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Displaying items by tag: Saratoga Springs City Council
Notes from City Hall: Affordable Housing Vote Scheduled for June 19
City Council members fiddled with their respective pens, rested chins on palms of hands and listened intently to the 12 speakers who came forward Tuesday night at City Hall, where a public hearing was held regarding the much-debated SPA Housing Zoning Ordinance.
The goal of the plan – initially proposed in 2006 - is to produce “affordable” homebuyer and rental housing units for working households across the city. That last part – across the city – appears to be a major sticking point for some.
Tuesday night, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus addressed the council and recommended they seek “site-specific” affordable housing projects to be placed in designated locations, rather than the across-the-city policy the Inclusionary Zoning, or IZ proposal offers.
Sustainable Saratoga Chairman Harry Moran, who resurrected the plan when bringing it to the council last year, pointed to the council’s study of the plan as “a watershed moment” in the city’s history, and local Rev. Joseph Cleveland – who also spoke in favor of the IZ – told the council that a citywide diversity would help make Saratoga Springs a more sustainable city and that “we should not put gates up between communities.”
A vote scheduled for Tuesday to amend the existing Zoning Ordinance to add Inclusionary Zoning – as well as a vote regarding the SEQRA Determination for the SPA Housing (IZ) ordinance - was tabled until Monday, June 19, the date of the next City Council meeting. The vote requires majority approval of the five council members to be adopted and it is not clear, at this point, which way that vote will go.
7 p.m. Monday, June 12: Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting at City Hall.
3 - 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 13: Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Technical Review Advisory Committee (TRAC) Meeting at Saratoga Music Hall.
Notes From City Hall
Workshop Set for Affordable Housing Ordinance
A City Council workshop on the much-debated SPA Housing Ordinance will take place at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 4 at City Hall, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen announced this week. The ordinance, if approved, would have a citywide effect on future development.
A New Home for Retired Police Horse Jupiter
The council authorized an agreement - at no cost to the city - to allow the transfer of retired police horse Jupiter to police officer Aaron Moore, who will care for “my fellow officer and partner as he transitions into retirement after serving our community.” Jupiter, who is 24, will be transferred to Ballston Lake, “where he will be well taken care of by my wife and myself,” Moore wrote, in a letter read to the council by Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen.
Council Gives Thumbs-Up to Pitney Meadows Community Farm PUD
The council unanimously accepted a SEQRA Determination and approved the proposed Pitney Meadows Community Farm PUD - reporting that the project will not have a significant adverse impact on the environment. The PUD, or Planned Unit Development, was sought for the development of a 35,000+ square foot agricultural center at the Pitney Meadows Farm, on West Avenue. The center will sit on a small non-farming portion of the land.
Projects slated to begin later this year include the development of the community gardens, the children’s greenhouse, gardens, and some trails and the renovation and repurposing of 11 historic buildings currently on the farm.
Last November, the council approved the $1.165 million city purchase of the development rights of the 166-acre Pitney Farm, to ensure the farm land remains a farm in perpetuity.
City Approves Purchase of Lands Adjacent to Loughberry Lake
The City Council unanimously approved the city’s purchase of two parcels of land, amounting to just over two acres, adjacent to Loughberry Lake. The parcels are just north of state Route 50 and will be purchased from Krista and Jason Tommell for $135,000 in Open Space Bond Funds. As well, $5,000 was approved for expenses associated with the purchase.
Should Loughberry Lake no longer be used as a reservoir in the future, the parcel could potentially serve as a pocket park with access to the waterfront for active or passive recreation.
Learn How to Grieve Your Assessment
A Grievance Class will be held 5:30 p.m. on May 9 at City Hall, Accounts Commissioner John Franck announced this week.
Grievance Day in Saratoga Springs is Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Grievance board members will be hearing grievances from 9 a.m. – noon; 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. Residents can choose morning, afternoon or evening sessions and must submit completed application and documentation to the Assessment Office in order to be scheduled for a time. Applications will be available after May 1.
The Planning Board will hold a workshop at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 24 and a full meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 at City Hall.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 at City Hall.
Notes From City Hall: Immigration Enforcement, Affordable Housing
City Explains Immigration Enforcement Policy
After receiving numerous inquiries from local residents about how the city would handle issues related to illegal immigration and the level of its cooperation with federal officials, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen asked Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch to formally address the issue.
“Given the number of people who come to our city, especially in the summertime, and some of whom may have immigration statuses that are questionable, I thought I would talk to our police chief,” Mathiesen explained to the City Council this week. “We do want these people to feel as if they have the public safety department, the police department, fire/EMS department as a resource, and should not feel as if they may have immigration complications should they require those services.”
The responding two-page statement from Chief Veitch, which Mathiesen called “a reasonable and caring approach” and was read to the council Tuesday night, assures that the police department serves the entire community and recognizes the dignity of all persons, regardless of their immigration status. However, it does not mean that members of the police department will refuse to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E.
Veitch said with regards to the reporting of a crime or cooperation with an investigation, the department does not require or encourage its officers to investigate the immigration status of victims or witnesses of crimes, and that Immigration enforcement is not a priority of the Saratoga Springs Police Department. “However, should a federal law enforcement agency request assistance from the Saratoga Springs Police, we will provide assistance consistent with our policies and procedures, as we would for any other law enforcement organization needing assistance within city limits. “
Criminal offenders in custody, those who may be wanted by another law agency, or individuals verified to have a valid warrant from any federal agency, including I.C.E. will be detained by local officers in accordance with the law. “We will not, however, detain any individual solely for a civil violation of federal immigration laws. Nor will S.S.P.D. detain any individual that would otherwise be eligible for release, simply for the purpose of notifying federal authorities or to check immigration status.”
Council Revisits Affordable Housing Issues, Potential Solutions
A proposal for “inclusionary zoning,” first floated a decade ago but never brought to a vote by the City Council, on Tuesday night received the first of what is anticipated to be two public hearings.
The SPA Housing Zoning ordinance would require new housing developments and apartment complexes across the city to include some units deemed affordable to residents with moderate incomes.
“This is a work-in-progress,” city Mayor Joanne Yepsen said during Tuesday’s 60-minute hearing, “but it’s essential that we find a way to create more variety of price-points for housing.” The purpose of the hearing is to get public feedback regarding the proposal, which has not been finalized, Yepsen added.
There are various resident income target-points the city may choose to pursue – from “low” to “moderate” to “middle” income households; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets the area median income for a family of four in Saratoga County at $82,000. As such, affordable units put up for sale that are made available to “moderate” and “middle” income households indicate thresholds respectively set at less than 80 percent, and at 100 percent, of that $82,000 median income.
The affordable-housing ordinance proposal applies to both rental and owner-occupied housing. Year-round city residents would have first opportunity to apply for the affordable units.
The ordinance would apply to new projects consisting of 10 or more residential units as well as to existing structures undergoing substantial renovation or conversion from nonresidential to residential use.
The ordinance stipulates that 10 to 20 percent of all new or newly converted units be set aside to meet the “affordable” criteria. To compensate developers, the program would allow them to increase the density of housing projects by up to 20 percent
More than 400 municipalities across the country have adopted inclusionary zoning programs, Commissioner Mathiesen said, adding that any ordinance eventually adopted would only be one part of an overall strategy to meet housing needs. The City Council will continue its discussion of the topic at its next meeting, on April 4.
Saratoga Springs Senior Advisory Committee Sets Goals for 2017
City Mayor Joanne Yepsen announced a new mission statement and work plan regarding the Saratoga Springs Senior Advisory Committee. Among the 2017 goals of the group is to: raise awareness regarding services available to senior citizens; address and advocate for senior concerns and support services, and to serve as a liaison between seniors, the mayor, and members of the City Council. The committee is comprised of eight individual members and representatives of up to seven area organizations.
In 2017, the Committee will advocate for special mobility needs of seniors, including a drive-up mailbox in the downtown area and additional handicap parking. Members of the Senior Advisory Committee are appointed by the mayor.
Public Safety Commissioner Mathiesen will not seek a Fourth Term
City elections will be held in November when all five council seats and two supervisor positions will be up for vote. Last week, Peter Martin – one of two Saratoga Springs Supervisors representing the city at the county level - announced that he will seek to run as a Democrat for Commissioner of Public Safety. Current DPS Commissioner Chris Mathiesen will not seek a fourth term. Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee chairman Charles Brown said party members will vote on endorsements in May and that he was not currently aware of any other potential candidate seeking the Public Safety Commissioner seat on the Democratic line.
County Supervisor Matthew Veitch will present a program, titled “Origins of Preservation Urban Renewal in Saratoga Springs: 1962-1986,” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 28 at Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington St.
The presentation about the often-controversial Urban Renewal Program will feature rare images from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Tickets are $8 general admission, $5 Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation members and can be purchased by calling 518-587-5030.
City Gifted “Grande Olde Saratoga” Painting
“Grand Olde Saratoga,” an oil painting depicting a delivery by a horse-pulled Saratoga Vichy water company cart to the prestigious Grand Union Hotel, was gifted to the city by Sharon Miller. The 24-by-30-inch painting is valued at approximately $400 and was hung in the mayor’s office this week, following the acceptance of the gift by the City Council.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a meeting 7 p.m. Monday, March 27 at City Hall. Taking place among other items will be a consideration for coordinated SEQRA Review regarding the proposed Station Park mixed-use development on the city’s west side, adjacent to the railroad station.
The Charter Review Committee will hold a public forum 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 29 at the Saratoga Springs Public Library. The Commission is recommending that a City Manager-Council form of government replace the current Commission form of governing. The referendum will be up for vote in November.
Notes From City Hall
City Identifies Dangerous Roads
“I do get communication from residents regarding traffic issues in the city. Some we can do something about, some we can’t,” Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
Mathiesen explained that a half-dozen or so problem areas fall under state Department of Transportation jurisdiction and that he sent a letter to the DOT asking the agency to look into those six area of concerns. Those are:
1. Intersection Union Avenue, Meadowbrook Road, Gilbert Road. The DOT reduced the speed limit on Union Avenue to 45 mph, but more needs to be done. Ideally, a traffic circle would reduce speeds on Union Avenue and make it much safer for motorists.
2. Intersection Lake Avenue, Gilbert Road, Weibel Avenue. The city has received many complaints about this intersection, especially for vehicles trying to access Lake Avenue from Gilbert Road.
3. Outer Lake Avenue, Route 29. The 55-mph limit in the vicinity of the Saratoga Independence School should be looked at, and a lower school zone limit considered.
4. Outer Church Street, Route 9N. The 45-mph speed limit begins immediately to the west of the West Avenue intersection, and is too fast given the subsequent intersections to the west with busy residential streets and the large nursing homes/senior facilities.
5. South Broadway near W. Kaydeross Road intersection. A reduced speed limit from the existing 55 mph and possibly a caution light would be helpful given the year around activity at the barbeque restaurant. Pedestrians have been killed in this area.
6. Outer Washington Street, Route 29, and especially Intersection with Brook Road/Slade Road. This intersection has been intimidating for motorists trying to cross Route 29 or trying to turn into Slade or Brook Road from Route 29. The speed limit is 55 mph. Vehicles must come to a nearly complete stop in order to turn off Route 29. There are no turn lanes and the roadway shoulders are sub-standard.
According to city statistics, 22 traffic accidents were reported at this intersection between January 2012 and December 2016 involving 48 vehicles and causing injury to 19 vehicle occupants. Ideally, a traffic control device on Route 29 - with a 45-mph speed limit from the city line east to Buff Road and a 40 mph limit from Buff Road to West Avenue - would make the stretch of outer Washington street /Route 29 much safer.
City Seeks Purchase of Private Land near Loughberry Lake
The City Council set a public hearing to take place at 6:40 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21 regarding the city’s potential acquisition of a privately owned 2.4-acre lot adjacent to the Route 50 gateway and in the Loughberry Lake vicinity. The owner of the land is willing to sell the parcel to the city, which was appraised last month by GAR Associates at $135,000. The purchase would help protect the watershed and retain a scenic vista on a signature gateway into the city. Should Loughberry Lake no longer be used as a reservoir in the future, the parcel could potentially serve as a pocket park with access to the waterfront for active or passive recreation, according to the city.
City is Lead Agent for Geyser Road Trail
As it had similarly done in regards to the Pitney Farm property last month, the City Council on Tuesday voted to approve Saratoga Springs act as SEQRA Lead Agency for the Geyser Road Trail. The State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, requires all state and local government agencies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making.
Spa City Solar Park Set to Power Up
A groundbreaking ceremony will be held April 5 at the Saratoga Springs' Solar Park. The project, developed on the city-owned landfill will meet about 40 percent of the City government’s electricity needs. It is slated for completion in late June, and is anticipated to be “energized” by late July
The annual Memorial Day Parade will take place 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 25. The city asks anyone willing to volunteer for the community event contact City Hall at 587-3550.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will host a meeting at City Hall at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 13.
The Design Review Commission will host a meeting at City Hall at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15.
Saratoga Springs City Council: May 3
SARATOGA SPRINGS – At the City Council Meeting on Tuesday, May 3, Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan presented her preliminary year-end report for fiscal year 2015. A summary of the highlights of this report appears on page 19.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen announced her five appointments to the Saratoga Race Course Local Advisory Board. This panel, designed to facilitate good communication between the local community and the NYRA Board has 15 members - five each are appointed by NYRA, The Chairperson of the County Board of Supervisors and the Mayor’s office. The Mayor’s appointments were John Carusone, Dr. William Wilmot, Skip Carlson, Michelle Primacello, and Cindy Hollowood.
The City unanimously approved a resolution entitled ‘Authorization for Mayor to execute Settlement Agreement and Mutual Releases regarding The Anderson Group v. the City of Saratoga Springs,’ which sets in motion closure regarding a piece of long-standing litigation against the City. During the discussion and vote, no particular amount was mentioned, although later in the evening, during the Finance Department’s agenda item called ‘Budget Amendment-Legal Liability’, Commissioner of Finance Madigan noted that the amount was $750,000, which would come from the City’s unrestricted, unassigned fund. This budget amendment also passed unanimously.
In the original case, on July 2, 2010, a verdict of $1 million was awarded to the Anderson Group in US District Court, finding that zoning policies used by the City of Saratoga Springs had a discriminatory impact on African Americans and families with children. The Anderson Group, an Albany, New York builder, sought to construct a mixed-income housing development, called Spring Run Village, a development with 50 to 60 affordable units, on property they own outside the downtown area. The jury found the City had rejected the Anderson's application and rezoned the site from a classification where high-density residential and commercial uses were “preferred” and “encouraged” to a classification where such a development was prohibited.
A wide-ranging, 40-minute discussion on the subject of ‘Citizens' Complaints About Aggressive Panhandling’ took place, with Shelters of Saratoga Executive Director Michael A. Finocchi at the guest microphone for much of it. At the outset, a major distinction was made between homelessness and aggressive panhandling. For instance, it was noted that many panhandler’s are from out of town, may even work in shifts, and conduct their activities like a business – in other words, this may be the ‘occupation’ they have chosen. Homeless people are in need of a wide variety of services, but in most cases are looking for the means to better their situation. Finocchi also pointed out that the city currently has no drop-in daytime shelter or 24/7 mission, as is the case in many cities that are coping with this problem A key point, raised often, is that the best way to stop panhandling of any kind is to stop giving people money. During his agenda, Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen announced that a Public Safety forum will take place on Thursday, May 19 at 7 p.m. in the City Council room, and that forum will cover the topic of vagrancy and related issues. Rebecca Davis will soon have a follow-up article to her April 29 cover story on this subject, in which this discussion, the legal perspective, and the thoughts of local business owners and community members will be examined in greater depth.
OP-ED: On Ethics and Fairness
Toward the end of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Commissioner Mathiesen led a discussion on the subject of a ‘Response to Mayor Yepsen's Open Letter to the Citizens of Saratoga Springs,’ which appeared in our pages on April 22, and was written in response to our cover story (“Recusal or Refusal”) of April 15. The full recording of the meeting is archived on the city website (www.saratoga-springs.org). While final decisions from the City’s Ethics Board, on several inquiries related to this subject, are still pending (some have been filed over three months ago!), some things need to be made clear now.
In Tuesday’s discussion, the Mayor repeated her claim that she was somehow treated unfairly. But, in my opinion, Saratoga TODAY was more than fair in affording the Mayor an entire page to respond, and this was the fairest vehicle we could extend, given the extremely tight timeframe. During Tuesday’s discussion, the Mayor indicated that she submitted facts to the Ethics Board that the Commissioners and this newspaper’s readers were not privy to. The Mayor had an opportunity to put these facts in her open letter, but chose not to.
Eventually, I would like to write a piece that might propose some positive outcomes regarding this ethics controversy – for all concerned. We will continue to try to advance the discussion, while leaving you to draw your own conclusions. One final thing: I reiterate that I stand 100 percent behind our April 15 story.