Coalition aims to stop Durkee plan

KAYLA BREEN/STAFF PHOTOPlattsburgh Citizens Coalition Board of Directors President Scott Allen answers questions about the Durkee Street lot development plans during a press conference Thursday afternoon on Macomb Street.

PLATTSBURGH — A citizens group is looking to halt the current Durkee Street lot development plans.

As part of its $10 million state-funded Downtown Revitalization Initiative, the City of Plattsburgh has signed on with Albany County-based developer Prime Plattsburgh LLC. 

But the recently announced Plattsburgh Citizens' Coalition released a statement Thursday that said they're ready to use "any lawful means necessary to stop the Prime project from moving forward."

Board of Directors President Scott Allen, who owns City Hall Place-headquartered AES Northeast, said the group of city stakeholders is covering all the bases. 

"We're exploring all options that are available to us," Allen said. "Legal options, community organizing options, community development options —

"We want people to be aware of upcoming events, upcoming processes and review processes for the project."

DURKEE BACKGROUND

At a Thursday afternoon press conference, members of the recently incorporated not-for-profit described the coalition's motives. 

Some background dated back to the state's guidelines for the Durkee Street lot's $4.3 million award.

According to Allen, New York's DRI Strategic Investment Plan had outlined about 45 apartment units, one acre of green space and a one-to-one replacement of the lot's 289 spaces into a new, structured lot. 

Prime Plattsburgh's latest drafts for the site include a U-shaped complex of some 114 market-rate apartment units, 10,000 square feet of commercial space and around 345 public-private parking spaces. 

The development proposal also invites "virtually no new public green space and a hodge-podge parking plan," Allen said. 

THE PARKING

It's within the realm of parking that the Citizens' Coalition has cited "the most obvious problem." 

In its background statement, the group says the city signed with Prime Plattsburgh LLC before producing a viable parking plan. 

"And before verifying that it will indeed be possible to find 289 off-street parking spaces to replace the ones lost by building on the Durkee Street parking lot," the statement says.

The city formed the Plattsburgh Parking Advisory Committee late last year, and that group has met monthly, brainstorming a variety of parking plans. 

The coalition's statement points to some of those drafts, disagreeing with many suggested plans, such as angled parking and added lot entrances. 

"The (Plattsburgh Citizens' Coalition) has no confidence in the Parking Advisory Committee's abilities to develop a parking scheme which is code compliant and makes sense," the statement says. 

The coalition cited other issues with the suggested Prime Plattsburgh development, including the developer's private profit, a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement that could lead to a tax burden and displacement of the Plattsburgh Farmers and Crafters Market.

SMART GROWTH

Allen said the coalition is not anti-DRI, though. 

"Believe me," he said Thursday, "we're not opposed to downtown development or development of the Durkee lot. 

"In fact, we encourage it."

The board president said anyone who has kept an eye on the DRI has known that the city-owned lot would undergo changes.

According to their statement, the Citizens' Coalition believes "high-end apartment buildings are not the solution to revitalization of the downtown community, nor does extra retail spaces make sense, given the number of storefronts that remain empty in the downtown area.

"Plattsburgh Citizens' Coalition Inc. advocates and promotes smart growth that enhances and improves the quality of life for all."

'WHAT CAN WE DO?'

Allen said the Citizens' Coalition was born of a recurring question. 

"Since last fall, downtown stakeholders, including business owners, property owners, workers, residents and visitors, have been asking, 'What can we do to stop the Prime project?'

"Well," Allen responded, "one thing we can do is form a strong, well-organized and well-funded coalition — we've done that. 

"That's what Plattsburgh Citizens' Coalition is."

APPLICATION PROCESS

Allen said concerned citizens, city residents, downtown business owners and employees are encouraged to apply for coalition membership.

"If you have questions about the Prime project that you don't feel you're getting answers to from the city officials, come talk to us," Allen said.

"If you want to contribute to our cause and not become a member, that's fine, too."

Details can be found at the Plattsburgh Citizens' Coalition Facebook page or the website plattsburghcitizenscoalition.com.

Email McKenzie Delisle: 

mdelisle@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @McKenzieDelisle