The Town of Kingston planning board crossed several thresholds at its long-anticipated July 15 continuation of a recessed public hearing on Thomas Auringer’s proposal to build a half-million square foot manufacturing facility off Route 28 on property surrounded by the Bluestone Wild Forest and associated conservation lands recently purchased by the Open Space Institute.
Town and local fire department officials directed parking outside and used a metal directing wand to check all entering the Kingston town building July 15. But following a public hearing on a new solar array farm proposed for the town, a recently hired legal consultant for Kingston stood and announced that the public hearing that had drawn the crowd would be postponed indefinitely. The reason? Mandatory visitor sign-ups had indicated the crowd inside town hall had exceeded a 150-person capacity and according to the state’s Open Meetings Law, the hearing would need to be cancelled.
As Kingston town planning board chairman John Konior put it, in regards to both the cancellation and security precautions — which included he and the board sitting behind judge’s benches instead of on the same level as the audience, as is usual — “The town board didn’t want a repeat of the last time we met about this, which they called a ‘riot.’”
That public hearing, on June 17, saw a more crowded room than that this week, when the cancellation occurred. It involved a number of representatives of OSI and the Woodstock Land Conservancy, including scientific and environmental consultants as well as the general public, decrying the installation of a what they were afraid would be a loud manufacturing entity, after a long construction phase, in the midst of a popular park-like getaway that’s best known for its Onteora Lake area and surrounding trails. Countering were local residents, and people from neighboring towns, speaking about the need for jobs, the constraints environmentalists were placing on the local landscape, and objections to statements from anyone who’s not a local resident or taxpayer.
That meeting, in turn, was the continuation of a May public hearing where OSI and the Land Conservancy came out to note they’d only just heard of Auringer’s 850 Route 28 LLC proposal to start manufacturing cement bridge flooring at the site, where he’s currently storing heavy construction equipment, including cranes (town officials allowed that use, not allowed in neighboring Ulster, when they said a previous property owner had similar permission). OSI and WLC reps said that they’d never been informed of Auringer’s proposal in the many months since it was first brought forth last summer, even though they’d purchased contiguous lands this past winter, and the state wildforest and Onteora Lake were established entities.
Konior added this week that the town had hired Richard Golden of Goshen-based Burke, Miele, Golden & Naughton, LLP, who described himself as “an attorney who works with municipalities” who’s had past dealings with OSI in the towns of Woodsbury and Tuxedo, after the planning board “realized we needed support for what we wanted to do.”
Golden said that he closed the meeting based on his reading of municipal law, as well as the state’s Open Meeting legislation. He would work with the town to find a suitable location that could accommodate all who would want to attend, even if that couldn’t be in the town’s boundaries. “Even if we need to be in Dietz stadium,” quipped Konior.
“There’s a lot that has to be done,” Golden added. “We’ll announce when and where our next meeting takes place in the town’s legal newspaper (the Daily Freeman), as well as on the planning board’s website.”
Konior added that the planning board’s next scheduled meeting was for August 29.
Talking, but no budging
850 Route 28 LLC consultant Dan LaFever, when asked whether the meeting’s cancellation had been expected, or wanted, replied by noting all the paperwork he and his consultants had assembled. “It costs a lot of money every month to be sitting on a property that’s not making any money,” he added.
Raleigh Green, a communications specialist working with the Auringer team, went on to note that he had reached out to the Open Space Institute, but added that both institutions weren’t budging on their positions that the entire 850 Route 28 LLC application process had been flawed.
Calls and emails to OSI about Green’s claim were not answered as we went to press.
“Last night’s turnout demonstrated again just how much local residents care about protecting Onteora Lake, Pickerel Pond and the Bluestone Wild Forest from adjacent inappropriate development,” noted WLC Executive Director Maxanne Resnick in a separate statement. “Citizen engagement is already positively and constructively impacting the project and process at an important juncture. WLC and our partners are inspired by their engagement.”
Asked about the Monday crowd’s grumbling as they left the Kingston town hall on July 15, planning board chairman Konior widened his eyes a moment.
“I am not responsible for the way people feel,” he commented. “You realize that probably half of these people are not from our municipality…” ++