A proposal by Rupco to build housing for low-income seniors at the site of the former Kingston Alms House could be back before the city planning board as soon as next month after a judge overturned a September 2018 decision denying site plan approval for the project.
On March 15, Judge Richard Mott ruled that the denial of site plan approval for Rupco’s proposed “Landmark Place” had been “arbitrary and capricious.” Mott ruled that the three planning board members who voted against the site plan approval cited reasons that were either not supported by evidence or had already been taking off the table months earlier when the board ruled that the Rupco proposal could proceed as a Type II proceeding (meaning that it was unlikely to have significant environmental impacts) under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
The Landmark Place proposal would create 66 units of supportive housing for adults 55 and over at the 15-acre site at 300 Flatbush Ave. The studio and one-bedroom apartments would be split between an existing structure, the historic former Kingston Alms House, and a newly constructed building. Some of the units would be set aside for the recently homeless and seniors struggling with mental illness, substance abuse and other behavioral health issues. Others would be set aside for disabled veterans and the frail elderly. The project would include on-site staff to help residents who might otherwise be unable to live independently. The project is funded in part by a statewide initiative to fight homelessness by creating permanent supportive housing aimed at vulnerable low-income populations.
In their lawsuit challenging the planning board’s decision, Rupco attorneys argued that the board was improperly swayed by complaints from neighbors about the type of residents they believed would be housed at Landmark Place. Rupco CEO Kevin O’Connor said that Landmark Place would be the first affordable housing for seniors built in Kingston in the past 20 years. O’Connor added that the proposal would add to the city’s tax base. While a nonprofit, Rupco typically pays into city coffers in the form or payment in lieu of taxes agreements on its residential properties and would save taxpayer money by providing permanent housing to people who currently reside in county-paid motel rooms and other temporary housing.
“Landmark Place will serve as an important asset for the city,” said O’Connor. “One that we can all be proud of.
City Planner Suzanne Cahill declined to speak about the Landmark Place project citing the advice of city Assistant Corporation Counsel Dan Gartenstein who serves at the planning board’s attorney. Gartenstein, meanwhile, said he planned to sit down with the planning board to discuss the legal issues raised by Mott’s decision. He added that he hoped to have the Landmark Place proposal on the agenda for the board’s April meeting.
“The judge gave very clear instructions on how the planning board is to proceed,” said Gartenstein. “And we will follow the judge’s instructions.”
Rupco officials, who had hoped to begin construction on Landmark Place this spring, said they were now looking a start date in the fall, assuming the planning board grants site plan approval.
O’Connor praised Mott’s decision and said RUPCO was prepared to continue the approval process without further delay. “We have consistently followed the process,” said O’Connor. “And we now look forward to completing the review process with the planning board.”