SARATOGA SPRINGS - A decision has been made in the lawsuit against the City of Saratoga Springs which seeks to block a permanent Code Blue shelter from being built on the property of Shelters of Saratoga, Inc. at 14 Walworth St., according to S.O.S.
In an order dated Sept. 17, a Saratoga County Supreme Court judge has vacated and nullified all City approvals granted to SOS in response to a lawsuit filed by surrounding neighbors. The order vacates and nullifies the determinations by The City of Saratoga Springs Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and Planning Board in 2017 and 2018 which would have allowed the shelter to be built.
Shelters of Saratoga, or S.O.S., oversees the Code Blue program, and siting an emergency shelter at a permanent location has been a high priority following a series of temporary shelter venues that have been staged at St. Peter’s Parish Center, the Salvation Army building and the Soul Saving Station Church.
In early 2017, local business owner Ed Mitzen, and his wife Lisa, stepped forward to announce they will pay for the costs of a new, permanent Code Blue homeless shelter to be built on the current Shelters of Saratoga property on Walworth Street.
The 2017 and 2018 approvals from the ZBA and Planning Board were challenged based upon the opposition to the City’s administrative determination that the proposed Code Blue shelter met the definition of a “neighborhood rooming house” as set forth in the Saratoga Springs City Zoning Code. Following the administrative decision, the ZBA voted in favor of the interpretation that the proposed shelter was zoning compliant. The decision revoking the most recent approvals resulted from the combination of two lawsuits filed by the neighbors in 2018 which is in addition to a 2017 lawsuit neighbors filed following the ZBA dismissal of their case as untimely.
Code Blue, a program of SOS, is a restriction-free winter shelter that operates from November until April when the temperature drops below 32 degrees or more than 12 inches of snow is predicted. The temporary shelter was located at Soul Saving Station Church on Henry Street in Saratoga Springs for the winter of 2017-2018. During the 2017-18 winter season, Code Blue provided meals, clothing and support to 144 people. An average of 53 people used the shelter for 162 evenings and 44 daytime openings. Forty-five individuals transitioned into treatment, reconnected with family, entered another program, or found permanent housing.
The Franklin Street residents opposed to the shelter being developed on Walworth Street, released a statement through their spokesperson subsequent to the ruling by Judge Robert Chauvin. The statement reads: "Given the order and judgment of the court that the proposed Walworth Street shelter expansion was not an appropriate use of zoning, it is our hope that the Shelters of Saratoga, the City, the neighbors, the County, and involved parties can work together to carefully address homelessness and Code Blue services in our community. Alternate sites have been offered and should be considered as part of a meaningful, long-term solution."
“Our plans to shelter people for the upcoming winter season are well underway thanks to the commitment of Soul Saving Station Church and Presbyterian New England Congregational Church as temporary locations for Code Blue.” said Marcy Dreimiller, SOS board president, in a statement. “We are disappointed in the decision and will now need to evaluate what options exist for a permanent, long term solution for the Code Blue program.”