Pivotal Kingstonian ruling could happen before Christmas

Kingston’s planning board is expected to make a key ruling on a major development in Uptown Kingston in December. Their decision on whether to issue a positive or negative declaration of environmental significance as part of the state-mandated environmental review of the proposed Kingstonian project could extend the approval process for the mixed use development by years — or pave the way for a much quicker timeline to construction.

The proposed Kingstonian project would replace a grade-level municipal parking lot off of Schwenk Drive with a 143-unit residential building with ground-floor commercial space and a 400-space garage (250 of those spaces would be set aside for public use). Fourteen of the apartments would be set aside for people making 60 percent of the area median income.

A second component of the project by JM Development Group LLC would replace a brick warehouse on the corner of North Front Street and Fair Street Extension with a 32-room boutique hotel and more commercial space. The proposal would also replace Fair Street Extension with a public plaza and create a walkway over Schwenk Drive linking the site to Kingston Plaza.

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The project will be funded with $46 million in private investment and $6.8 million in state grants. The development team is headed by Kingston Plaza owner Brad Jordan and Orange County-based developer Joe Bonura Jr.

Among the key decisions facing the planning board is how to proceed with a review of the project’s potential negative environmental impacts. At the request of the board, developers have submitted studies on a number of issues including visual impact, capacity of local sewer and stormwater infrastructure and the stability of ground soil at the site. The project has also been the subject of two studies — one commissioned by the developers and the other by the planning board — related to its potential impact on neighborhood traffic. The board could opt to accept those studies as sufficient and issue a negative declaration of environmental significance under the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act. The board could issue a positive declaration; in that case the developers would need to develop a full environmental impact statement using a “scoping document” developed with public input as a blueprint. That process would likely add several years to the project’s timeline. The county’s planning board and some citizens’ groups say the project should get a positive declaration, based on its size and location in the heart of Kingston’s historic Stockade District.

A public comment period on the environmental review process closed on Monday, Nov. 25. On Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, the board will meet to accept the assembled comments, studies, and an updated visual analysis. (Inclement weather forced a date change; this meeting was originally set for Dec. 2.)

City Planner Suzanne Cahill had said last week the board would then review the material and continue discussion its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Dec. 16, but given the rescheduling of the Dec. 2 meeting due to the snowstorm, it wasn’t immediately clear if the board would be able to do this on the 16th.

“I cannot predict whether or not the board will make a decision,” said Cahill last week. “They will be given all of the information up front and then they will have to review it.”

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