Larry Goodwin

Larry Goodwin

News & Business Reporter, Editor
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Friday, 19 May 2017 13:52

Malta Developer Makes a Case

MILTON — Plans to build 91 apartment units off Hutchins Road went under a microscope Wednesday night in a crowded second floor room at the town complex.  

Saratoga Springs Attorney Michael Toohey, representing Tom Samascott and Malta Development, was welcomed by the five-member Milton Town Board to give a presentation describing those construction plans. 

Malta Development is proposing to raze an existing home at the intersection of Hutchins Road and Greybirch Trail, in order to clear 14 acres of woods behind the home for new roads and several apartment buildings with multiple units. 

Milton Supervisor Dan Lewza and the board members—before dodging a minor disruption from the audience—then voted to set a formal public hearing for the project on July 5.  

Toohey explained that a trend exists in real estate to build “alternative housing” for people over 55 who favor the idea of “aging in place.” Malta Development aims to serve that market need with its Hutchins Road project, he said. 

“We need to size down the houses we live in,” Toohey said at one point. “This concept is not strange to the town.”  

Toohey showed design slides depicting modern units with one level, saying that “everything can be maintained on the first floor to make life easier” for aging residents. 

He predicted that it would have the “same impact” in terms of a traffic increase as the construction of 20 to 25 single-family homes. 

Lewza asked Toohey why Malta Development is proposing 91 apartments instead of single-family houses, dozens of which were built decades ago around much of the land in question. 

“We see the demand for it,” Samascott answered from his front row seat. 

Samascott’s firm developed and manages the 586-unit Winner’s Circle apartment complex on Geyser Road. There are also plans to add 120 more units at Winner’s Circle in the future, he said.  

Samascott admits that his own mother has been a longtime resident of Coachman Drive. Her house sits within a few hundred yards of the Hutchins Road project site.

Lewza, noting how he was not required to do so, politely invited Hutchins Road resident Dorothy Christiansen to respond after Toohey’s presentation was done. The supervisor said she could “represent everybody” in attendance with concerns about the project.     

This past winter, many local homeowners—led by Christiansen—submitted petitions to the town board opposing Malta Development’s plans, which are months away from receiving a final approval.

Christiansen, through social media, had encouraged her neighbors to attend the May 17 meeting, and many obliged. Practically every chair in the room was being used.

One resident was moved enough by Toohey’s presentation to exclaim “55 is not senior,” before Christiansen herself pointed to the potential traffic impacts of the project.  

She said Hutchins Road already “has been turned into a track run” by drivers who use the street as a cut through between Rowland Street and Route 50, often “peeling out” at local intersections with stop signs.

The Hutchins Road project would only increase the dangers on local streets where lots of kids are on bikes and individuals regularly walk with their pets, she said last winter.

Christiansen disputed the market need for senior housing. She also implored the town board to enforce current zoning rules for the land, which she said do not allow a project of that size. Only single-family homes should be approved to keep the character of the neighborhood, she said.

Lewza advised Samascott and Toohey to leave the room as a means to continue the board meeting without additional comments from the public directed at them.

Still, one Hutchins Road homeowner kept interrupting Lewza as the board chairman tried to complete the remaining agenda items. He had demanded to know why the public hearing date was changed from June 7 to July 5, and Lewza threatened to call the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office to have the man forcibly removed.

The homeowner later apologized to the full board for his remarks. 

Lewza said scheduling conflicts had necessitated the change, and offered to keep the public hearing “open” after July 5.

One local mother concluded the brief public comment period by saying she has a disabled child at home, and that she’s as concerned about increased traffic on Hutchins Road as Christiansen and other residents.

“I’m just looking for the safety of my children,” she said. 

Thursday, 18 May 2017 23:45

Bounce House Blues

MALTA — Officials said this week they are preparing a local law that would prohibit town residents from renting or setting up bounce houses and similar inflatable devices for events held on town property.

David Meager, representing the Adirondack Trust Insurance Agency, gave a presentation at the May 15 town board meeting that focused on a bulletin released in March by the group New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal (NYMIR).

Meager told the board that, at present, the town has “absolutely no control” when private citizens are allowed to rent or set up inflatable devices for functions held on town property. He spoke in favor of a new law that would prohibit such actions.

Malta Councilman John Hartzell acted on behalf of Supervisor Vincent DeLucia, who was absent at the meeting.

Hartzell instructed Town Attorney Thomas Peterson to draft the new law. 

“The trend has been upward in terms of deaths and injuries,” Meager said of bounce houses and other inflatable devices, which in recent years have continued gaining in popularity among local families.

In 2014, media reports indicated that two young boys sustained serious injuries in South Glens Falls after strong wind gusts caused a bounce house to go airborne.

According to the March 17 NYMIR bulletin, in the year before the South Glens Falls incident, there were more than 47,000 injuries reported nationwide related to inflatable devices (more recent figures were not provided).

Audrey Ball, Malta’s director of Parks, Recreation and Human Services, said any law passed by the board would not affect the town’s rental of a bounce house at the annual Malta Community Day event, which is scheduled for September 9.

Yet Ball echoed Meager’s comments to the board. The David Meager Malta Community Center is named after the former town supervisor.

“I also feel it’s an awful high risk for the town,” Ball said.

Ball told the town board that her office rarely receives requests for permission to set up inflatable devices.

Still, in a May 4 letter to the board, using common legal terms, she made it clear that “public use of inflatables during private parties held at town parks” remains a serious concern. 

“Although a business provides a certificate of insurance naming the town ‘additional insured’ and signs a ‘hold harmless,’ there is concern that the town could be found negligent if there was an injury to a child because town staff was not available to verify that proper policies and procedures are followed,” Ball wrote.

“The town’s insurance advisor recommended that the town not permit bounce houses as they are not covered by the town’s insurance policy,” she added.

Ball also noted how the declining costs of inflatable devices have made them more affordable for many families. Inflatables can be purchased outright for $200, or rented for four hours at a cost of about $150, she said.

“At the end of the day, it’s children who are really at risk,” offered Kevin Crawford, executive director of NYMIR.

Crawford said NYMIR—which represents nearly 900 political entities across New York, including water and sewer districts—is encouraging municipal governments to pass laws similar to the one being considered in Malta. 

When hiring any inflatable companies, according to Crawford, members of the public should prioritize at least three key factors: both predicted and actual wind speeds; how the devices are secured to the ground; and adult supervision the whole time kids are playing in them. 

Inflatables are “very safe if they’re installed properly,” explained Thomas Barber, owner of the Clifton Park-based company Bounce Around. He said the company offers more than 100 different types of inflatables, and that he has repeatedly supplied those used at the Malta Community Day event. 

Barber said industry standards call for ground stakes that are 18 inches long, but that Bounce Around secures larger inflatable devices with stakes measuring up to 48 inches.

The inflatable involved in the 2014 South Glens Falls accident weighed only 25 pounds, Barber said, while a comparable Bounce Around jump house weighs 150 pounds.

“If you hire a reputable company,” Barber added, “you’ll never have a problem.” 

 

[Gallery photo shows Julia Sanzen on the first floor of 35 Maple Avenue. Photo by Larry Goodwin. Front page photo shows the Broadway location of the original Farmers Hardware as shown in the book “George S. Bolster's Saratoga Springs.” Photo provided. ] 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Julia Sanzen says she enjoys cooking for people as much she loves to find a hip place for brunch.

This June, she will combine both of those experiences with a deep appreciation for Saratoga’s past by opening her new Farmers Hardware brunch hall at 35 Maple Avenue in the city’s historic district.

As the main chef, Sanzen will serve customers between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the same building once utilized as a warehouse by the city’s Farmer family, who opened a popular hardware store on Broadway nearly a century ago. 

“We respect the history of this town,” Sanzen said during a recent tour of the 2,400-square-foot space. She is a local native who attended college in the nation’s capital and lived for about a decade in the Big Apple.

Sanzen says she is eager to finish interior renovations and open her “fast-casual” dining spot, at which brunch customers will proceed to the second floor to place their orders. Most will then sit on heavy, rectangular blocks of oak at large “communal tables” on the first floor, she explained. 

The wooden blocks were obtained from a U.S. Navy shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Sanzen said the brick patio outside the building also will have dining tables. The third floor will be available mainly for small private events such as bridal or baby showers.

Previously, Sanzen had settled on starting her own catering business called Paddock to Porch, but all that changed when she found the right partner in Tyler Russell.

Russell is one of three proprietors—along with his father and brother—at a Lake George wood-reclaiming company called Storied Boards, which is supplying most of the renovation materials inside 35 Maple Avenue.

When reached for comment, Russell said the business plan at Farmers Hardware is all about “providing great food for a reasonable price.”

“Whether a big bite while looking over the Daily Racing Form before a day at the track, or a quick workday lunch meeting with your fellow coworkers, Farmers Hardware aims to provide awesome food and extraordinary drinks in a super cool environment,” Sanzen elaborates in a statement on her website (www.farmershardwaresaratoga.com).

“Our brunch hall concept is modeled after the great open and airy American food halls like Boston’s Quincy Market or Union Market in Washington, D.C.,” she says. Sanzen adds that she will serve “classics with a twist, like her signature Eggs Shorty (Bordeaux braised short ribs Benedict, with poached egg and browned butter hollandaise).”

Together, Sanzen and Russell honed the new Farmers Hardware plan over the last year. 

Russell said they first had met as students at Albany Academy in the early 2000s and re-connected late in 2015, since Sanzen spent the intervening years in Washington, D.C. and New York City.

According to Russell, it seemed doubtful that they would be able to compete against the area’s dominant catering companies like Mazzone Hospitality, which he said “is out of this world and just about everything they touch turns to gold.”

“We did a thorough analysis of the restaurant scene” in Saratoga Springs, Sanzen says, noting how she and Russell identified a “huge gap” in local eateries offering brunch.

Brunch “is the thing to do in New York City” and is “so greatly needed in this town,” she added.

In March, Sanzen and Thomas Gardner of Saratoga Historic Properties—owner of the Maple Avenue property who will lease it to Sanzen and Russell—signed the necessary documents prepared by the city’s Design Review Commission. 

The commission reports that the building was originally put up in 1925, and that it will remain “virtually untouched” during the Farmers Hardware renovation.

Due to the excessive costs of installing a normal kitchen inside, Sanzen said, she decided instead to purchase a Canadian-made shipping container for $70,000 that will be situated outside the building.

Existing landscape plants and an 8-foot painted screen will obscure any view of the outdoor unit, according to the commission.

The Design Review Commission called the 20-by-8-foot container a “professional, high-volume kitchen manufactured by Venture Foods built to all applicable building and health codes.” *

Gardner called the Farmers Hardware business plan “innovative for Saratoga,” and he appreciates the “very rustic” appeal of the interior materials supplied by Storied Boards. 

Sanzen’s fast-casual brunch spot is “a new concept,” Gardner said, that “brings Saratoga into the avant-garde of dining.” 

* [Author's note: According to company spokeswoman Niki Hodgskiss, the correct name is Venture Food Trucks. Its website is www.venturefoodtrucks.com.]

 

 

WILTON — Town officials are closely monitoring increases in online sales for potential impacts on Wilton retailers.

Wilton Supervisor Arthur Johnson and Comptroller Jeffrey Reale said this week that they have noticed a drop in town revenues generated by sales taxes in local businesses.

“Internet sales are going to go up and local retailers are going to strug- gle,” predicted Supervisor Johnson.

According to Reale, Saratoga County collects and distributes all revenue from the 7 percent sales tax in local stores. The county then uses a formula that allocates 1.5 percent to both the town and county and 4 percent to New York state, he said.

In a recent audit of the town’s 2016 finances conducted by the Latham firm Cusack and Company, Wilton reportedly earned more than $5.8 million from retail sales taxes.

It was the largest source of revenue last year for the town, which does not levy a property tax on residents. The next largest source is $900,000 from the state. 

Annual sales tax revenue in Wilton has increased steadily from $4 million in 2007, Reale indicated.

Johnson said roughly 30 percent of that sales tax revenue is derived from Wilton Mall businesses alone.

In addition, Johnson explained that he makes it a priority for the Town of Wilton to never spend more than it earns. The town’s total yearly budget exceeds $8.2 million.

The sales tax figures are monitored every month, Reale said, and the first several months of 2017 showed signs of a noticeable decrease.

“If that’s the trend, we’re seeing it,” Reale offered. “That could prove to be very detrimental to many municipalities.”

Both town leaders pointed to related developments during passage of the state budget.

Early last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had proposed imposing a new tax on Internet sales, but Senate Republicans apparently rejected that idea.

“State Senate Republicans caved to the clichéd histrionics and whining of out-of-state dot-coms worth billions of dollars and ignored the real concerns of brick-and-mortar stores struggling in their own districts,” argued Ted Potrikus, president of the Retail Council of New York state, in a statement dated April 9.

“So the next time they call us to ask why this-or-that store closed in their district or why they can’t attract stores to their dwindling downtowns,” Potrikus added, “we’ll remind them of their vote today.” 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — As the date of May 18 gets closer, halfway through Stroke Awareness Month, Tammy D’ercole is trying to figure out where she’ll first make an appearance in her college graduation robe.

It will most likely be the office of Dr. Seth Wharton, the neurologist on Wells Street who had encouraged D’ercole to obtain a degree after they met several years ago.

The doctor tried, with minimal success, to help D’ercole regain the use of her left arm that was lost in 2006 after she endured a stroke in Pennsylvania. It happened during surgery to remove a benign tumor near her heart.

Still, D’ercole admits, she added Dr. Wharton’s idea to her “bucket list.” Next week, D’ercole will happily cross that degree off her list during a graduation ceremony at Schenectady County Community College, where she has kept herself busy since last year studying the field of human services.

D’ercole had transferred credits from previous college work, and mostly commuted to and from Schenectady by bus. And she plans to pursue further academic studies as well.

D’ercole’s other celebratory destination next Thursday will be the grand opening on High Rock Avenue of the Healing Springs Recovery and Community Outreach Center, which will cater to individuals struggling to conquer alcohol and drug addiction.

She praised the work of Janine Stuchin, executive director of The Prevention Council in the same building, who D’ercole said has been instrumental in supporting the creation of the Healing Springs center.

In March 2015, D’ercole was the subject of an article published by Saratoga TODAY titled, “A Survivor’s Tale,” which expounded at length about how her recovery from the stroke was complicated by her battle with alcoholism. She quit drinking in 2008.

“My stroke was my launch-board into my destiny to live a purposeful life inspiring, teaching others,” the 50-year-old city resident said this week. “It’s a big, big, big thing for me to get awareness out.”

Through her academic research, D’ercole said she found a strong correlation between addiction problems and stroke. She is also concerned that “the average age of stroke victims is plummeting.”

Kara Granato, a spokeswoman for the Brain Injury Association of New York State, could not confirm if medical professionals have made that same conclusion.

Yet Granato left open the possibility that such topics could be discussed at the association’s professional symposium and annual conference, which are scheduled to take place between June 14 and 16 at the Saratoga Springs Holiday Inn.

The symposium is geared more toward medical professionals, Granato said. The scheduled presentations are titled: Brain Injury, Substance Abuse and PTSD; Physiology of Brain Injury; Equine Assisted Therapy and Brain Injury; Headaches after Brain Injury; Treatment Options; Exercise and Brain Injury; Sleep Disorders After TBI (traumatic brain injury); and Physical Therapy Treatment Interventions Using New Technologies.

The annual conference, Granato added, is more open to stroke survivors like D’ercole and family members, who are required to register with the Brain Injury Association ahead of the event.

For more information or to register, visit the website www.bianys.org

BALLSTON SPA — Homeowners near the abandoned Rickett’s dry-cleaning business on Route 50 can rest a little easier knowing that federal test results showed no serious contamination of their properties.

Closer to Village Hall, according to officials, a second industrial site on Bath Street that has been vacant for years is now wrapped up in a bankruptcy court proceeding.

At the May 8 Village Board meeting, Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano reported that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released results of “vapor intrusion” tests that were initiated in February at 50 homes near the Rickett’s building on Doubleday Avenue.

Officials at the EPA were studying whether various chemicals that reportedly leached into local ground water from the Rickett’s property were also venting through cracks in the foundations of homes.

“Based on EPA’s assessment... no corrective actions for vapor intrusion are required at any of the properties sampled,” reads a statement provided this week by EPA spokeswoman Larisa Romanowski.

“The concentrations of chemicals detected at the sample properties,” the statement continues, “were significantly below EPA’s established target levels which were developed to be protective of human health.”

The EPA further stated that the agency “does not see a need for any restrictions to be placed on the normal use of any of the properties sampled; does not plan on expanding the vapor intrusion investigation area at the present time; but does not rule out the possibility that additional vapor intrusion sampling may be conducted in the future.”

Mayor Romano explained that a $2,500 expenditure approved on May 8 by the village board would cover engineering costs for additional “PFOA” testing that took place at the Rickett’s site, as well as the cost of a water-quality report that will be mailed to village residents soon.

In other business, Trustee Noah Shaw indicated that he is following the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case involving a large property down the hill from Village Hall. The six-acre site, used for a number of years by the hospital linen company Angelica, spans several village blocks.

Romano said his own efforts to achieve progress on both the Rickett’s and Angelica properties, including letters to New York’s federal lawmakers, are “moving forward.”

Linda Shaw, an environmental attorney in Rochester who represented Angelica until last year, suggested that officials in Ballston Spa should pursue full ownership.

She said Angelica, as the property owner, had successfully remediated previous chemical and petroleum contamination at the site. The pollution was mostly the result of tannery operations that had occurred decades ago.

When reached this week for comment, Shaw said, “the property is really not that terrible.”

Shaw added that village officials “should think about taking title to it through the bankruptcy.” 

Thursday, 04 May 2017 22:38

Malta Hits the Brakes

MALTA — On Monday night, homeowners from a busy stretch of Route 67 in Malta persuaded town officials to postpone a vote that would promote more commercial development in the area.

“My mind was made up until you folks came out,” stated Councilwoman Maggi Ruisi. “I listened, and I heard you.”

The Malta Town Board scheduled the May 1 public hearing for its Route 67 South Side Rezoning Amendment. Its passage by the board would affect the future of undeveloped property between the Exit 12 traffic circles and Brownell Road.

New construction is already underway a short distance farther west near the intersection of Route 67 and Eastline Road.

For an hour there was a lively discussion among Malta homeowners, who filled the town complex parking lot to capacity, and board members led by Supervisor Vincent DeLucia.

DeLucia ended up accepting a motion to table the related resolution. It would rezone several parcels of Route 67 land on either side of Ruhle Road into a new commercial (or “C2”) district.

“I’ve seen dramatic changes in the town of Malta in my 70 years of living here. I recall almost every bit of growth,” DeLucia reported after the public hearing and unanimous vote to table the measure.

There were rezoning supporters in the room, but a majority of homeowners vented their frustrations about more traffic along that heavily traveled stretch of Route 67.

“I think you’re going to have a real fight on your hands with people in this neighborhood,” predicted Route 67 resident Mark Sickler.

“The value of our property is going to go down if it becomes C2” commercial zoning, added Andrew James, a homeowner from Settlers Ridge North. 

“Malta as a whole is being overdeveloped. It’s lost what Malta was in terms of being a community,” James said. “That has us upset.”

Betsy Marré, a resident of Settlers Ridge South, said more drivers should be ticketed by law enforcement for “doing 90” in the 45 mph zone on that part of Route 67; and that the state Department of Transportation (DOT) should upgrade the entire section of roadway before any new construction plans are approved.

That should include turn lanes specifically designed by the DOT to accommodate Ruhle Road traffic, Marré told the board.

When approached after making her statements at the podium, Marré asserted that “town board members are making decisions without proper due diligence” and are “not understanding commercial property vacancy” rates.

Her husband Ernie Marré questioned how the rezoning amendment came to be voted on in the first place. He also argued that local property values, and Malta’s quiet rural appeal, could be “adversely impacted” by more commercial development on Route 67.

The Marrés and several other speakers referred to the difficulties faced every day by local drivers who turn left to enter Ruhle Road, or try to exit in either direction.

“Are we going to get some consideration?” Ernie Marré asked board members. “It sounds like it’s almost a done deal.”

“We’ve considered all of these things. We’re not operating in a vacuum,” DeLucia responded.

Ultimately, Councilman John Hartzell made the motion to table the rezoning resolution, explaining that the current town board is simply making “mid-course corrections” to a master plan passed 17 years ago by a previous board.

“When we all came to town government this course had been charted,” Hartzell said.

Both Ruisi and Hartzell stated that they hailed from rural communities, and that land preservation in general is an important topic to them.

Councilman Craig Warner went even further, saying his own family members had opposed excessive development much like the Malta homeowners do now.

“We take what you say very seriously,” Warner told those in attendance. “I understand what you said and it will be considered.” 

MILTON — A solid majority of residents who spoke at a public hearing Wednesday about the town’s Code of Ethics opposed making changes to the code that have been proposed by officials.

“For some reason, this has stirred up quite an uprise in the Town of Milton,” observed Supervisor Dan Lewza at the outset of the May 3 public hearing, which was attended by nearly 50 local residents.

The hearing was scheduled on the heels of a vote by the town board in April to appoint Megan Soden, a Republican Committee member, to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Language in the Milton Code of Ethics explicitly prohibits active political party and committee members from serving on voting boards in town government.

Lewza said Soden “has not participated in zoning board meetings” and will not do so until the matter is resolved.

Lewza and Councilwoman Barbara Kerr, who voted against Soden’s appointment citing the ethics code, said they had agreed earlier in the week to postpone a formal vote until the five-member Ethics Board has reviewed proposed changes to the code’s language.

More than 20 people spoke at the public hearing, and nearly all of them opposed such changes.

Local resident David Beals said keeping the ethics policy as is will prevent political parties from having “too much say” in Milton, as they did before the current code was established in 2010.

Bernadette VanDeinse, a Republican Committee member, was among a minority of people who voiced support for Soden’s appointment, as well as the proposed changes before the town board.

She said current ethics rules have been “misused” to suppress numerous people who desire service in town government. “I do think this has been hurting our town and holding us back,” VanDeinse told the board.

“That’s irrelevant to the purpose of the ethics board,” responded the next speaker, Carl Hackert, a longtime registered Republican in the Village of Ballston Spa. He reported that a family member brought a formal ethics complaint to that board in years past. Hackert claimed that “a whole new generation of people do not respect” the town’s established ethics policies.

If the Milton Town Board goes forward with the proposed code change, Hackert added, it could have negative impacts for Republicans at the ballot box in the future. “It’s going to show up in the fall election,” he said.

When Soden herself took the podium, she vowed to “step down” from the Republican Committee if the town board does not approve changing the ethics code. Her only motivation, Soden said, is to ensure the code “is equitable for all, not just some.”

Lewza informed six-year Ethics Board member Ben Potter that there would be no “time frame” to review the proposed changes and make a recommendation to the town board.

Lewza closed the sometimes-contentious public hearing on a positive note, thanking so many local residents for showing up to raise their voices.

“This is what’s good for democracy,” the supervisor said. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Ryen Van Hall definitely has helpers in his effort to revive the local alcohol distilling industry. He produces the strong stuff, like vodka and whiskey, in a modern warehouse off Geyser Road.

In opening his Upstate Distilling Company a year ago, Van Hall first employed the enthusiasm and scientific curiosity of Glenna Joyce.

Joyce is a Skidmore College graduate who is already well versed in the process of aging alcohol in wooden barrels made of oak.

She also delights in knowing how to clean the company’s impressive copper pot still. When that job is done, Joyce says, “It looks like a brand new penny.”

“I’m constantly learning new things about the industry,” she adds.

Van Hall also gets lots of assistance from two minority owners.

His significant other, Lindsay Richardson, serves as the company’s artistic director. And Todd Gordon, a reputable Wall Street investment analyst, is listed on Van Hall’s website (www.upstatedistilling.com) as a marketing specialist.

Gordon posted a statement praising Van Hall’s “vision to operate the first distillery in Saratoga since Prohibition” for being “perfectly in line with the booming international bull market in handcrafted American spirits.”

Most recently, Van Hall received a boost from the City of Saratoga Springs, which offered a modest loan to his Upstate Distilling Co. that funded various upgrades to the production facility.

“I personally bankrolled the whole project,” Van Hall says. But unanticipated costs can arise when starting any small business, he added.

Shelby Schneider, director of business retention and expansion at the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, was instrumental in bringing Van Hall’s business plan to the attention of city officials who manage its revolving loan fund.

That city fund is “a great little tool and more people need to know about it,” she said this week.

According to Bradley Birge, the city’s planning and economic development administrator, the revolving loan fund has been provided through a federal grant program for many years.

Federal rules stipulate that loans to small businesses can range between $25,000 and $75,000 and they must be tied to certain levels of job creation.

Birge stated that Van Hall was approved for a $50,000 loan. The Salem-based R.S. Taylor and Sons brewery and AgroChem Inc., in the Grande Industrial Park, were each recently loaned $75,000 for local business expansion, he said.

R.S. Taylor and Sons is planning to open a taproom in Saratoga Springs for its distinctive farm-made products.

“There are so many resources in the community that are available to small businesses,” Birge explained, pointing to related programs offered by the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.

Schneider said the terms of revolving loans are negotiable and it takes local companies an average of 5 to 7 years to pay them back. Small business owners from across Saratoga County can contact her office to begin the application process.

Schneider added that she works closely with Birge in performing “due diligence” and credit checks to review fund applicants in the city program. “We do our best,” she said.

James Lee, a financial planner and administrator for the Town of Greenfield’s revolving loan fund, said a pool of money totaling $1.4 million is presently available to lend in Greenfield.

Current borrowers vary “in size and type,” Lee said, and they include Putnam Brook, the Greenfield Veterinary Clinic, Saratoga Health and Wellness and the Post Cafe. He indicated that loans of $530,000 remain outstanding.

“We’re always looking for new businesses,” Lee said.

Van Hall expressed his gratitude for the extra support. He says Upstate Distilling Co. is now “growing at a nice, organic pace” with all of the financing and right individuals in place.

“Every year it just gets better,” Van Hall said of the two whiskey blends he produces, during a quick tour of the facility.

This summer, he explained, two more staff members may be hired, possibly by the time production starts on Upstate Distilling Co.’s third whiskey blend. 

Thursday, 27 April 2017 22:59

A Geyser Trail Twist

BALLSTON SPA — In recent weeks, a dispute has been simmering between two local mayors regarding the recreational trail project planned for the north side of Geyser Road over the course of many years.

During both village board meetings in April, prompted by comments from the public, Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano voiced his concerns about the trail project. They center mainly on increasing public access to a forested, 75-acre area located between Geyser Road and Rowland Street that supplies the village’s water.

“The whole idea is I don’t want any access” to the watershed land, Mayor Romano said at the April 24 board meeting.

At the April 10 meeting, Romano said a general lack of consideration for the village’s watershed represented a “major error” in the project’s state-mandated environmental review process.

Romano also expressed concerns about the removal of some trees on village property along Geyser Road that will be a necessary part of the trail project. He claims a deadline of March 31 to commence tree removal passed without proper input from the City of Saratoga Springs, whose border ends at the Town of Milton line on Geyser Road.

“There’s really been no communication and no information with respect to the project,” Romano said.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen strongly disagreed.

She said a meeting took place in Ballston Spa between herself, other city officials and Romano on March 27, during which the "entire project" was reviewed. Romano acknowledged that meeting but offered no additional comment.* 

“This has been going on for 15 years,” Mayor Yepsen said during an interview in her city office. “It’s been vetted with federal and state standards over and over again.”

Yepsen said the city is “not going to cut any trees down” until “the Village of Ballston Spa decides to cooperate.”

The city is preparing letters that will be sent to property owners on Geyser Road, including Ballston Spa, discussing monetary compensation for any parcels of land that will be affected by the trail project.

State officials are “looking at this as a package deal,” Yepsen added. “They have approved it all.” She noted how the trail project is directly related to infrastructure and traffic signal improvements planned for the intersection of Geyser Road and Route 50. 

Yepsen said there is “lots of support” for her vision of connecting 23 miles of recreational trails in and around the city, which includes the Geyser Road trail.

Yepsen cited the work of Molly Gagne, president of the city’s Southwest Neighborhood Association (SNA), as one of the main reasons for the growth of that support. The SNA’s members reside primarily in parts of the Geyser Crest neighborhood that are within the city’s borders.

“It’s one of the most popular initiatives that I’ve seen since I’ve taken office as mayor in 2014,” Yepsen said.

“The Geyser Road trail will be a multi-use trail, allowing for both pedestrian and bicycle access,” the SNA explains on its website. “It will be the first link from a neighborhood located within the suburban outskirts to downtown Saratoga Springs.”

Dozens of citizens, though, have signed petitions opposing the project and presented them to city officials. A public hearing was held in January, during which petitioners raised concerns about a recreational trail anywhere near the Grande Industrial Park.

“This segment of roadway is extremely busy and heavily used by tractor trailers and other large commercial vehicles, making it one of the most traveled commercial road segments in the City of Saratoga Springs,” the petitioners wrote to Yepsen and other city officials. “Encouraging bicycle traffic and pedestrians, children and their families on this roadway segment is ill-advised.”

Still, Mayor Yepsen said she is determined to see the Geyser Road trail project through.

“We are reaching the finish line at this point,” Yepsen said. “I’m so excited this is going to happen.”

* [Author's note: All print editions of Saratoga TODAY, and a previous version of this online story, omitted a reference to the March 27 meeting.] 

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