City says Kingstonian developers have turned in impact studies

City officials say that the developers of the proposed Kingstonian project have completed a series of studies on the environmental impact of the mixed-use complex eyed for Uptown. Now the city’s planning board will decide whether to accept those studies as sufficient, or seek a more exhaustive environmental review process.

The board is expected to take up the issue at meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. in Common Council chambers at City Hall.

The proposed Kingstonian project would occupy two sites on either side of Fair Street extension in Uptown Kingston. One site, on the corner of North Front and Wall streets would hold 129 units of market-rate housing and a 420-space indoor parking structure. The plan states that 250 of those parking spots would be set aside for the public. On the Fair Street side, a brick warehouse owned by project co-developer Brad Jordan would be demolished to make way for a 32-room boutique hotel. The proposal also calls for 8,000 square feet of retail space, an open-air plaza built over what is now Fair Street Extension and a pedestrian bridge linking the site to Kingston Plaza. The project headed up by Jordan and Poughkeepsie-based JM Development Group would be funded with $46 million in private investment and another $6.8 million in state grants.

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The project has garnered support from Mayor Steve Noble and was an important factor in the city’s award of a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Grant through the New York State Economic Development Council. But the proposal has also faced opposition from critics who cite a lack of affordable housing in the project. Others have criticized the look and size of the development, calling it out of scale and out of character for the city’s most historic neighborhood.

Those criticisms were leveled during public hearings last month before the planning board and the Common Council, which needs to OK a zoning change for the project to move forward. The planning board will continue to accept written comment on the potential environmental impact of the Kingstonian until 4 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 6.

City Planner Suzanne Cahill said this week that the planning board would begin discussing the studies and the public comments at the meeting on the 11th, but would probably not make a decision on the scope of the environmental review that evening.

While the planning board will have to make a decision on how extensive of an environmental review they will require of the Kingstonian, city zoning officials will take up another issue — whether the city’s zoning code mandates the inclusion of affordable housing in the project. The site of the Kingstonian lies within the city’s Mixed Use Overlay District. The district was formed in 2005 to encourage the redevelopment of former commercial and industrial sites in Uptown Kingston for a mix of commercial and residential use. Last month, three residents — Rebecca Martin, Sarah Wenk and Ted Griese — submitted to city Assistant Corporation Counsel Dan Gartenstein a “request for interpretation” of a section of the zoning code which requires residential projects in the MUOD to set aside 20 percent of all units for affordable housing. In his response, Gartenstein wrote that he issue has been referred to city zoning enforcement officer Eric Kitchen for a formal interpretation, and that response can be expected “in due course” after Sept. 9.

But in an Aug, 28 memo addressed to Kitchen and sent out to Martin, Wenk and Griese, Kingstonian attorney Michael Moriello offered a rebuttal to the claim that the city’s ignoring the MUOD’s 20 percent set-aside rule. Moriello cited language in several sections of the overlay district’s zoning code regarding the affordable housing mandate which include the phrase “to adaptively reuse commercial and industrial buildings.” In Moriello’s analysis, he writes that the 20 percent mandate was clearly intended to apply to the redevelopment of existing buildings, not new construction like the Kingstonian.

“Conjecture, speculation and conclusory claims by the project opponents cannot lawfully constitute substantial evidence sufficient to overrule the rationally based administrative determination to permit the forwarding of the Kingstonian project before the City of Kingston Planning Board without an affordable housing component,” wrote Moriello.

There are 4 comments

  1. SG

    Moriello NAILS IT! The single thread of an argument that vocal activist opponents point to is the re-use overlay requiring “affordable” units. There is NO adaptive re-use in this plan. That is a lie that ‘elitist’ activists have chosen to spread fear rathe than tell the truth and focus on the facts.

    The entire project is a New Build on Vacant Land…with no adaptvie re-use.
    So that argument which is being made is literally nothing but a lie.
    A lie.
    (I thought these folks were supposed to be about truth and facts?)

    And frankly, if folks are going to be fine with abandoned buildings dotting our city rather than brand new
    housing stock that will put people in new housing and take them out of the rehabilitation market in other
    neighborhoods…housing by the way, which I plan to live in, which means I will no longer need to drive into
    Uptown everyday…I can park my car, walk to my work, walk to the grocery store, walk to all of the things I enjoy doing…that’s pretty phenomenal. Currently, I personally make 20-30 vehicle trips in and out of Uptown every single week. For me, and for many others, this will create a virtual zero impact on traffic, again, despite the fear mongers.

    I’d encourage this rage-activism to focus its energy on actually doing something good for Kingston and get a consortium of local developers together to build a couple of new affordable housing developments similar to
    Energy Square and The Alms House…which are also being developed here as affordable housing putting close to 300-unites on the market at lower rents?

    The Kingstonian is a very good plan that will benefit this city.
    Stop fighting it.
    It’s a positive for Uptown businesses, property owners, residents, and the generation of new business here.
    Approve it and build it!

  2. Gayle M.

    To the contrary, one could say this rebuttal “nails it.”

    “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.”

    https://www.kingstoncitizens.org/2019/09/kingstoncitizens-org-challenges-kingstonian-applicants-zoning-interpretation-and-citizen-action-of-new-york-submits-foil-request-to-city-of-kingston/

  3. Homesteader

    The housing racket of Upstate New York has got to go. It screws everybody who is a single-family-owner occupied domicile as well as everybody else who subsidizes commercial lodging services, and all other commercial ventures for that matter, because all parcel owners pay the same tax rate. And that’s just the first stumbling block.

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