SIGN THE PETITION: Kingston Common Council must uphold its affordable housing mandate and provide constituents with a full accounting of Kingstonian public funds

Kingstonian
View of the Kingstonian and its private swimming pool. Rendering by Mackenzie Architects.


Dear Members of the Kingston Common Council, 

We write regarding the zoning amendment request for the Kingstonian project. The Ulster County Planning Board has reviewed the proposed amendment and has determined that, as presented, it is inconsistent with the City’s zoning and Comprehensive Plan. If the amendment is to be adopted, the County has required changes, particularly the inclusion of affordable housing. We urge the Council to make the changes the County requires. Affordable housing is a critical need in Kingston, and there is no reason that a project receiving substantial public subsidies should escape the responsibility to supply affordable units.

Ulster County and the City of Kingston have an affordable housing crisis, with 55% of residents county-wide spending over 30% of their income on rent. When the City adopted the Mixed Use Overlay District in 2005, it called for 20% affordable units per project. Kingston’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2016, took the mission city-wide, calling for affordable units in all new residential developments throughout the city. Kingston is the only city in the Mid-Hudson region currently pursuing coverage under New York State’s new rent control laws to rein in its spiraling housing costs.

Applying the City’s affordable housing requirements to the proposed 131-unit Kingstonian project would bring much needed affordable units to Kingston families. In contrast, allowing construction of a luxury housing development with no affordable units would only worsen the housing crisis by further gentrifying Uptown and Kingston overall.

If the Common Council has determined that every developer in the city should provide affordable units at their own expense, then the heavily-subsidized Kingstonian project cannot be excused from providing the same.  

The Ulster County Planning Board warned in its letter that “it is disquieting that there is little disclosure of the public investment needed to bring the project to fruition.”  

The community is aware of at least $6.8 million in taxpayer-funded grants:

* $3.8 million from Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI);

* $2 million has been granted by the Empire State Development Corp; 

* A $1 million Restore NY Grant.

Here’s what our community remains in the dark about:

* The value of tax breaks through the Ulster County IDA, which may excuse the developer from paying sales and mortgage taxes, as well as portions of its city, county and school taxes;

* The value of all municipal real estate that will be contributed to the project, including Fair Street Extension, which will be eliminated, and the city parking lot parcel on North Front Street;

* The municipal parking revenue that will be lost once the public lot is sold. 

* The cost of any infrastructure upgrades the City will undertake to accommodate the project. 

* Any other public grants, tax credits, or subsidies the Kingstonian is seeking.

Therefore, we make two requests of the Common Council:

1. Do not amend the zoning map without also making the changes to the text of the zoning that the County requires. In particular, clarify that new multi-family housing must include affordable units.

2. Step up to your fiduciary responsibilities and provide the community with a full accounting of the public subsidies expected by the Kingstonian project. Ensure that all decisions requiring Common Council approval, including discretionary approvals and funding awards, have been identified and included in the SEQRA review. 

We look forward to your response.

SIGN THE PETITION: Kingston Common Council must uphold its affordable housing mandate and provide constituents with a full accounting of Kingstonian public funds (via change.org)

The City of Kingston’s Zoning Interpretation Process Leads to Attempt to Infringe Citizens’ First Amendment Rights

Group Editorial by Lynn Eckert, Tanya Garment, Ted Griese, Laura Hartmann, Rebecca Martin, Marissa Marvelli, Melinda McKnight, JoAnne Myers, Giovanna Righini, Rebecca Rojer, Rashida Tyler, Sarah Wenk, Theresa Lyn Widmann

“…in a democracy if it’s going to work, people have to feel comfortable standing up and speaking their mind and speaking truth to power. If you are intimidated in the process…you become increasingly thoughtful and hesitant in the way you enter into public debate and that’s not good for anyone.” – Lynn M. Eckert, Ulster County Legislator and Professor of Political Science at Marist College.

In recent months, not only have City of Kingston officials been misleading the public in the review process for the proposed Kingstonian but the Mayor’s lawyers have singled out select individual citizens in an attempt to silence their advocacy for a transparent and inclusive planning process. 

At an August public hearing two citizens – Ted Griese and Sarah Wenk – delivered verbal testimony simply urging the Common Council to have a crystal clear understanding of the zoning law before amending it, which would allow the Kingstonian project to move forward. They, along with Rebecca Martin (lead organizer of KingstonCitizens.org), were the three citizens singled out in the Corporation Counsel’s letter regarding the City’s zoning interpretation, despite the fact that others in the community had also raised the question in written comments to their Council representative. 

It was shortly after that hearing that the Corporation Counsel’s office sent the troubling letter as an email attachment to the three private citizens identified above stating that the City was initiating a zoning interpretation process centered on the “Mixed Use Overlay District (MUOD) provisions regarding affordable housing.”  The letter stated that the City was in receipt of their comments from the public hearing and that they had been sent to the City’s zoning officer for the issuance of a “formal interpretation of the relevant sections of the Code.” The letter never explained why only these citizens had been singled out among all of the other commentators. 

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

Given the disorganized and opaque Planning Board process and the singling out of individual citizens by the Mayor’s lawyer, KingstonCitizens.org felt compelled on behalf of the public to reach out to an attorney to clarify the question before the zoning enforcement officer – even if it meant participating in a process that they and the citizens had never sought. The applicant argued that no affordable housing was required because it is not adaptively reusing buildings. However, the MUOD is premised on adaptive reuse (which must include affordable housing) and does not authorize new construction of residential apartments. Environmental and land use attorney Emily Svenson asked that the City expand its interpretation “to determine whether the zoning code authorizes new construction of residential uses at the proposed Kingstonian location,” reiterating the question asked by members of the community.

In response to Svenson’s letter, chief Corporation Counsel, Kevin Bryant, who is appointed by the Mayor, sent a reply on September 12th, requesting that, since KingstonCitizens.org was “represented” by counsel, all communications from certain named citizens regarding the project go through counsel only. It also stated that members of city boards and commissions had been instructed to no longer speak to advisers of KingstonCitizens.org. Specifically, it read:

As you are likely aware, the Kingstonian project is currently before numerous City Boards and Commissions and the Kingston Common Council. Your client has continued to assert an interest and a public position regarding each of the pending applications.

We are hereby requesting that in order to comply with the Code of Professional Responsibility, henceforth, all communications regarding the Kingstonian with officers of Kingstoncitizens.org, including but not limited to Rebecca Martin, Tanya Garment, Marissa Marvelli, Jennifer Schwartz Berky and Lynn Eckert, shall be through counsel.

Please be further advised that City Officials and Board and Commission members involved in the review of the Kingstonian project have also been advised that they are not to speak directly to these individuals as they are represented by counsel.

Svenson swiftly responded that the City’s request was an infringement on individuals’ First Amendment rights and pointed out the Counsel’s misunderstandings: 

“…Please be aware that KingstonCitizens.org is a grassroots, volunteer organization and not a corporation. The individuals named in your letter are simply volunteers acting as organizers or advisors; they are not staff or officers. There is no justification for limiting their ability to communicate as individuals with their government.”   

Furthermore, Svenson noted that:

 “The Rules of Professional Conduct applicable to attorneys do not limit the rights of represented parties to communicate with one another. Particularly in the context of government, it is essential for citizens to be able to speak freely on matters of public interest pursuant to their rights under the First Amendment.”

If the City’s Corporation Counsel had reached out to Svenson prior to sending his letter, he would have understood that her representation in this case was limited solely to commenting on the City’s zoning interpretation for the Kingstonian project. Unfortunately, he went beyond the understandable need to protect the City and seized on the opportunity to cut off public discourse by advising elected and appointed officials that they should not speak to the citizens, directly undermining public dialog. The City took the approach that it was managing an adverse litigation-type situation rather than a participatory public process. It’s not the first time they have done so. The City has on many occasions tried to steer  the process in a certain direction rather than allowing the process to guide its review. 

From the beginning of the Kingstonian SEQR process, residents – and particularly those outspoken women who are civically engaged – have been intimidated, bullied, and mistreated by both members of the applicant’s team and city staff. They have been accused of having political agendas; punished for being professionals in their trades; shamed for asking tough questions; and called enemies of progress for demanding an inclusive process.  

All the while, our Mayor, with the power to hire and fire city staff and appoint all members of boards, committees, and commissions, remains silent about this undemocratic and bullying behavior. We live in a democracy not an authoritative regime, where citizens have First Amendment rights to play an active role in their government.

We are daylighting these antidemocratic actions today because they erode the public trust and confidence in our local government. Politicizing processes and institutions is the most effective means for discouraging citizen engagement, the evidence of which we are already seeing. No one should have to hire a lawyer to ask questions that government officials may dislike. 

We are in the midst of another election season and as usual, elected officials are again boasting about how well they make citizens feel “heard.” To us, it rings particularly hollow. In this instance, the Mayor’s lawyer used the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers as a pretext to chill the speech of citizens with whom the administration disagreed. If the Mayor is truly committed to “hearing” citizens, he should address the silencing tactics within his own administration. 

While reasonable people may disagree about how to interpret and apply the zoning law to the Kingstonian project, we can all agree that actions taken on the part of the Mayor’s lawyer to intimidate, single out, and silence citizens – particularly female citizens – engaging in their right to free speech is simply unacceptable. With officials committed to a fair, open, inclusive, and transparent process such undemocratic tactics would be unnecessary. 

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

By Rebecca Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIEW the Transcription of the Planning Board’s Special Kingstonian Project meeting.

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

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

11:17 – End: Kingstonian project team presentation

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

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

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

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

By Rebecca Martin

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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


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

What follows is a condensed version of our letter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citizen Action of New York submits FOIL to City of Kingston 

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

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

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

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

What’s next?

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

VIEW Facebook event

SEQR Process for Kingstonian Project Possibly to be ‘Segmented’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Please send your comments to:

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

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

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

By Rebecca Martin

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

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

Read more…

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

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

By Rebecca Martin

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

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

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

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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)

Town of Lloyd Moratorium on Fossil Fuel Power Plants Passes Unanimously.

The Town of Lloyd passed a proposed moratorium on fossil fuel power plants (Local Law A) unanimously last evening, allowing the community the time to take the next critical step to address its zoning law.

“This local law…enact (s) a moratorium to temporarily suspend the review and approval of applications for fossil fuel power plants. We believe that given the projected increase in relatively small fast-ramping “peaker” gas power plants, which are not subject to Article 10 State review, the Town is wise to be proactive in amending its zoning to regulate these facilities. Without such regulation air quality, treasured views, adjacent properties and residents’ quality of life could be at risk. Importantly, it’s critical to ensure that protective zoning is in place before an application is submitted for a peaker plant.” said Scenic Hudson’s Director of Land Use Advocacy Jeffrey Anzevino (and Town of Lloyd resident) in a statement he read last night. “For a variety of reasons, peaker plants are coming to the Hudson Valley and Lloyd is not alone. We believe that the Town Board’s action on this issue will serve as a model that will encourage other communities to adopt protective zoning before applications are submitted.”

The recommendation of a moratorium for zoning consideration on 25mw (or smaller) fossil fuel plants was made by Scenic Hudson, Citizens for Local Power and KingstonCitizens.org last summer, where local communities – and not the state – have authority.  The concept is appropriate for all communities in the six counties residing in the “G” Zone (see materials below for more information), and was inspired by Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a 20mw gas-fired peak energy power plant being proposed in the Town of Ulster.

The Town of Lloyd’s ECC and Town Board were the first to pursue the recommendation.

“Lloyd is vulnerable.” says the letter to the Town Board of Lloyd from their ECC. “According to the Southern Ulster times article, zoning codes in the county, including Lloyd, do not address utility needs. Lloyd Planning Board Chairperson Peter Brooks indicated in the article that the lack of clear zoning guiding the review process of a proposed peaker plant would leave the town in a vulnerable position. He was quoted as saying that if such a proposal were to come before the Planning board, “we’re kind of bare-naked.”  Because of their small size, peaker plants like the 20-megawatt facility proposed in the Town of Ulster are not subject to New York State guidance regarding the siting, construction, and operation of major electric generating facilities.2 Municipalities have the primary jurisdiction for electric generating facilities under 25 megawatts. But like Lloyd, most communities are unequipped to provide an informed review of these facilities….The ECC strongly recommends that the Town Board enact a temporary moratorium on fossil fuel-powered peaker plants to protect our vulnerable community. During the proposed moratorium, we advise the Town Board to write regulations into the Town Code that allow the Town to decide if and how such plants should be sited, where they should go, and under what conditions.”

New York’s highest court has held that a municipality may exclude an industrial use if doing so is a reasonable exercise of its police powers to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and to promote the interests of the community as a whole.

“The ECC does not believe that fossil- fueled power plants are consistent with Lloyd’s community character. Therefore, we recommend that the Town Code be amended to prohibit them.”

The Town of Lloyd is now a model community for all of us potentially impacted by these types of projects.  We hope to see more communities in the ‘G’ Zone follow suit.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOW YOUR COMMUNITY CAN ADDRESS ZONING ON 25MW OR SMALLER FOSSIL FUEL POWER PLANTS IN THEIR COMMUNITIES:

VIEW  the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center Project Fact Sheet

WATCH our recent Webinar “Living in the “G” Zone: Peak Energy Plants and Zoning”

LEARN  how to update your zoning language to prepare for a possible fossil fuel power plant proposal in your community.

The PURPA Challenge: Is GlidePath’s Lincoln Park Power Plant really a “Utility Company Structure?”

 

By Rebecca Martin

Earlier this summer, we learned that GlidePath (aka Lincoln Park GC, LLC)  “stated that their project – the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center, a gas-fired peak energy power plant being proposed in the Town of Ulster – could be built “as-of-right” in the Office and Manufacturing District (“OM District”) in the Town because it is a “utility company structure.”

For many months, TownOfUlsterCitizens.org and our coalition of partners requested that the Town of Ulster provide “clarity on whether the Town of Ulster Zoning Code currently regulates gas-fired power plants, and specifically request a statement as to how the Town is treating the proposed Lincoln Park Grid Support Center under the Zoning Code.”

These requests went without any detailed explanation.

However, over the weekend we learned that even though the code in the Town of Ulster’s zoning code refers to “utility company structures” allowed as-of-right in Highway Commercial (HC), Resource Conservation (RC), Office-Medical (OM) and I districts (and by Special Use Permits (SUP) or Specific Plan (SP) Approval in R-60, 30, 10 and Land Conservation (LC) districts), that GlidePath may not be considered a utility as per an interpretation of the 1978 US Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), which began the deregulation of energy companies to create competition to allow the US to break the grip of energy monopolies in the aftermath of the energy crisis.

PURPA establishes that because energy companies were “natural monopolies” (i.e., which happens to industries with infrastructure costs and other barriers to entry relative to the size of the market, giving the largest supplier an advantage over potential competitors), energy producers are non-utility generators. Cogeneration and small power production facilities are not utilities. It appears to be all in PURPA and settled case law that follows it since then.

What might this all mean for the GlidePath proposal?  We have more research to do to understand PURPA’s potential impact.

VIDEO: Kingston Planning Board – ICCHV, Verizon Communication Tower, “Super Garage” Proposal

By Rebecca Martin

There was a big turn-out at last evening’s Planning Board meeting, where several items of interest were discussed. They included a Communications Tower being proposed near Colonel Gardens (a public housing complex in Ward 7);  The Irish Cultural Center’s (ICCHV) site plan public hearing; and a new proposed project, the ‘Super Garage’ located in the Rondout, Kingston. 

Here are highlights. 

The outcomes were mostly predictable.  The proposed Communications Tower was tabled while the applicant performs a balloon test for visual impacts and looks at a secondary site in the Town of Ulster; the ICCHV was also tabled, although there was some confusion from the public as to what they were expected to comment on without materials or any communication/guidance by the planning department, and the “Super Garage” project and lot line revisions were both tabled as well.

We asked the planning board to table the proposed communication tower project (which they were going to do anyway), in light of learning about New Hempstead’s model law for cell towers.  In order to allow the Kingston common council to analyze the overall planning issue and to decide where and under what conditions tower constructions may proceed, a brief moratorium on cell towers given our ongoing comprehensive plan and zoning amendment work could be requested.

VIEW
Model Law (New Hempstead)

VIEW
NYSDOS Recommendation on Communication Towers

VIEW 
NYSDOS Moratoria on Land Use

Robert Iannucci, the project applicant for the “Super Garage” project, will host a public informational hearing on Thursday, December 6th at 6:00pm at the Cornell Steamboat Building located at 108 East Strand in the Rondout.

VIEW
Facebook Event on “Super Garage” Public Informational Hearing

Read more…

Invitation to Webinar (Earn Credits) Tuesday, September 25 @ 3pm: Living in the “G” Zone: GlidePath, Peak Energy Power Plants and Zoning.

KingstonCitizens.org is presenting a webinar specifically for all planning and zoning professionals living in the “G” Zone (Ulster, Orange, Greene, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess Counties). We hope that you or someone you delegate can attend on Tuesday, September 25 from 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm.     A Q&A segment will be allotted at the end of the presentations moderated by Rebecca Martin of KingstonCitizens.org.

WATCH Webinar

Attendance to this free webinar event provides credits for the following: AICP (American Institute of Professional Planners) and NYS Planning and Zoning Board

This webinar event is brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org in partnership with Scenic Hudson, Citizens for Local Power and Riverkeeper.   With support from TownOfUlsterCitizens.org, CAPP-NY, Catskill Mountainkeeper, NP Climate Action Coalition. Additional supporters TBA. 

Read more…

TOOLKIT AND VIDEO – Residents of Ulster County and ‘G’ Zone Counties: Temporary Moratorium on Fossil-Fuel Power Plants To Address Zoning.

By Rebecca Martin

Last evening, approximately 150 people attended our public forum and community BBQ “Living in the ‘G’ Zone: GlidePath, Peak Power and Ulster County.

We learned that residents of Ulster County and vulnerable communities throughout the ‘G’ zone have no time to waste to address 25 MW fossil fuel power plants (where local communities have oversight) in their zoning ordinances.

As promised, we have created action items for both Town of Ulster residents AND all Ulster County residents and all of those living in the ‘G’ zone.

Video and PowerPoint from both presentations are available following our step by step actions.

We would like to keep track of the communities who pursue this information, so please send any updates to Rebecca Martin at rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org


Additional Resources
:

1.  VIEW  Ulster County Executive Mike Hein Statement re: GlidePath.

2. VIEW Coalition Letter to Town of Ulster: Temporary Moratorium on Power Plants to Address Zoning Code.  

 

TOOLKIT: Step by Step to Address Zoning and Peak Power Plants
This resident action was made possible by the generous support of Scenic Hudson, Citizens for Local Power and KingstonCitizens.org

 

ACTION FOR TOWN OF ULSTER RESIDENTS

Urge your municipality to place a moratorium on fossil-fuel burning power plants while they consider zoning that specifically addresses power plants.

The next Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting will occur on Thursday, August 16th at 7:00pm at the Town of Ulster Town Hall, 1 Town Hall Drive, Lake Katrine, NY.

1.First, in towns, zoning Must Be Consistent with Comprehensive Plans (NYS Town Law §  263)

2.Please request that the Town of Ulster Supervisor and Town Board adopt a temporary moratorium on construction of power plants while it considers zoning that specifically regulates power plants.

3.Demand that the town Supervisor and Town Board publicly state whether they consider the GlidePath project a “utility company structure” permitted as-of-right in the OM zone as GlidePath has been claiming.

 

ACTION FOR ULSTER COUNTY RESIDENTS AND ALL LIVING IN VULNERABLE AREAS IN THE ‘G’ ZONE. (Ulster, Greene, Orange, Dutchess, Rockland, Putnam Counties).

To ensure that your town doesn’t end up with a gas-fired power plant proposed just feet from a residential neighborhood, urge your municipality to place a moratorium on fossil-fuel burning power plants while they consider zoning that specifically addresses power plants.

Smaller “peaker” power plants (25 MW or less) are primarily under jurisdiction of local governments, and not “New York State” and are going to become increasingly prevalent throughout the Hudson Valley.

Most municipalities do not have zoning specifically regulating power plants.

Q.  Should power plants be allowed at all in our town? Would prohibiting them constitute impermissible exclusionary zoning? 

Not necessarily. NYS courts have stated that municipalities can ban industrial uses as long as prohibiting a use is a reasonable exercise of its police powers to prevent damage to the rights of others and to promote the interests of the community as a whole.
(Gernatt Asphalt Products v. Town of Sardinia)

If power plants are permitted in your town, how should our zoning regulate them?  They should only be permitted:

•In heavy industrial zones that are designated for uses that generate significant noise, traffic or pollutants and are far away from important environmental areas and residences;

•With a special use permit;

•Subject to strict conditions related to noise, stack height, etc.;

•Subject to minimum lot size and coverage (subject to underlying zoning requirements or can create specific new standards); and;

•With an enforceable decommissioning plan requiring restoration of the site to original condition or better.

 

VIDEO #1: “Living in the ‘G’ Zone: GlidePath, Peak Power and Ulster County.”

1:16 – 15:02
County Executive Mike Hein
“You’re here because you care about something that is fundamentally wrong and stopping it…your county executive is going to fight like hell to push back on this.”

15:10 – 17:55
Amanda LaValle, Department of the Environment, Ulster County
“Executive Order #2 of 2018 speaks to Ulster County’s commitment to renewable energy and insuring more renewable projects like the Town of Ulster Solar Landfill project, as well as to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our operations and going further to expand with a community emissions reduction goal of 80% over the 2012 baseline by 2050.

18:01 – 23:13
Laura Hartmann, TownOfUlsterCitizens.org
Welcome and Thanks

23:15 – 30:00
Rebecca Martin, KingstonCitizens.org
Welcome, Coalition Partners and Panel Opening

30:38 – 53:25
Evelyn Wright, Citizens for Local Power
Please follow along with her powerpoint available HERE

Solutions to GlidePath’s peak power plant proposal in the Town of Ulster:

1.Serve the distribution system: Non-wires alternatives. ConEd is actively looking for storage developers for projects downstate.

2. Hybridize existing peaker plants. NYS has 3000 MW of very old, very dirty peaker plants that need to make changes to meet new air regulations (again mostly downstate).

3. Partner with an industrial or commercial site that can use some of the batteries’ services.

4. Storage-plus-renewables. Renewables do not have to be co-located on the same site in order to get state incentives!

5. Storage only. Actively participate in the evolving NYISO and NYSERDA/PSC processes that will change the storage market landscape over the next two years AND design a storage-one project that benefits from those incentives.

53:40 – end
Hayley Carlock, Scenic Hudson
Please follow along with her powerpoint available HERE

The role that local zoning plays with smaller power plants generally. Urge your municipality to place a moratorium on fossil-fuel burning power plants while they consider zoning that specifically addresses power plants.

Here’s how.

1. First, in towns, zoning must be consistent with “Comprehensive Plans” (NYS Town Law § 263).

2. If power plants are permitted in our town, how should our zoning regulate them?

They should only be permitted:

•In heavy industrial zones that are designated for uses that generate significant noise, traffic or pollutants and are far away from important environmental areas and residences;

•With a special use permit;

•Subject to strict conditions related to noise, stack height, etc.;

•Subject to minimum lot size and coverage (subject to underlying zoning requirements or can create specific new standards); and;

•With an enforceable decommissioning plan requiring restoration of the site to original condition or better.

 

VIDEO #2:  “Living in the ‘G’ Zone: GlidePath, Peak Power and Ulster County.”

Hayley Carlock, Scenic Hudson (Continued)

00:00 – 1:35
ToU History on Solar Moratorium.

1:36 – 4:03
Action for Town of Ulster Residents

4:04 – 10:06
Action for Residents if you don’t live in the ToU.

10:07 – 12:46
Update on GlidePath and SEQR process

13:00 – End
Question and Answer period

(Amended) GUIDANCE FOR TESTIMONY: Proposed Central Hudson Gas Regulating Substation in Kingston, NY

Item #3: #245 Washington Avenue SPECIAL PERMIT to install a gas regulating station. SBL 56.90-6-20. SEQR Determination. Zone R-1. Ward 3. Central Hudson Gas & Electric; Applicant/owner

Recently, a citizen of the City of Kingston who lives near a new proposed Gas Regulating System to be located at 245 Washington Avenue by Central Hudson contacted us with some concerns.  Gas and Electric Magnetic Field (EMF) Substations are a part of our landscape in Kingston, given the need for gas and electric in our daily lives.

But process is key, and it was the process that peeked our interest.

Read more…