Original Article

August 5, 2020

KINGSTON, N.Y. — City aldermen say they support the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency reaching a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the developers of the proposed Uptown development known as The Kingstonian, so long as the deal meets certain requirements.

During a virtual meeting Tuesday, the Common Council voted 8-1 to adopt a resolution offering support for the IDA and the project’s developers to reach a deviated payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreement for The Kingstonian. The lone vote against the resolution was the result of Alderman Steven Schabot, D-Ward 8, recusing himself from any discussion or decisions related to the project. Under the council’s rules, a recusal is counted as a “no” vote.

Through its resolution, the council stipulated a number of minimum requirements any PILOT for The Kingstonian would have to meet, including that the 14 affordable housing units designated as part of the project would remain affordable throughout the life of the project and not just the length of the tax deal.

The council also stipulated that the project should pay at least $40,000 in property taxes as opposed to $28,488 in the first year of the deal, escalating 3 percent each year thereafter. Tenants of the affordable housing units would also have a 50 percent reduction in their monthly parking fees, under the council’s requirements.

Additionally, if the project is more profitable than expected, the owners would share 5 percent of the additional profit with the city, Ulster County, and the Kingston school district at a rate proportional to the current tax rate.

Other requirements include that the owners of the project would not seek any additional PILOTs after the original one terminates and that the project would contribute $5,000 annually over 10 years to create a new scholarship fund held by The Community Foundation to be given to Kingston school district students. The project would also create and fund two paid internships at a cost to the developer of $10,000 each per year for the life of the PILOT to help mentor Kingston High School students in both hospitality and real estate careers.

The county Industrial Development Agency’s board is expected to resume considering a potential PILOT for the project at a meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 12.

During Tuesday’s meeting, several aldermen thanked the developers for their willingness to work with them and the community to amend the details of the proposed PILOT.

Alderman Tony Davis, D-Ward 6, also thanked the developers for including affordable housing in their project, as well as providing public parking and other amenities. He noted, though, that he had received “nasty” emails about the proposed PILOT agreement.

Davis said it was fine for people to call him and make such comments to him, but said his wife did not sign up to be a public official. He said people who attacked his wife while she was in public were “crossing a line.”

On the proposed PILOT itself, Alderman Jeffrey Ventura Morell, D-Ward 1, said he had made comments during a caucus meeting the evening before that he would like the developers to share more information with the public, including how much the project would pay in school taxes and any parking variance that would be sought. He said he still hopes that information will be provided.

“However, after last night I received an overwhelming number of calls from constituents to honor my oath to represent my constituents and to be their voice in City Hall,” Ventura Morell said. “I will be voting ‘yes’ for this.”

Council Majority Leader Reynolds Scott-Childress, D-Ward 3, said this is an “exciting time” and that The Kingstonian could create several hundred construction jobs as well as become an anchor of Uptown Kingston. He said there would also be environmental benefits from the project, including its interior parking garage.

“I’ve really admired this project from the beginning and I’ve seen how the developers have worked with the community,” Scott-Childress said. “Probably not to the full extent that some people would like to see, but they have certainly gone beyond what usually is asked for in these kinds of situations.”

The Kingstonian is proposed to be built on two sites at the intersection of Fair Street Extension and North Front Street, with each of the new buildings extending toward the Schwenk Drive side of the properties. Fair Street Extension would be closed to through traffic as part of the plan, which still is under consideration by the city Planning Board.

One of the properties is owned by the city and currently is used as a municipal parking lot.

The Kingstonian project is to consist of 143 apartments, of which 129 would be rented at market rates. In addition to the apartments, the project is to include 8,000 square feet of retail space, a 32-room boutique hotel, a pedestrian plaza, a footbridge crossing Schwenk Drive between the new development and Kingston Plaza, and a 420-space parking garage, of which 277 would be for public use.

The project’s cost is estimated to be $57.9 million. The developers are to receive $3.8 million from the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant awarded to Kingston by New York state, as well as other government funding. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding is to be used on portions of the project that benefit the public.

The developers are seeking to have $28.84 million in property taxes waived over 25 years and also receive exemptions for a total of $1.8 million in mortgage, sales and use taxes.

Still outstanding is a lawsuit filed by the owners of some other Uptown properties challenging the city Planning Board’s ruling that the project would have no significant environmental impact. The project also requires site plan approval from the Planning Board.