments to:  Brenna Robinson, Director of Economic and Community Development at brobinson@kingston-ny.gov by Wednesday, May 15th.

A very special thank you to The Idea Garden for hosting our event, Tanya Garment, Sebastian Pilliteri, Rashida Tyler, Julia Farr, Ted Griese, Brenna Robinson, Jeffrey Morell, Rita Washington, Tony Davis, Jennifer Schwartz Berky and Guy Kempe for their support and assistance.

Video by The Kingston News brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

 

Before The Kingstonian Project There Was the Teicher Organization.

“The Planning Board adopted a determination of significance (i.e. a positive declaration) for the project on March 30, 2006, directing the preparation of a draft scoping document for preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project. The reasons stated for its determination were that ‘the proposed scope of demolition and construction will have potential for impacts on the immediate adjacent business district and surrounding area. Potential impacts include, but are not limited to; traffic and noise levels, infrastructure and utilities, schools, recreation and other community services; visual and historic resources; off-site improvements; economics and markets; housing availability, etc…’”   – Kingston Planning Board Decision, Final Scoping Document for DEIS “Proposed Mixed-Use Development of the Uptown Municipal Parking Garage Site” (2007)

By Rebecca Martin

A decade ago, before the proposed Kingstonian Project, there was the Teicher Organization’s plan to tear down a decrepit parking garage at Wall and North Front Streets. In its place, they would build a $65 million, 214-unit condominium building that would rise 12 stories in height. “The building would include a 600-space parking garage (with half of those spaces available to the public and half going to residents of the building) and 10,000 square-feet of retail space. The plan would call for a special taxing scheme to be set up whereby a portion of taxes paid by residents of the complex were used to pay for a public parking garage.”    

While the the Teicher Organization’s proposal may have been larger in size, its other details are similar to the proposed Kingstonian Project. Both were categorized as Type 1 actions with a coordinated review process. For both, the Kingston Planning Board was/is the lead agency.  But will their determinations be the same?

Looking back, Teicher’s project received a positive declaration (pos dec), that was followed by a public scoping process and a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). At that time, scoping was not mandatory (as of January 1, 2019, a pos dec automatically triggers a public scoping process). Based on the SEQR timeline for the Teicher project, the final scope was complete after only five months of effort by the Planning Board. That’s not a bad turnaround. The developer was then directed to prepare a preliminary DEIS, which doesn’t appear to have occurred.

For the Kingstonian, a determination has not yet been made. We are expecting a decision by the Planning Board in the coming days, weeks, or months.  Though the applicant’s team and supporters claim on record that a pos dec will “kill” the project.

The Teicher proposal is an excellent point of reference because it shows us a similar development in the same location as the Kingstonian that received a pos dec determination in SEQR. Of note, when the Planning Board submitted its final scope and direction to Teicher to create a DEIS, the developer chose not to proceed. Maybe it was because what they wanted to build was not a good fit for the location, and that mitigating its impacts was not an option for them. In this instance, SEQR provided close scrutiny. Outlining potential environmental, social and economic impacts before something is built is in most everyone’s best interest. It is unfair to characterize a pos dec as a project killer.

What is a Positive Declaration?

A positive declaration, or “pos dec,” is a determination by the lead agency that an action (the project) may result in one or more significant environmental impacts and so will require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before agency decisions may be made regarding the action.

What is a Negative Declaration?

A negative declaration, or “neg dec,” is a determination by the lead agency that an action will not result in a significant adverse environmental impact and consequently no EIS will be prepared.

What is Scoping?

Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper created a really helpful document of frequently asked questions regarding the public role in SEQR and the “scoping” process. It describes scoping this way:

Scoping is a process that develops a written document (final scope) outlining the topics and analyses of an action’s potential environmental impacts that will be addressed in a Draft EIS. The scoping process is intended to:

  • Focus the EIS on potentially significant adverse impacts and eliminate considerations of those impacts that are irrelevant or nonsignificant;
  • ensure public participation in the EIS development process;
  • allow open discussion of issues of public concern; and
  • permit inclusion of relevant, substantive public issues in the final written scope.

The document also describes why public participation in developing the scope is important:

Public involvement reduces the likelihood that unaddressed issues will arise during public review of the draft EIS. From the public’s perspective, scoping is important because it offers an opportunity to ensure the DEIS is as comprehensive as possible to minimize the project’s environmental impact on the community. It also increases the likelihood the project will be consistent with community values.

The final scoping document for the Teicher Organization project is an important find as it shows the existing setting, potential impacts and mitigation measures of the site and the project. It also provides evidence that a large development in that location most likely merits a pos dec in SEQR.

READ
Final Scoping Document for DEIS – Proposed Mixed Use Development of the Uptown Municipal Parking Garage Site (2007)


Along with everything else, I noticed that on page 32 under “Alternative Development Plans” in 8.1 (c) there is an affordable housing plan that would present ‘program and procedures that will result in at least 10% of the proposed housing units being set aside as affordable/workforce housing units as defined in the City (of Kingston’s) Zoning Law’

For however long the conversations about the Kingstonian have been going on, SEQR is just now getting underway. Many, if not most, members of our community are learning about this project and its plans for the first time. It makes sense that if we are expected to welcome a project of its size and scope in the nationally significant Stockade Historic District, then it must be done properly to assure that it adds to its beauty and character and does not create a costly and unaccounted burden on our existing infrastructure. A thorough and inclusive SEQR process can help to do that.

WHAT TO EXPECT. Public Hearing on Proposed Kingstonian Project on April 10

WHAT
City of Kingston Planning Board
Public Hearing on the Kingstonian

WHEN
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
6:00pm

WHERE
City of Kingston City Hall
Council Chambers (Top Floor)
420 Broadway
Kingston, NY

“LISTEN TO THE COMMUNITY” Rally
Before the public hearing
5:00pm
Front Lawn
Kingston City Hall

Co-sponsors include:  Kingston Tenants Union, Midtown Rising, Rise Up Kingston, Citizen Action of New York Mid-Hudson Valley Chapter, Nobody Leaves Mid Hudson and KingstonCitizens.org

MORE
It is not expected that the planning board will make any decisions on the 10th.

A regular planning board meeting will occur on Monday, 4/15 where the planning board may decide on the items listed in the 4/10 AGENDA  (lot line deletion, site plan / special permit and SEQR determination (pos or neg dec)).

 

 

By Rebecca Martin

On April 10th, the Kingston Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed Kingstonian project regarding the following approvals (in bold) and a SEQR Determination:

AGENDA

#9-17 & 21 North Front Street and 51 Schwenk Drive and a portion of Fair Street Extension LOT LINE DELETION of the Lands of Herzog’s Supply Company and the City of Kingston. SBL 48.80-1-25, 26 & 24.120. SEQR Determination. Zone C-2, Mixed Use Overlay District, Stockade Historic District. Kingstonian Development, LLC/ applicant; Herzog’s Supply Co. Inc. & City of Kingston/owner.

#9-17 & 21 North Front Street and 51 Schwenk Drive and a portion of Fair Street Extension SITE PLAN/SPECIAL PERMIT to construct a Mixed Use building with a 420 car garage, 129 apartments, 32 hotel rooms, and 8000sf of retail space. SBL 48.80-1-25, 26 & 24.120. SEQR Determination. Zone C-2, Mixed Use Overlay District, Stockade Historic District. Kingstonian Development, LLC/ applicant; Herzog’s Supply Co. Inc. & City of Kingston/owner.

The Significance of State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) Determinations. 

What is SEQR?

The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) “establishes a process to systematically consider environmental factors early in the planning stages of actions that are directly undertaken, funded or approved by local, regional and state agencies. By incorporating environmental review early in the planning stages, projects can be modified as needed to avoid adverse impacts on the environment.”

What step are we at in the process?

On April 10th, the City of Kingston Planning Board will collect public comment on its next step in making a “determination of significance.” This is the most critical step in the SEQR process. This is the step in which the lead agency must decide whether or not a proposed action is likely to have a significant adverse impact upon the environment. If the lead agency finds one or more significant adverse environmental impacts, it must prepare a positive declaration identifying the significant adverse impact(s) and requiring the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

At this time, environmental impacts must be cited before the social or economic concerns are included in an Environmental Impact “Scope” (p. 93, SEQR Handbook), and a pos dec would be required in order for a public scoping process to occur.

FOR YOUR REFERENCE: SEQR Handbook

The project would seem to be justifiably determined as a pos dec, as only one potential adverse environmental impact is required in order for a pos dec to be triggered (p. 85, #5).   Uptown Kingston’s significance as a National Historic District is a reason for a pos dec. Traffic (the traffic for this project appears to be over the threshold for peak hour outlined in the law) would be a trigger. Visual and Aesthetic and Neighborhood Character are all legitimate environmental impacts (p. 90 of the SEQR Handbook).

As the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commissions (HLPC) has already weighed in as an “involved agency” to indicate the potential significant adverse environmental impact on the character of the Stockade National Historic District, the Planning Board, as the “lead agency” is obligated to take a “hard look” according to important case law precedents that have invalidated findings by lead agencies that have failed to do so.

VIEW:
Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC) Identifies Potential Significant Environmental Impacts of the Kingstonian Project.

Other important questions that the public should ask on Wednesday include:

1. Where is the planning board currently in the SEQR determination process?

2. When will the planning board make that determination?

3. Is the project being modified and will it be modified by the applicant and developer to try to address or mitigate potential impacts?

4. Will the public be notified of those modifications and have an additional opportunity to comment on the modified project before the Board makes a SEQR determination?

Below are excerpts from the SEQR Handbook to help you to identify good information to shape your public comment for Wednesday evening.

From pages 90 of the SEQR Handbook onward:

34. May determinations of significance be based on economic costs and social impacts?  No. A determination of significance is based on the regulatory criteria relating to environmental significance. If an EIS is required, its primary purpose is to analyze environmental impacts and to identify alternatives and mitigation measures to avoid or lessen those impacts. Since the definition of “environment” includes community character, these impacts are considered environmental. However, potential impacts relating to lowered real estate values, or net jobs created, would be considered economic, not environmental. Social and economic benefits of, and need for, an action must be included in an EIS. Further, in the findings which must be issued after a final EIS is completed, environmental impacts or benefits may be balanced with social and economic considerations.”

23. Are there impacts on non-physical resources that should be considered when determining significance?  Yes. There may be environmental impacts related to various community or regional values not necessarily associated with physical resources. Examples would include aesthetic impacts, impairment of community character, growth inducement and social and economic conditions, which are discussed below.

24. Why should the significance of visual and aesthetic impacts be considered under SEQR?The courts have upheld inclusion of effects on scenic views as an element of the SEQR review process; for example, in the case of a new radio transmission tower proposed to be constructed near the F.D. Roosevelt estate on the Hudson River (see WEOKBroadcasting Corp. V. Planning Board of Town of Lloyd 1992).

25. What methods or resources may a lead agency use in assessing potential visual and aesthetic impacts?  Because the quality of an aesthetic resource cannot be determined by a precise formula and because opinions may vary concerning the evaluation of visual impacts, there exists a widespread, but erroneous, notion that aesthetics analysis is hopelessly subjective. Instead, research has clearly established that landscape preference and perception are not arbitrary or random, so that along with some variability there is substantial regularity in the perceptions of significant adverse and beneficial visual impacts. It is upon this regularity of human judgement concerning aesthetics that objective decision making depends.  Developing an objective process for considering visual impacts is most effective if undertaken before controversial projects appear. To establish or clarify values, policies and priorities related to existing visual resources, agencies or municipalities should conduct an inventory of visual resources within their jurisdictions. Such surveys need not be elaborate, but are a recommended feature of any comprehensive planning process that the agencies or municipalities may undertake. The prime objective is to be proactive and identify visual resources that are significant within that jurisdiction and could be adversely affected by potential development.

To evaluate potential visual impacts likely to result from individual proposed projects, the Visual EAF Addendum [(Appendix B of 617.20) (pdf, 936 kb)] may be used by the lead agency to supplement the EAF. The Visual EAF Addendum form highlights the following objective components of visual impact analysis are generally considered:

• Whether the value of the aesthetic resource has been established by designation; for example: state park, designated scenic vista, designated open space, etc.

• The number of people who could observe the potential impacts.

• The circumstances or contexts under which impacts would be visible.

• The distance the viewer is from the aesthetic resource.

When the responses to these and other pertinent questions about potential impacts to aesthetic resources are compiled, the lead agency will know, for example, whether the resource is designated as important, is viewed by thousands of people annually when they use the resource (e.g. park), or if the potential impact is adjacent to that resource. Based on this systematic assessment, the lead agency will then be able to consider visual and aesthetic impacts in developing its determination of significance.

26. Has the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) developed any additional resources for assessing aesthetic and visual impacts?  The DEC guidance policy “Assessing and Mitigating Visual Impacts” was developed to provide direction to DEC staff for evaluating visual and aesthetic impacts generated from proposed facilities. The policy and guidance defines what visual and aesthetic impacts are; describes when a visual assessment is necessary; provides guidelines on how to review a visual impact assessment; differentiates State from local concerns; and defines avoidance, mitigation and offset measures that eliminate, reduce, or compensate for negative visual effects.

The cornerstone of the DEC guidance document is its inventory of aesthetic resources of statewide or national significance. The scenic and aesthetic resources identified in the guidance have all been protected by law or regulation, and are therefore special places that the public has deemed worthy of protection due to the inherent aesthetic value associated with the resource. For example, one category is state and national parks which havebeen established by government to protect unique resources, and are accessible for use and appreciation by the public.

The DEC guidance defines State regulatory concerns, and separates them from local concerns. However, the DEC guidance may be used as a model by other agencies or municipalities. Once local authorities have officially identified locally important visual resources, the guidance may be used to assist a lead agency in systematically evaluating potential visual and aesthetic impacts from a proposed development.

27. How do aesthetic and visual impacts differ from community character impacts? Visual impact assessment considers a single class of resource. While visual resources may contribute to a community’s perception of its character, a number of other resources should also be assessed or evaluated to enable a more thorough description of a community’s character.

28. Why is “community character an environmental issue?  The Legislature has defined “environment” to include, among other things, “…existing patterns of population concentration, distribution or growth, and existing community or neighborhood character” (see ECL 8-0105.6). Court decisions have held that impacts upon community character must be considered in making determinations of significance even if there are no other impacts on the physical environment.

29.  How can you determine whether an impact upon community character may be significant? Community character relates not only to the built and natural environments of a community, but also to how people function within, and perceive, that community. Evaluation of potential impacts upon community or neighborhood character is often difficult to define by quantitative measures. Courts have supported reliance upon a municipality’s comprehensive plan and zoning as expressions of the community’s desired future state or character. (See Village of Chestnut Ridge v. Town of Ramapo, 2007.) In addition, if other resource-focused plans such as Local Waterfront Revitalization Plans (LWRP), Greenway plans or Heritage Area plans have been adopted, those plans may further articulate desired future uses within the planning area.

In the absence of a current, adopted comprehensive plan, a lead agency has little formal basis for determining whether a significant impact upon community character may occur.

  • Examples of actions affecting community character that have been found to be significant include the introduction of luxury housing into a working-class ethnic community and construction of a prison in a rural community.

• Examples of actions found not to be significant include low-income housing and shelters for the homeless proposed to be located within existing residential areas.

VIDEO: Kingston Planning Board Sets Public Hearing on April 10th for Kingstonian Project.

Last evening, the Kingston Planning Board announced that it would not be making a determination at this time for the proposed Kingstonian Project, accepted its role as lead agency of the review process and, set a public hearing for the project to be held on Wednesday, April 10th at 6:00pm.

The public can attend to share any of their concerns (that will be placed on record) for consideration of a determination by the planning board as lead agency for the Kingstonian Project.

Video made by Clark Richters of the Kingston News. Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org.

 

(click on image to view video)

2:00 – 4:55
Geddy Sveikauskas

“The project is sited on the steep slope connecting two quite different successful neighborhoods, Kingston Plaza and the Stockade district. Connecting these two signature parts of the city while retaining the character of each has been a community goal for at least the last 361 years. Given the site’s location and it’s important to examine the site very thoughtfully with extensive community input  …the present design (of the Kingstonian) presentation has been disappointing and unpersuasive. More of a marketing effort designed to mislead than a site plan to provide an honest sense of the environmental, economic and social impacts of this $40 million + project.”

5:00 – 11:44
Rebecca Martin

“The spirit of SEQR is to provide the opportunity for the public to identify and understand what the impacts of a project like this are – so that they can be properly mitigated through a collaborative and inclusive process. At this critical juncture, it would be helpful for the planning board as lead agency to communicate in advance the timeline of SEQR as it pertains to this project so that the public will know what and when they can contribute in a meaningful way.”

11:50 – 14:15
Peter Orr

“Although certain people supporting a positive SEQR declaration have said they only wish to have a process that maximizes the benefits to Kingston residents, the reality is this project will not happen if a positive declaration for SEQR occurs…”

14:17 – 16:29
Karen Clark-Adin

“One aspect of the Kingstonian is important to bear in mind. This is not an out of town billionaire developer. This is the Jordan family. They have been in the city of Kingston for over 80 years…I highly doubt that the upstanding members of the Jordan family would do a shabby job in the Kingstonian development…being a contributing citizen in a community is incredibly important and should be recognized and acknowledged. The Jordan family has that in spades. It’s very important for you to look at the residents of the city of Kingston who has been here for years supporting the city.”

16:33 – 18:19
James Shaughnessy

“I suggest that a positive SEQR declaration for the Kingstonian project be made. The proposal is the largest uptown development project in recent history. It is on the boundary of the Stockade – a historical district. The footprint and scale will be larger than any in the surrounding neighborhood…Millions of public dollars are earmarked…what other subsidies have been promised or asked for? This is not an unabashed benign project. Positive and negative impacts will be irrevocable once it’s built. Kingston deserves more than a ‘no problems’ declaration.”

 

18:26 – 25:29
Testimony on the West Chestnut Boarding House

 

(click on image to view video)

Kingston Planning Board declares Lead Agency and announces April 10th at 6:00pm in the Kingston Common Council , special meeting to open a public hearing for the Kingstonian Project.

Items #9 and #10 are tabled at this time.

###

For more information, please REVIEW the Kingstonian Project Environmental Assessment Form (EAF)

INVOLVED AGENCIES (those who have a discretionary decision to make for the Kingstonian Project) include:
 
1. City of Kingston Planning Board (site approval, special use permit approval, SEQRA approval, Lot Line Revision).
 
2. City of Kingston Common Council (Closing of a City Street, Sale of Land or Easement Conveyance, Deviated PILOT Review)
 
3. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (SPEDES General Permit for Stormwater Discharge)
 
4. City of Kingston Department of Public Works (Curb Cut Permit, Sewer Tap)
 
5. City of Kingston Zoning Board of Appeals (Area Variances for Floor Area Ratio and Height)
 
6. City of Kingston Historic Landmarks Commission (Notice of Preservation of Action)
 
7. Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (Deviated PILOT Agreement)
 
8. City of Kingston Water Department (Water tap)
 
9. City of Kingston Consolidated School District (Deviated PILOT Review)
 
10. Empire State Development Corporation (Approval of Grants: Restore New York, Consolidated Funding Application and Downtown Revitalization Initiative)

VIDEO: “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Re-thinking the Review Process”

Last night, approximately 60 people attended the public educational forum “Historic Preservation in the City of Kingston: Re-thinking the Review Process” presented by KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with the City of Kingston and Friends of Historic Kingston. A good mix of the public, elected and appointed officials, City of Kingston staff and not-for-profit organizations were all present. So that more of our community can participate, we had the event filmed thanks to The Kingston News

Based on the information provided last evening, we support Kingston’s council members effort to improve the city’s review procedures for historic resources by collaborating with the Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission in crafting the rules for preservation, using the current Preservation Model Law as their guide.   VIEW Preservation Model Law

In addition, rather than merging commissions, we encourage the council to pursue the concept of a ‘coordinated review’ (and seek out models) as well as to map out the current process for projects to contemplate whether or not a different sequence of steps could improve its efficiency.

Kingston’s Common Council Laws and Rules Committee meets next on Wednesday, May 16th at 6:30 pm in Conference Room #1 (top floor) at Kingston City Hall located at 420 Broadway in Kingston.

Committee meetings are the council’s monthly ‘business meetings’. Although the public is always invited to attend, public comment isn’t always available. If you’d like to be placed on the agenda, you can reach out to the council committee board chair in advance to make that request.

To submit comments and/or suggestions regarding the current legislation, please send to Ward 9 Alderwoman Andrea Shaut at:  ward9@kingston-ny.gov

RESOURCES

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

Historic Preservation Tax Credit

CoK HLPC Comments: Draft Legislation on the Merging of the HLPC and HAC

Preservation Model Law

Draft Legislation to Streamline Historic Commissions (a/o 5/15)

 

VIDEO #1

3:26 – 11:25
Rebecca Martin, KingstonCitizens.org

Introductions

11:33 – 29:53
Mayor Steve Noble
Introducing Draft Legislation to Streamline Historic Commissions

29:55 – 34:53
Marissa Marvelli, Vice Chair, CoK Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission (HLPC)
VIEW  Powerpoint “Moderating Change”

34:55 – 46:38
Hayes Clement, Chair, Heritage Area Commission
Kevin McEvoy, Secretary, Heritage Area Commission and Member, HLPC
VIEW  “Historic Preservation Timeline for Kingston, NY”

47:19 –  59:50
Linda Mackey, SHPO CLG Rep for Ulster County
VIEW  Powerpoint “NYSHPO, Certified Local Government Program Purpose”

 

VIDEO #2

 

00:00 –  1:30 (Continued)
Linda Mackey, SHPO CLG Rep for Ulster County
VIEW  Powerpoint “NYSHPO, Certified Local Government Program Purpose”

2:00 –  14:09
Erin Tobin, Vice President for Policy and Preservation, Preservation League of NY
VIEW  Model Preservation Law for Municipalities

 

QUESTION/ANSWER PERIOD
(Loosely transcribed)

15:27 – 17:59
Q: “What are the projects on the table right now?”

A: Marissa Marvelli
“No major projects right now.  We do have big projects coming in the future, such as the Kingstonian in Uptown.”

A: Hayes Clement
“Projects that come in front of commissions are ‘run of the mill’ issues.  Heritage Area recently helped with a coordinated SEQR review process (Hutton Brickyard). The HAC is charged to look at any project along the Rondout to meet the criteria of the Waterfront revitalization plan.”

18:00 – 20:11
Q: “Are there advantages to having one or two historic commissions?”

A: Linda Mackey
“As long as the ordinance is clear when a project comes in, and the commissions meet the qualifications for Certified Local Government (CLG). We will work with the City to accomplish that.”

20:12 – 27:30
Q: “With an influx of investors buying up properties fast in Kingston, how can the preservation committees interface with mayor and city council to moderate that about what’s good for Kingston?”

A: Mayor Steve Noble
“We need single family homes, but we need condos and we need to be a city who can do that.  We have 200 vacant buildings in the city literally rotting.  We see people buying those buildings. It’s important to have processes in place….working to assure that as we get some of these vacant buildings back into life again, what is the life that that building turns into? Some of the…codes are in place, and people are starting to come.  What we need to do, we as neighbors, is to educat…we’re creating a Land Bank in the city to get buildings into the hands of stable NFP organizations for affordable home ownership but it’s a community effort. This is one way to solve the problem of people not being displaced.”

A: Erin Tobin
“To give a national perspective, studies have shown that local historic district designation, specifically local historic districts stabilize property values across the board. When you see big rises and dips in the graph, local historic districts stay on a straight line…as it pertains to density and affordable housing, examples such as in NYC, the big new high rises are luxury apartments (and not affordable housing). Historic preservation stabilize property values.”

A: Marissa Marvelli
“Our Midtown study survey to make recommendations for new districts will be done soon. Our program is only as strong as the communities input. Please come to our meetings and bring your ideas.  that’s the nice thing about having a HLPC.  People come to us who don’t know the story of Kingston and we get to have a conversation. “This is why your building is important, and your neighbors.” It happens at landmarks commissions.”

27:31 – 32:43
Q: (Mayor Steve Noble):  “As properties are identified as a landmarks, to bring them up to the standards to today’s Historic Preservation requirements can be expensive. In Kingston, people with money buying these historic houses raise the property values tremendously.  Because we have a housing stock of historic house, how do we provide access for all of those moderate/ low-income individuals? It’s a struggle that we have and may lead to gentrification if only some kinds of people can afford these houses.”

A: Erin Tobin
“In many communities, there are vacant buildings and no one investing in them. Any investment requires the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the Historic Preservation Tax Credit. You might contrast that with the only other analogy in NYS would be Brooklyn or NYC, where people are moving into neighborhoods that have lower property values and raising them. I don’t know if that’s Historic preservations fault, necessarily….one can have flexibility in approach….you can find ways to make that more affordable. I can’t underscore the importance of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit that we have in NYS….for people investing in historic homes. It is a rebate, at or below $60k that provides initial money in.  Communities can strategize to find ways to turn it into a loan, so the homeowner doesn’t have to put that money up front, or most of it…there are land banks doing that…I can’t say that I’ve seen a big issue with preservation causing gentrification. If anything, I’m seeing that in areas where there are preservation standards investors are using the low-income housing credit as a tool to use as an incentive.”

A: Hayes Clement
“Beyond the Historic Preservation Tax Credits, Kingston has a practice of using ‘partial’ assessments….if a building is brought back.  I don’t think most people know that.”

32:44 – 39:39
Q: “At the may HLPC meeting, it was suggested by the corporation counsel that the proposed legislation could be done in a multi-step process. How has the proposed draft legislation been influenced by the Preservation Model Law and what would be the benefit to the CoK Historic Preservation to have corporation counsel write the legislation rather than adopting model law written by preservationists?”

A: Mayor Noble
” …our law currently is the model law, and we appreciate the Preservation League refreshing the model law.  this discussion is wanting to have a ‘one stop shop’ for our city…my goal with this was to take what’s working now…and help streamline the process. I agree, if there are things to do to strengthen our language it’s something we should look at….the new Preservation Model Law may be a little more specific…we want to make sure we’re not shifting and changing those types of materials and compositions while we’re in the middle of lawsuits…so we have to be careful. What I’m interested in doing is being able to have one heritage/historic board in our community to work with community and the board to ask how can we do it better.”

A: Marissa Marvelli
“Our existing ordinance might have followed the model law template from years prior, but it has been modified numerous times since them….what you see today is inconsistent and the language is not to the standards of current Historic Preservation practices. Our past challenging decisions was due to there being a lack of clarity in our ordinance and procedure.  We met with the Mayor to talk about the goals and progress the commission has been making, and our desire to talk about model law and see how we can use it as a basis of our existing ordinance.  We made it clear at that time that we wanted to be a part of that conversation. When the corporation counsel introduced the amendments, we were a little taken aback because it was our understanding that we would be a part of that process….50 years ago during the creation of the original landmarks law and commission, the effort of drafting that ordinance was a collaboration between the Laws and Rules committee and the landmarks preservation commission. The current amendment didn’t have the Preservation Commission’s input. It was done by the corporation council’s office. We saw (the language) at the same time that the members of the Laws and Rules committee members saw it (in April).”

A: Linda Mackey
“SHPO has (recently) been in discussion with the commission and were made aware of the proposed merging. We are starting those discussions with the Mayor, corporation counsel and commission and sending official comments or big picture comments. Once we have the most up-to-date version of the draft we’ll provide detail comments with that ordinance to keep with model law and make revisions…and working with the city throughout this process. We do want to make sure that while it’s ok to merge the commissions, we don’t want to miss the opportunity to strengthen the law and provide clarity. The law is the road map for the commission, for property owners, it basically explains the process….we want to make sure it’s clear as there can be multiple interpretations and when working with more complicated projects, you want to be sure of that clarity.”

39:40 – 46:29
Q: “It was said that the HLPC jurisdiction is quasi-judicial. What’s the basis of that comment?  Also, for a city the size of Kingston, I would wonder whether it’s worth having input from an outside state agency to influence its local laws?”

A: Marissa Marvelli
“NY is a home rule state, municipalities get to write their own laws based on state standards.”

A: Linda Mackey
“If a municipality is a CLG, it’s the municipalities decision as to how they craft their legislation. If not in keeping with CLG standards, that would be grounds of de-certification because it’s a program that we administor….in working with other municipal boards, we do want to know how things function…we do work with that model law developed by us, Preservation League and Department of State, but it’s up to the municipalities to decide for themselves. We tell them what’s required for the CLG program, but it’s the local municipality that does administer the ordinance.”

A: Erin Tobin
“The CLG program is offered to communities as a benefit.  It’s as though you apply for a grant, and the grant has requirements. because you’re opting into that grant you have to follow the rules. CLG is meant to be a resource, there is no real benefit to the state to have more CLG’s. This is a resource for communities with practices, and municipalities can take what we’ve put together and adopt it for your own needs. It’s a skeleton framework and you to choose within that. If communities choose to participate in the CLG program, they receive the benefits that have been described to you for that program.”

46:30 – 49:12
Q: “I see the land bank as a marvelous opportunity for the community….I am familiar with programs from another state, where they have taken vacant structures, fixed them up, rented them out, taken half of the rent that the new tenants paid, used that as a down payment to bring a neighborhood back to life so it’s affordable to folks in a city like Kingston. Is that one of the programs that the city of Kingston have in mind, and from folks on the state level, have you seen this elsewhere in NYS?

A: Mayor Noble
“We just received state approval as a certified land bank…opening up a  board application process. That board of advisors will help us step up our programs. At this time, everything is on the table. If anyone is interested in being placed on the board, please call my office and I’ll connect you to with Brenna Robinson who will lead our Land Bank effort in the City. We’ve seen it work well in Newburgh…in Syracuse, Albany and other places that are successful and we hope to be too.”

Clarity on process. 300 Flatbush Ave. (RUPCO’s Alms House Proposal)

 

By Rebecca Martin

For some time, there has been much furor over the sale of 300 Flatbush Ave. (aka RUPCO’s Alms House Proposal),  a property owned by Ulster County.

Lets cut to the chase on a few critical items.

– To be clear, the City of Kingston hasn’t any say as to who the county sells its property to.

– After being on the market for a little over a year, RUPCO made an offer at the listed price for a project they want to create in that location called ‘The Alms House” or “Landmarks Place”.  Their goal is for it to become  “66 units that would comprise of 14 studio and 20 one-bedroom apartments in the approximately 28,000-square-foot 1870s landmark building at the site and 32 one-bedroom units for people ages 55 and older in the new 42,000-square-foot building.”

– The proposal went in front of the Kingston Planning Board where they determined the project to have a negative declaration in SEQR. In other words, they found it to have no environmental impacts that would require further study.

As part of Kingston’s code, the Kingston Common Council had 90 days to determine a zoning change that started months ago, with a request for it to be changed from single family to multi-family use. Whether multi-family or commercial, a zoning change will have to be determined in order for it to be placed back into any real use.

– In this case, once a zone change is made, the project site plan can be reviewed by the Kingston Planning Board, and the public will have more opportunities to help to shape the project.

These are the facts, and this is the process.

Read more…