Plattsburgh’s mayor discusses city issues
The city of Plattsburgh’s credit rating just improved and redevelopment of the downtown core has been continuing with funds from New York state’s Downtown Redevelopment Initiative. Democratic Mayor Chris Rosenquest sat down Thursday evening with WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley to discuss those issues, including a recent tour of projects that have been completed in the center city.
The DRI was a $10 million award. $4 million was part of the Durkee Street development. And again that's still in litigation, that's still in the court system in an appeal process. The rest of the $6 million went to other projects: the Betty Little Arts Park, the Riverwalk, the signage, storefront facade improvement, second floor floor renovations, parts of it went to planning. So it's just was critical for me, given that this project is now six years in the making, to make sure that people were aware that we are making progress. This is where we're making the progress. This is where we spent money. And this is where you can see where we spent money. Along those lines that tour again and that educational piece was also a mechanism for my administration to just point to the purpose of the DRI as well, which is to revitalize, you know, revitalize the downtown. And what we're seeing from that DRI award to now is a Comprehensive Master Plan, and the potential in planning for changes to the zoning code and Harborside Master Plan and investments into our downtown investments into Harborside. Things that really have started because of that DRI award as a revitalization tool for our downtown. So it's working. And I know that people have been frustrated with this process because it is six years in the making. People have been frustrated with the process because the Durkee Street development has overshadowed all of the other work that has been completed.
Are you seeing new developers coming in to take a look at what else can be done beyond the Durkee Street development?
We don't see that quite yet. Even though we don't see large scale developers coming in, which we'd like. But we are seeing people coming in, adopting a storefront if you will, or buying a storefront or buying a building downtown, and renovating that building or bringing it back online. We are seeing pockets of that. But again, when we talk about hurdles to development, whether it be commercial or residential, we do point to how old our Comprehensive Master Plan and how old our zoning code is and how old our land use plans are right now. Those are the things that are the biggest impediment to development in the city of Plattsburgh, which is why it is critically important to get those revised and get that done.
Well, you passed the measure tonight to get a consultant working on that. How long will that take and what will that lead to, to get the revisions completed?
I joked earlier that if it's up to me, if I put the timeline on it, it's going to be eight months. But that process is in-depth. It is detailed. It needs experts looking at it. If it were up to me, it'd be shortened but the proper timeline should be right probably around 15 months. After that we should look towards those changes, facilitating the ease of development, the ease of residential development, the ease of commercial development. And again, we need that kind of development in the city of Plattsburgh.
Mayor Rosenquest, one of the pieces of good news that the city got lately is the Moody's ratings upgrade. It went to A-3 but there was also something called the BAN assigned MIG2. Can you explain that in layman's terms?
As best as I can. Essentially it's a credit rating. You know, you and I as consumers, we go to the three credit agencies and they give us a score. This is essentially the same thing. For the city of Plattsburgh we borrow two different things. We bond, which is a mechanism, a tool for borrowing. And we BAN which is an anticipation note. Essentially, we borrow, it's a short term borrowing mechanism for a particular project. And every year sometimes we may BAN for the previous year’s borrowing. So we borrow to pay off last year’s borrowing. You and me, if you and I were to do that, we would probably you know, our financial advisor would probably say: don't do that, don't borrow just to pay off what you just borrowed. But for the city of Plattsburgh and for municipalities it’s a completely appropriate tool to use. Sometimes we quote-unquote buy time to see what the interest rates are going to do. If we know that a five year projection out or a four year projection out we will see interest rates go down, then we may BAN year after year after year for a project just so that we can get to that final interest rate that is more appealing than the one that might be on right now. That being said the increase in rating is a very good thing. This is a very clear indication from the credit rating agency for the city of Plattsburgh that says the city of Plattsburgh’s financials are in good shape. The future financials of the city of Plattsburgh is in good shape, the borrowing levels and how the city's borrowing is exactly what we want to see and you are doing great city of Plattsburgh financially. And we're willing to show that by increasing your credit rating accordingly. I think anybody who's listening should be aware that the city's financials are in excellent condition. The last two years my administration has been able to deliver two balanced budgets. And we'll continue that trend, not only keeping that tax rate stable, but then also reducing it this year, delivering two balanced budgets, increasing the rating, Moody's rating, and we are on the right track.
The council approved changes in the snow emergency parking. And one of the things is that emergency parking would still be available in the city parking lots. A lot of fees just went into effect. Are the fees still going to be in place? How is that going to work?
Yeah, thanks for asking that. Because when we made the parking changes, when we passed that resolution for parking changes, we made it explicitly clear that during snow emergencies we were not going to be enforcing paid parking in the parking lots. We were not going to be enforcing time parking in the parking lots. This local law change simply extends the time that the parking ban is on during a snow emergency. Right now when the lights go on, at 12 midnight you need to move your car but at 6:00 you can put your car back. That has become extremely problematic when it comes to the city of Plattsburgh being able to remove snow effectively. We've seen when we get a heavy snowfall we put the lights on, everybody moves their car at 12, but then everybody moves a car right back to the street at 6:00. And then we have a snowplow trying to navigate around cars that are parked there. Maybe the next night we turn the lights on so that we can then go back and remove more snow. This simply extends the time that we're asking people to stay off of the street. You've already found a parking spot off the street, just leave it off the street until we can do our business and do the cleanup necessary and push the snow back and clean up the banks and shovel the banks out of the crosswalks and the necessary work that we need to do to make sure that we can manage them effectively.
And that new revision to the parking, is that effective immediately?
As of today. Yes.
Democrat Chris Rosenquest is serving his first term as Plattsburgh mayor.