SARATOGA SPRINGS — Members of the Saratoga Open Space Preservation Committee and some residents that live on or near Saratoga Lake have long been concerned about John Witt of Witt Construction’s plan to clear parts of an 111-acre, densely forested area on a ridge over-looking Saratoga Lake in order to create a subdivision for 31 cottage-style homes, a farm and lake views. The subdivision will be called Cedar Bluff Farms and the homes will reside on either side of Cedar Bluff Road pending the town’s approval to move forward.
Some of the concerns raised by the Saratoga Open Space Preservation Committee included the issue of runoff as well as the disturbance to wildlife that currently reside in this area. The Saratoga Open Space Preservation Committee is a active group of residents and professionals who are dedicated to protecting Saratoga’s open space.
One of the largest concerns of resident John Cashin from Saratoga regards the Town’s Conservation Subdivision Development (CSD) code that requires that a minimum of 50 percent of the buildable land be set-aside as “Open Space.” The code defines open space as a portion of a development site that is permanently set aside for public or private use and will not be developed.
“The thing that I object most strenuously to is the amount of clearing above the lake because the storm water run off is just going to run right into the lake. There are streams in the lower portion of the rest of the western side of this development that run right to Saratoga Lake,” Cashin said.
In a letter sent to a variety of environmental and nature conservancy groups, Cashin says:
“Despite the zoning code provisions, the developer has proposed clearing 39.8 acres of mature forest in the set aside open space to create an alleged farm of unknown use by an undesignated farmer. This faux farm is merely a ruse to clear the forest to create open views for the luxury homes in this portion of the subdivision. In the other set aside open space, the developer is seeking an unspecified agricultural use, which would allow for selective clearing of the forest to create views of Saratoga Lake from the homes situated above.”
“I’m not opposed to development, I’m just opposed to the amount of clear cutting that he’s going to do to destroy the forest just to create views for a couple of homes,” Cashin said.
Since March rumors have swirled that Witt had planned to leave tree stumps in certain areas on the 111-acre property as a solution to the environmental concerns. Witt has since denied these claims.
“It’s a mix of things, every home site will be cleared for the home site as you would for a home site. There are some lots and lake views we will be clearing for the home site and down below that we won’t be stumping, removing, or grubbing anything on the hillside. So there won’t be any erosion in that area,” Witt said.
“Every house site will have to have an approved storm drainage plan, so basically when we’re done with the project we will have the same amount, more or less, runoff as we did before we started the site. So it would be zero impact to Saratoga Lake,” he added.
“We got 93 buildable acres and for the conservation subdivision you’re supposed to have half of that, which is 46.5 acres of open space and we are proposing 60 plus acres of open space. We are keeping most of the project open space,” Witt said.
“There’s some natural drainage courses that will be forever untouched as part of the project and the farm, which is the old farm, will be re-developed into a farm which is aesthetically pleasing along with great for local agriculture,” he added.
According to Witt, the project is going through the Saratoga County Intermunicipal Stormwater Management Program as well as following the New York State Department of Conservation’s guidelines.
Cashin, along with the Saratoga Open Space Preservation Committee continues to seek support.