A 13-year-old restriction in place at the former TechCity may soon be amended to allow the developer of iPark 87 fully residential buildings in areas where first-floor retail space had been required. The change would also allow two five-story residential buildings. The Town of Ulster seeks to make zoning amendments in its Redevelopment Overlay District
Ulster town supervisor James E. Quigley, III explained that the first-floor restriction was the result of over two decades of dumping and chemical incidents on the property by IBM between the mid-1950s and late-1970s. The requirement was originally devised by former TechCity owner Alan Ginsberg to develop the site under the direction of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
“The restriction on the first-floor residential requiring the retail was developed back in 2010 based upon the environmental data that was in place at that time on the cleanup,” Quigley said. “It was proposed by the prior owner as an easy fix given the fact that the DEC had placed restrictions on any kind of activity that would jeopardize a resident or a user from any migration [of pollutants] from below the surface of the ground.”
Quigley said that owner National Resources is hoping to undo the restriction self-imposed by Ginsberg on an area that, while technically on the property, was not a contaminated hot spot.
“We’ve got 13 years of remediative actions that have taken place, and all the question is now from the developer, Why should the whole site be held to the standard that is rightfully imposed in the area over the groundwater contamination?” Quigley said. “So in other words, the area where National Resources [president and CEO Joe Cotter] is proposing apartments never had any groundwater contamination under it. It was not in the flow of the water. The groundwater flow was in the opposite direction. And he’s sitting there asking, Well, why should we pay the price for something that’s on the other side of the project?”
Town officials agree. A local law introducing zoning amendments on the property was introduced at a September 7 meeting. There will be an addition reading.
“Residential uses permitted” will contain a subsection reading, “No building or structure in the ROD (Redevelopment Overlay District) shall exceed a height of 75 feet above curb level, or five stories.”
Said Quigley, “The original zoning code overlay was reflective of what the thinking was 13 years ago. So we said, Why handicap the project based upon 13-year-old information?”
Town officials have had discussions with the DEC about the changes. The state agency seems open to the use of residential space on the first floor, contingent on a review of deeded restrictions that provide safety measures.
The developer has agreed to build a total of 880 housing units at the location on the Boice’s Lane side of the sprawling complex.
Supervisor Quigley cautioned that the change cannot happen overnight. The legislative process normally takes between 60 and 90 days. A public hearing will be set when the town board meets September 21. A public hearing is planned for October 19.
“Absent any major public comment against the law, we will probably be considering a vote on that law some time in the first week in December,” Quigley said. “Now, that is just the zoning part. This is a complicated project in the fact that not only do you have the zoning changes going on, but you have an application that has been submitted in concept to the planning board, which is for a revision to the master plan that had previously been approved. So now we’re walking forward on a parallel track.”