SARATOGA SPRINGS –It will remain until the next Saratoga Springs City Council meeting (on April 5) for a scheduled vote (after a second public hearing) on the Saratoga City Center’s proposed lease of the High Rock parcel. The Council at its Tuesday, March 15 meeting did take action on a matter that recognized, regardless of what gets developed at High Rock - inevitably an invitation will be extended to have more cars on the city’s streets. Therefore, any action that the Council takes to preserve and increase Saratoga Springs’ standing as a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly town is worthy of note.
Through a series of motions and capital budget amendments, the Council funded a project that, when built out, will provide a pedestrian/bicycle trail for about five miles along the northern side of Geyser Road. The trail is forecast to be about eight feet wide from Spa State Park west to Cady Hill Road, and then widening to 10 feet to the Town of Milton. A total of $96,790 was dedicated to the project. It will entail new engineering and will impact 12 property owners, with about $50,000 of these funds pledged for right-of-way acquisition for the trail and buffer along Geyser Road.
While the primary beneficiary of this is the Geyser Road neighborhood, where access has been historically limited to motor vehicles and some bus service, this is a significant event for all city residents. When completed, this will provide another key link in the overall plan to have the city completely connected via a series of pedestrian and bicycle accessible trails, along the greenbelt and through the downtown core.
Attorney Matt Jones offered up an interesting gambit, speaking on behalf of Saratoga Hospital, during a public hearing about amending the new comprehensive plan’s designation of a parcel, upon which the Hospital wished to expand, back to the 2001 zoning as residential. Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Commissioner of Accounts John Franck have recused themselves from all discussions and votes on this matter. With Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathieson’s stated opposition, it had appeared to make any plan approval impossible (three votes are required to pass any Council measure according to the City’s charter).
Jones stated that the Hospital’s application will be kept open, and advocated that a mechanism be developed, similar to Courts of Appeals, in which replacements are appointed for those who recuse themselves due to conflicts – in effect, giving all applicants an opportunity to obtain a three-vote majority from a full five-person “council”.
It remains to be seen if this idea develops any traction, as it would involve at least some City Charter amendments. Yet, what appeared to be dead issue is anything but that, at least for now.
Finally, a shout-out to city resident Bonnie Sellers, who always provides some pithy perspectives during public comment time. Bonnie contributed the idea of the day when she suggested the City look into developing a night court as an alternative to building an annex, potentially on the valuable High Rock parcel. Commissioner Mathiesen said it was an excellent idea and the City was already looking into it, and though there may be some (unidentified) logistics difficulties, it was certainly worth pursuing.