City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
BALLSTON SPA — The county Board of Supervisors staged a 30-minute special meeting May 11 and approved a pump savings cost for motorists in Saratoga of about .06 per gallon, which will go into effect on June 1.
The tax savings at the pump was approved by the majority of the board, although some expressed concern that the reduction may ultimately lead to less tax revenue for county municipalities.
The move dovetails with a previously announced state measure, also going into effect June 1, that will provide motorists across the state with a savings of about .16 per gallon.
“New York State recently vested New York counties with the authority to cap their sales tax that is paid on fuel at the pump,” county Board of Supervisors Chairman Todd Kusnierz said during the May 11 meeting. “I can tell you on my way down here I fueled up in northern Saratoga County and the price was $4.69 per gallon. And the price of diesel is even higher than that,” he said. “We don’t want the residents of Saratoga County to have to choose between buying food, buying prescriptions and putting fuel in their tanks.”
On April 9, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the state will suspend the state sales tax on motor fuels and called on counties to do the same. The special meeting of the county board was called to get in under a time deadline.
Kusnierz said the reductions would equal about .06 cents savings per gallon for Saratoga County consumers. A separate state reduction - about .16 cents per gallon - would be added, totaling approximately .22 cents per gallon in overall savings. “We anticipate the savings may be as high as $4 million during this period.”
Supervisors Joe Grasso and Jean Raymond expressed concern that the savings at-the-pump may later adversely affect municipalities dependent on the sales tax revenue, and Saratoga Springs City Supervisor Tara Gaston cast the lone vote against the measure.
“I have real reservations that this is going to be as effective as we would like it to be because we have absolutely no way of monitoring this in any way,” Supervisor Raymond said.
“I was in the business directly and indirectly for probably 30 years so I’m more than passingly familiar with how this works. On the other hand, if we can do anything to help people, I think that’s important, so I am reluctantly going to support it,” said Raymond, adding of the estimated $4 million tax savings “$2 million is going to come out of the pockets of all the towns and cities and villages when we come to the sales tax.”
The measure, which goes into effect June 1, switches from an overall percentage of total sales tax to taxing only the first two dollars of each gallon of gas that is sold, according to the county attorney.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Despite that more than a half-century had gone by since he first visited the Spa City, Hud Armstrong could effortlessly recall the first time he laid eyes on the place that would become home.
“It was back in the ‘50s and we were living in South Glens Falls,” he remembered, during a recent sidewalk conversation that took place on Broadway, or Caroline Street, or any one of the number of downtown thoroughfares where Hud shared his stories with anyone who asked. “We would drive down Route 9, turn onto North Broadway where the arterial is, and come right into town. This was back when the Grand Union Hotel was still was there. I remember those huge hotels. And the big mansion that stood right on the corner next to the firehouse,” he said. “I took one look and went…Wow.”
Hudson “Hud” Armstrong, longtime city resident, bartender, illustrator, passed away on May 11. He is survived by his family, including brothers Stuart and Don.
He started drawing at the age of four while listening to the radio because he wanted to see what things looked like. In the 1960s, he celebrated his 21st birthday by completing basic training, then going to see the company commander who would decide his next move.
“He looked over my file and saw I had a background in art. I don’t know what it was about my dossier, but something in there made him think, ‘Hey, this guy will be really good in amphibians!’ So off I went for amphibian training and ended up being sent to Qui Nhon,” he remembered of his time on the Vietnam coast, south of Da Nang.
He returned from a military tour of duty in Vietnam in 1968, settled down in Saratoga Springs and began mixing cocktails at a variety of city taverns, and illustrating a number of works – twin vocations in which he would be involved for all of his days.
Today his work graces the walls of the council’s chambers at City Hall – painted in 1974, the Tin & Lint, and is emblazoned across the annual Chowderfest t-shirts, depicting happy childhood faces and local scenes brought to life. In 2021 he published an art book, “Booker D and the NGs,” culled from his 300 pages of illustrations and accompanying texts he created over a 15-year period. A mural of massive proportions hangs in the lobby of the Mabee Building that depicts contemporary people done up in a 19th century style at the old Saratoga train station. The mural measures 19 feet long and features 237 different Saratogians, and five dogs.
“The city has grown and…there are growing pains, but I have to remind people that a lot of these new buildings they see were built on vacant lots. Houses weren’t torn down. We had a lot of vacant lots,” Hud recalled during one random sidewalk conversation during the summer of 2017.
“When the Tin & Lint opened, I remember sitting in there and having conversations with people who would say, ‘Why would you want to move here? There are so many businesses that are boarded-up. It’s falling down.’ And we said: no, it’s all open. It’s ready to start all over again,” he said. “That’s why I’ve stayed around. And it’s been phenomenal to watch.”
An online fundraiser has been arranged to celebrate the life of Hud Armstrong and to help his family cover funeral expenses. The site may be found at: gofundme.com (and under search: Hud Armstrong). All funds gathered from this campaign will go to Hud’s brother, Don, as he and his family navigate their loss.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Zac Brown and Robert Plant will stage shows at SPAC. Guided tours will be provided at the Tang Museum. There will be live music for folks performed at Caffe Lena, “opera under the stars,” and staged theater by HMT. The gardens at Yaddo will host their long-awaited return.
These are some of the showcased events scheduled to take place in early June which provided the focus of this week’s collaborative announcement by the city of Saratoga Springs and local cultural organizations to kick-off the summer season.
It’s called “All Together Now,” and serves as an official reopening of Saratoga’s cultural destinations.
“’All Together Now’ celebrates (our) incredible cultural richness. What’s amazing is nothing was specially produced for it. It is literally a snapshot of all the amazing things already happening in the city and the county on a particular weekend in June,” Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center said at a presser held May 17 at Saratoga Arts. “Our aim is to capture this moment. To shine a light upon it.”
“All Together Now: Arts Celebration Weekend in Saratoga” will be held June 2-5 and serves as an official re-opening of Saratoga’s cultural destinations. It is the culmination of two years of collaboration across organizations to fulfill the community’s need for the arts after navigating through pandemic-related hardships and obstacles.
“We’re all aware that towns and cities everywhere are facing health challenges – challenges of mistrust and division, addiction and stress. We are offering an antidote. It’s called human creativity,” said Sarah Craig, Executive Director of Caffè Lena, which will be staging a jazz chart-topper, a bilingual global folk singer, a downstate alt-country band and a free children’s concert the first weekend in June. “How do I know this works? Every day and night year-round I get to see the power of music unlock something inside of people.”
Closed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yaddo artists’ retreat will open its gardens to the community from 12-4 p.m. for a poetry and dance event Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5. The Tang Teaching Museum will host a variety of free art exhibitions throughout the weekend-long event.
Across town, presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco will be featured June 5 at a Festival of Young Artists at SPAC, visitors will be welcomed inside into the grounds newest building, The Pines at SPAC, for an exhibit displaying Mikhail Baryshnikov’s photographs of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.
This week’s gathering featured in-person commentary by Saratoga Springs mayor Ron Kim, Saratoga Arts Executive Director Louise Kerr, Tang Museum Dayton Director Ian Berry and Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus.
Sen. Daphne Jordan made an announcement proclaiming Saratoga Springs as an arts and culture tourism destination, and verbally spun the Beatles-inspired event slogan – “All Together Now” – into a different fab four tune: “The smiles returning to the faces/ It seems like years since it’s been here,” she said, “Here comes the sun.”
From Thursday, June 2 through Sunday, June 5 about 40 free and ticketed events will be happening in or a short distance from downtown Saratoga Springs.
Saratoga Arts will host a ‘raise a glass to the arts’ kickoff event at 320 Broadway from 5-6:30 p.m. Friday, June 3 and will present the first-ever Saratoga Arts Community Talent Show the next afternoon at the Saratoga City Music Hall.
For the full lineup of activities during All Together Now: Arts Celebration Weekend in Saratoga, visit: saratoga.org/arts.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — It is Friday afternoon. A steel-silver sky dangles over a blacktop lot that cradles a motorcar blazoned in gunmetal gray.
Inside the car, the beautiful tone fragments that flow from Richard Lloyd’s guitar gush from the speakers. The band is Television. The music is “Marquee Moon.”
“I remember, how the darkness doubled. I recall, lightning struck itself.
I was listening, listening to the rain. I was hearing, hearing something else…”
Just at that moment, the ring of the phone cuts through all sweetness and melancholy, and bullies its way across the Bluetooth, sounding over the speakers of the car.
“This is Richard Lloyd,” the voice says. “It looks like it’s going to rain here. Is it raining where you are?”
The wondrous season lands in Saratoga early this year. Richard Lloyd performs Saturday, May 14 at Putnam Den with his four-piece band. “Kevin Tooley, David Leonard and a new guy, Steve Geller. Two guitars, bass and drums,” Lloyd explains. Local favorites Family Tree opens the show. Lloyd says the show will feature songs from across his career. And a rich career it is.
There are more than a half-dozen solo albums to his credit, loaded with anthemic guitars and tuneful gems that in a just and more welcoming country would have returned innumerable radio hits. His craftsmanship as a six-string practitioner is showcased in a popular YouTube site someone put up heralding guitar drone theory and “the use the mixolydian scale to create a Richard Lloyd style solo.”
Then there is Television. The four-member ensemble produced two albums – “Marquee Moon” and “Adventure” during their initial forage through the late 1970s - and a created a presence whose influence to this very day cannot be overstated.
“Marquee Moon” in particular is hailed far-and-wide as a musical masterpiece. You have to wonder if he’s tired of talking about. “I’m just glad it still sells,” Lloyd responds, with a chuckle. “Forty-five years later, and I still get paid.”
He was born in the fall of 1951 in Pittsburgh – six years after the end of World War II, and at the start of the Cold War. “People at that time were in a strange halfway state – between the exhilaration of recovery from war and the threat of nuclear annihilation,” he reflects in his 2017 memoir “Everything Is Combustible.”
Lloyd was a New York City kid at a time when the city was ripping apart at the seams. He hung out at Max’s Kansas City and memorably recalls going to see the New York Dolls at the Hotel Diplomat.
“I was taken aback by the audience,” Lloyd says. “Everybody was dressed to the nines - and they were more interested in each other than they were in the band. The band facilitated this scene, but it wasn’t like a normal concert where people are paying attention to what’s onstage.” It was a time when bands were starting to play in front of big crowds in large arenas. “It was very cut-and-dried. Performer. Audience. Performer. Audience. All of a sudden there was a break in that. And that’s what it was like at CB’s as well, because if you played there regularly you got in for free, so there was always a lot of talented people there – not just musicians, but journalists and photographers and actors and writers. It was a very interesting time in New York.”
Lloyd and Television were instrumental in what was to transpire at CBGB. The Mercer Arts Center – the only showplace in town for creatives in 1973 – had collapsed in a heap of rubble on an August afternoon.
“It fell down, while I was on my way (there), in a car driving from L.A. to New York,” said Lloyd, while sitting in a car traveling from New York to New Haven.
“And you’re in a car now. Hopefully nothing’s falling down anywhere,” was the sequence of words that tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them.
“I. Hope. Not,” he replied.
Lloyd was living in Chinatown with Terry Ork. An assistant to Andy Warhol, Ork was perhaps inspired by Warhol’s sponsorship that had initiated the blooming of the Velvet Underground a decade earlier and engaged in doing something with a band in a similar way. It was their visit to a Manhattan club on an audition night, that produced the first meeting between Lloyd and transplanted Delaware schoolmates Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine.
“It was a cabaret club. People like Liza Minelli and Peter Lemongello played there,” Lloyd says. Verlaine played three songs on his audition night. That 10-minute set led to the collaborative formation that eventually became Television.
Looking for a place that would let them play on a public stage, they found a dive on the Bowery and approached the owner – as the story goes - while he stood atop a stepladder fiddling with the canopy in front of his bar, convincing him he should showcase live original music in his bar. That owner was Hilly Kristal. The club was CBGB. Despite the moniker depicting what Kristal had imagined his bar showcasing (the acronym represents Country, BlueGrass and Blues), a new wave of creative people would discover the venue as a place to unveil their talents – Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Blondie and The Ramones, among scores of others.
“It was like throwing a three-year-long New Year’s Eve party. It was a lot of fun. We made a rule that you had to play original music. No covers. Maybe one, if you did two - you’d never play there again,” Lloyd says. “We weren’t very good in the beginning. Technically we were pretty crappy. But there was an impulse there.”
By the spring of 1975 and a few short years since Lloyd had gone to watch the New York Dolls perform, Television was opening for the band.
“It seemed that time represented a sort-of changing-of-the-guard. What do you recall of those shows?” I asked Lloyd.
“Well, somebody’s got to go on first, so, yeah, we did,” he said.
“Any memories that stand out?”
“Malcolm McLaren wanted to manage us, and we said no,” he says of the British impresario who worked with designer Vivienne Westwood and was at that point working with the Dolls.
“So, he went back home to England to get his own band going.”
“He put together a band based on all of the things we were doing,” Lloyd says. That band was The Sex Pistols.
“Does that ever bug you?”
“Ah, only when it got written up as history - that it started in London. And it didn’t. It started in New York,” Lloyd says. “America is so big that you disappear in it, whereas if you’re in England and you make a splash, you’re in the daily papers for Crissakes.”
In early 1977, Television’s debut, “Marquee Moon” was released and hit the Top 30 in the U.K. But America was asleep. The second album, “Adventure,” was issued in 1978. Later that year I smuggled myself (nobody checked ID’s in those days) and a palm-size Instamatic camera into the Bottom Line club to watch the band play. Lloyd wore a black button-up shirt, which I know not from memory but in a blurred, ghostly image that somehow has survived to this day. Patti Smith sat across the table, transfixed by the music coming from the stage. We all were. The band was mesmerizing. The next day the band was no more.
“We broke up. That’s right. That was our swan song,” Lloyd says. “We didn’t tell anybody, but we already knew we were going to disband.”
The members of the group embarked on their respective solo careers, and there have been a few get- togethers resulting in one studio album. He puts little chance in the band getting together in the future.
“It’s amicable, but we’re not going to be playing together again. I don’t see that happening. Tom’s semi-retired, or retired completely,” Lloyd says.
Lloyd estimates he worked about two weeks in the first two years of the initial wave of the pandemic, but he’s now back out on stage performing. So far, so good. He says he continues to carry close-to-heart the works of philosopher and mystic G.I. Gurdjieff.
“He was a very interesting fellow and well worth looking up,” Lloyd says. “It was all about being aware. Being conscious. Inhabiting your life more fully. I don’t go to church, so it’s my spiritual interest.”
An interest in visual art has seen him produce his own works. He’s sold a couple of hundred of his paintings in recent years.
“I color. I’m crazy about rich, vibrant color,” Lloyd says.
“The same could be said about sound.”
“You bet. Sound and light – they’re related. They’re just octaves away from each other.”
Richard Lloyd performs with his band Saturday, May 14 at Putnam Place, 63A Putnam St., Saratoga Springs. Also appearing: Family Tree. Doors open 8 p.m., show starts at 9. Tickets: $15, putnamplace.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — More than 75 million people visit New York’s 180 state parks, 40 historic sites and numerous beaches every year. Less than 200 officers are charged with protecting those visitors, and in recent years the number of officers representing the N.Y. State Park Police has dwindled at an alarming rate.
“They are truly ambassadors for New York’s parks,” said Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake), leading a presser alongside members of N.Y. State Park Police from across the state, at the Hall of Springs this week. “But in the past few years, terrible things have happened,” said Woerner, citing employee promotions and transfers being frozen, investigative and detective positions eliminated and dispatch services removed altogether from the Saratoga Zone and placed instead with state police.
“We had 266 in July 2019 and we have about 188 today. Our attrition rate is at least four times the national average. What we are seeing is elimination through attrition, but no one has told us we are being phased out,” said Frank McGarity, associate director of the state Park Police Sergeants’ Association for the PBA.
“In December 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a memorandum which basically said the N.Y. State Police would have operations control over N.Y. State Park Police,” said McGarity, who has 20 years on the job, 16 of them in Saratoga. “Since the memo where are we? There are no transfers, no promotions, no hirings.”
The last hire was in October 2018, McGarity said and 78 Park Police officers lost in the past three years. The Park Police has had a patrol force since 1885.
Of the 31 women officers who were on staff, 11 left, resulting in about 20 currently on the job and representing just over 10% of the overall force statewide. In March, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a 30x30 Initiative, setting a goal of ensuring women comprise at least 30% of new recruitment classes in all agencies by 2030.
Part of the reason for the shortage is the disparity in wages – which are less, and retirement benefits, which require five additional years of service before eligibility kicks in – compared to other protection agencies in the state, officials said. Rules limiting pay, promotions and transfers all play a role in the difficulty of recruiting and retaining officers.
“I hate to use that word, but our own agency is ‘defunding’ us,” said Troy Caupain, PBA Secretary & Park Police Officers Director.
Park Police officers are highly trained specialists, they handle very large crowds, assist park users, search for and rescue missing persons, make arrests, conduct criminal and non-criminal investigations, and provide emergency services wherever they are needed. Special services the State Park Police also offer include marine law enforcement and education duties on New York waterways, snowmobile enforcement and education, and high angle and swift water rescue teams.
The cost of training an officer is $130,000, and the majority of those who have left over the past few years have stayed in law enforcement, making the move to other policing agencies. Local municipal departments across the state are doing much of the employee poaching. For local departments they are getting someone well-trained who doesn’t have to go through a police academy course, and therefore have limited costs associated with doing so. For officers, they are offered better opportunities given the park police restrictions on promotions, transfers and benefits.
Some changes that would help the park police recruiting efforts would be lowering the retirement eligibility to 20 years to be on par with other agencies, a geographic pay upgrade, and hiring a director of law enforcement, McGarity said. “We do not have what you would call a Chief – we do not have a director of law enforcement, we do not have an assistant director of law enforcement.”
This past January, Gov. Kathy Hochul suggested the park police should be separate from state police, but no definitive action has been made since that time.
“I don’t think the average New Yorker understands how devastating this quasi-merger between the parks police and the state police has been on our park police,” Woerner said. “Our Governor has said she thinks it’s time to separate the Parks Police and the State Police. I couldn’t agree more - but now is the time to make that real - before we start our very busy summer season.”
Saratoga Springs — The Saratoga Springs City Council will hold their meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 17 at City Hall in Saratoga Springs. It is anticipated the meeting will, for the first time this year, seat five members as a complete council, following last week’s appointment of Jason Golub to the vacancy as Commissioner of Public Works. (The pre-agenda meeting is slated to take place via Zoom 9 a.m. Monday).
The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors will hold its monthly meeting the same day, at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 17. The meeting will take place at the Saratoga County complex in Ballston Spa.
In-person public comment is allotted in Saratoga Springs at the start of the city meeting. No advance registration is required.
In-person public input is allotted at Board of Supervisor meetings at the end of the county meeting. Advance notice is required on an in-room sign-up sheet.
Both the city of Saratoga Springs and the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors now stream their meetings live on their respective websites.
BALLSTON SPA — The county Sheriff’s 911 Center is experiencing a staffing shortage due to a lack of a current Civil Service list to fill recent retirements and resignations.
The 911 Center is authorized 37 full-time positions, and currently has five vacancies. Those numbers are expected to drop further this summer. There are two pending retirements slated for late June and two to three additional shortages due to staff leaving for other employment in June and July.
A new Civil Service list and training new potential employees is anticipated to take a total of five to seven months. The county is looking to fill the temporary vacancies with fully-trained recent retirees from the 911 Center. To fit that need, a resolution is on the table that seeks to authorize the creation of five temporary part-time Desk Officer positions at a rate of $22.93 per hour, through the end of fiscal year 2022.
County Branding Contract
The county will vote on a proposed resolution to authorize an agreement at a cost of $31,500 for county branding services with the Glens Falls based Trampoline Advertising and Design Co.
Those services are to include the development of a brand strategy, identity mark and standards guide as well as a design template to standardize the county’s visual identity across all its departments.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - They are: two wild and im-pec-cably dressed guys.
Raconteurs, humorists and colorful characters J.P.V. Oliver, gent. and master image-maker and word slayer Richard Lovrich will dock their mothership on Broadway next Wednesday when they descend upon Northshire Bookstore Saratoga to tell stories and share anecdotes from their latest respective books, as part of their Bad Authors Tour ’22.
The bookstore says: “This is sure to be a side-splitting evening!” So whether you’re willing to have your torso cleaved, your ears teased, your mind illuminated, or just want to ask the guys just-where-do-you get your clothes? it's an anythong-goes affair.
Show time is at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11 at Northshire Bookstore, 424 Broadway, Saratoga Springs.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Jason Golub was unanimously selected by the four sitting members of the City Council on May 3 to temporarily fill the vacancy as the council’s fifth member and as Commissioner of Public Works.
The vacant seat is a result of the death last month of longtime DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco.
“I want to take a moment to thank Commissioner Scirocco for his service to the community. I have big shoes to fill,” Golub said, thanking the council for their vote to appoint him DPW Commissioner. “I am supremely confident that we can do great things in this city.”
The position pays an annual salary of $14,500. City Mayor Ron Kim - who had previously served as Public Safety Commissioner on the City Council - credited Scirocco for putting together “a great staff” staff in the current DPW department. He also cautioned that the biggest challenge that may be faced by Golub – a newcomer to the council - is the amount of time the job demands in real life, if not in job description.
“I can tell you this is a full-time job. I’m not sugar-coating that. The Commission form of Government, how it’s been set up, essentially requires an awful lot of your time,” Kim said.
The five members City Council – which includes four commissioners and a mayor – each have one vote of equal weight to decide city matters. In most cases, simple majority rules.
Golub, an attorney, served as a co-chairperson of the ad hoc Saratoga Springs Police Reform Task Force, which operated in 2021. He grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, and has been a resident of Saratoga Springs for the past seven years, according to an interview published in The Skidmore News in 2021 during which he said he found Saratoga politics “too transactional,” where officials were more focused on holding their offices than in the needs of their constituents.
A five-member Public Works Search Committee chaired by former council member John Franck selected Golub as their recommended candidate to fill the position, although the City Council was not bound to their recommendation. The ad hoc committee met on April 29 with Golub and two other candidates - Anthony Scirocco, Jr., and Billy McTygue, and presented their non-binding recommendation to the council on May 1.
A Special Election will be held to fill the term for the calendar year 2023, after which normal two-year electable terms for all five council members takes place. That Special Election could be held in November, a traditional election date. The City Council is tasked with setting the date for the election.
Golub said he is interested in pursuing the council seat in that election. “I hope I get to work with all of you over the coming weeks and months and I earn your support in the election come next November,” Golub told the council at its May 3 meeting.
Former DPW Commissioner Tom McTygue addressed the council during the public comment segment of the meeting. He spoke in support of his brother, Bill McTygue, who was vying for appointment to the seat and suggested he will encourage him to campaign for the elected position later this year.
CRB Approved, Members Sought
The City Council approved Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino’s updated 9-page Civilian police Review Board ordinance, as well as an application form for those interested in their appointment to the CRB. It may be found on the city’s website as a link under the City Council Agenda May 3 at: www.saratoga-springs.org/AgendaCenter.
Ways To Grieve
Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran announced the Assessment Office will be holding a “How to Grieve your Assessment” class for 2022 to take place 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday May 10 in the City Council Room. Advance sign-up is not required. Grievance Day is Tuesday, May 24.
Additionally, a 2022 Grievance Packet to be filled out is available on the city’s web site. How to get there: go to: saratoga-springs.org. Highlight “Government.” Under “Departments” find and click on “Assessments.” Click on “Grieving Your Assessment.” Scroll down and click on “Grievance Packet.” Easy peasy.
WILTON — A national development company is looking to build nearly 400 apartments and townhouses alongside the Wilton Mall.
Pending the town’s modification of its current code, Paramount Development is looking to purchase two lots totaling just over 13-1/2 acres on the northeasterly side of the mall for the $100 million-plus project.
The Florida-based company has developed 200 rental apartment communities in dozens of states, said Tom Snell, a partner with Paramount Development who recently met with Wilton town officials. The focus is on high-end or luxury apartments. “What we see in the Wilton Mall is something that’s got some momentum. We do really well around retail,” Snell told the Wilton Town Board.
The current owner of those acres is Santa Monica, California-based company Macerich - which has owned and operated the mall land since 2004. They own about 95 acres in all. In the adjacent properties, JC Penney owns just over two acres, and LBW Saratoga – occupied by BJ’s, owns just under another four acres.
The potential project, which would occur on northeast side of the mall past Dick’s Sporting Goods, envisions nearly 400 residential units consisting of just under 300 apartment units and approximately 90 town house units to be developed in multiple phases atop the nearly 14 acres of property. A pool, basketball court and wine club are also planned. A joint petition has been filed on behalf of Paramount Development and Macerich with the town to amend the zoning code.
“We have been working on this for about a year,” said David Carr of the LA Group, which is headquartered in Saratoga Springs.
Carr said the plan is to remove the BonTon building and develop two phases of apartments and townhouses. “The mall property is made up of 101 acres. It’s made up of four parcels. There’s one large parcel and three inner parcels. There’s a pad parcel around BJ’s, and JC Penney, and around Dick’s Sporting Goods. The thought is to remove BonTon, develop the first phase, which would be about 250 units in four buildings, with underground parking and amenities within the perimeter road,” Carr said.
“If you’ve been to the mall the retail industry has gone through a dramatic change - and not in a good way,” Wilton Mall Property Manager Mike Schafer told the board. “In 2018 our BonTon closed, in 2020 our Sears closed.” At its peak in 2016, the mall generated about $95 million in sales. As of February of this year it’s down to $55 million. “That’s about a $44 million sales tax loss with the retailers that we’ve lost. So that’s a real sales tax revenue loss for the town. The sales in the mall dropped in half,” he said.
“As a landlord and an owner, we need to reposition the mall for future growth to maintain the tax revenue here in Wilton. We see adding residential as a catalyst to help attract and get future tenants including dining and entertainment, which right now we frankly don’t have any,” Schafer said. “Right now, we are still in decent shape but the residential addition to the property at the end of the mall that, right now, is getting no interest. So, we’re looking for a zoning overlay to allow for the residential and other uses.”
Paramount is still finalizing their plans for their project. Pending the board’s agreement to adopt the zoning amendment, Paramount would submit a subdivision and site plan application to the Planning Board for review. The Board raised the notion that the project perhaps be crafted as a Planned Unit Development. Should the project continue to move forward, a public hearing will be held.
Town Discusses How to Spend Funding Received via American Recovery Plan
The town discussed how to apply $870,000 in funding it has received this year via the American Recovery Plan Act. The amount matches last years’ funding. Wilton has received a total of just over $1.7 million via the federal plan in two years. That funding must be targeted for use by the end of calendar year 2024 and spent by December 2026, or it must be returned.
Subsequent to its discussion, the town board unanimously adopted a resolution to allocate $100,000, from the grant, for not-for-profits with acceptable applications who service, reside, or have a branch in the town of Wilton.