Developers of a proposed retail, residential and parking complex in Uptown Kingston are planning to present studies on traffic, stormwater and other issues at an April 10 public hearing at City Hall. It will then be up to the city’s planning board to determine if the proposed Kingstonian project needs to go through a more extensive — and potentially years-long — environmental review.
The $52 million project by the Orange County-based JM Development group would, if approved, replace a municipal parking lot at the corner of Wall and Fair streets with a mixed-use building holding 129 market-rate two- and three-bedroom apartments, commercial space and a 420-space parking structure. A separate site in a converted warehouse across Fair Street Extension would contain a boutique hotel and more commercial space. The plan also calls for construction of a public plaza. The proposal enjoys support from Mayor Steve Noble who has lobbied for $3.8 million in state grant funding to carry out public infrastructure work in conjunction with the plan.
In January, the planning board ruled that the Kingstonian project would be considered a “Type I” action under the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process. The designation means that the project is likely to have a significant environmental impact warranting a more thorough review. At a meeting earlier this month, the board, as expected, declared itself the “lead agency” in overseeing the environmental review. The board also set an April 10 special meeting to allow developers to present their findings and for the public to weigh in on the project.
City Planner Suzanne Cahill said that developers of the Kingstonian had commissioned studies to address concerns brought up at previous public meetings about the project’s potential impacts. Cahill said specifically, JM Development was looking at potential archaeological resources at the site, stormwater issues and traffic concerns.
“The applicant is working on several studies to address concerns that they have heard from different entities,” said Cahill. “They’re doing it independently as part of an initial submission.”
It will be up to the planning board to decide whether the studies and other information submitted by the developer satisfies SEQRA’s criteria for examination and mitigation of potential negative environmental impacts, or whether they will have to submit a formal environmental impact statement (EIS). A full EIS begins with a scoping document where the board, with input from the public, identifies all potential environmental impacts and directs the developer to fund studies by board-picked consultants on how each could be eliminated or mitigated. The document must then undergo multiple rounds of review and public comment. At each stage, developers may be asked to provide additional information or studies in response to issues raised by the public or other involved parties. Once the EIS is deemed complete, developers must submit a site plan incorporating all of its findings into the final design. Cahill said that she expected the board to take up discussion on the need for a full EIS once developers have submitted their initial findings.
“They’re going to look at what is presented and make a decision about whether they’re sufficient or if there needs to be a full EIS,” said Cahill. “That will be up to the board.”
The hearing will be 6 p.m. in the Common Council chambers.