At the September 20, 2022, Saratoga Springs City Council meeting Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran made an impassioned appeal in support of a development proposed by Liberty Affordable Inc. to build a large, affordable housing project adjacent to our local casino. Moran proposed that rather than the Planning Board acting as the lead agency in determining compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), the City Council should be the lead agency. Moran was unable to muster support for this at that meeting.
According to the latest version of the agenda for the upcoming October 6 Council Meeting, Moran is again requesting that the Council, rather than the Planning Board, act as the lead agency.
In 2015 the Planning Board issued an advisory opinion regarding a similar Liberty Affordable Inc. project for the same parcel. At that time, the members of the Planning Board unanimously opposed the project.
In an earlier article, I explored in detail why the Planning Board opposed the project. Most of those concerns are relevant to the new proposal.
One of the central issues, but by no means the only issue, that prompted the negative vote by the Planning Board was the fact that there was no guarantee that if the city should rezone the parcel to allow for major development, what would be built there would be affordable housing. Once the land is rezoned for greater density, there are no safeguards that would keep high-end commercial and residential structures from being built there instead.
I have written to Commissioner Moran asking two questions.
1. What guarantees are there that only affordable housing would be built if the parcel was rezoned? The project is only feasible if Liberty Affordable Inc. can secure the funding. The competition for these funds is intense, and there is no reason to assume that Liberty will win the required funds.
2. Why should the Council be the lead agency?
I hope Commissioner Moran will address these concerns, and if he responds, I will post his position.