(Editor’s note – this story was previously credited to Jesse J. Smith, but was actually written by Geddy Sveikauskas.)
An Article 78 proceeding was filed this past week seeking annulment of the Kingston Planning Board’s December 16 negative declaration of environmental impact on The Kingstonian project. The application filed by Creda, LLC argued that the unanimous planning board decision had failed to take the required “hard look” at the environmental impacts of the large mixed-use project, which consists of a 420-car garage, 143 apartments, a 32-room boutique hotel, a pedestrian plaza, and 9000 square feet of retail and restaurant space at the northeast corner of Kingston’s Stockade district.
The planning board’s December 16 negative declaration said the board was “satisfied that the visual impacts of the project have been thoroughly examined and mitigated to the maximum extent practicable.” That standard wasn’t good enough, the Article 78 petitioner argued. When a project was deemed to have presented even one potential significant environmental impact, an environmental impact statement (EIS) was required to analyze mitigation measures.
Reduction but not elimination of a significant environmental impact didn’t justify a negative declaration by the lead reviewing agency, the reasoning went. The planning board hadn’t taken the required “hard look” at the adverse environmental impacts.
The Article 78 process requires petitioners to be directly affected (approximately 500 feet from it or less) to have standing. Creda, LLC said it has established tenancy and intends to open a Colonial-era tavern and restaurant called Ye Olde Stockade Tavern at 317 Wall Street. That building, once the home of Yallum’s store and then occupied as an office by British publisher Pearson, has been vacant for at least 15 years. As of early this week, there was no exterior evidence of renovation activity.
In late November, real-estate investor Neil Bender’s Rhinebeck attorney wrote a brief urging the Kingston ZBA not to exempt The Kingstonian from a 20 percent set-aside for affordable housing. Such a policy would be discriminatory to owners of existing properties, attorney Victoria Polidoro wrote.
One of Bender’s firms is the owner of 317 Wall Street.
“The determination incentivizes the demolition of historic structures and places the owners of existing buildings on a lower footing than owners of vacant lots,” Polidoro wrote. “The applicants are compelled to appeal the determination because of the disparate impact that it has on their ability to develop their properties for residential uses.”
Around that time, Andrea Shaut, now Kingston’s alderwoman-at-large, thanked the planning board for its hard work with “the complex dealings” of The Kingstonian. But she characterized as “discouraging” the board’s recent decision to quantify the proposal’s visual impact on the neighborhood as small rather than moderate or large in its possible impacts.
Shaut wrote she believed a project if that size would inevitably have a significant visual impact on the neighborhood. “Many folks eagerly await positive aspects of The Kingstonian, but the desire of the positive impacts should not blind the possibility of consequences that such a development can bring,” wrote Shaut. “Only with diligent eyes and thorough process do I trust that this project can become a valuable asset to Uptown and the entire city.”
With the negative environmental declaration from the planning board in hand, The Kingstonian is now prepared to move on to addressing site-plan issues, satisfying other regulatory requirements, securing financing, and applying for tax relief from the county Industrial Development Agency. The process of securing the required approvals is a long and onerous one.
Property values in the Stockade have been increasing at a torrid rate. Demand for market-rate housing in attractive neighborhoods has been strong.