Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

The below blog posts are written by John Kaufmann.
These opinions do not reflect the views of Saratoga TODAY newspaper.

Tuesday, 15 August 2023 10:03

City Council Dismisses Planning Board’s Unfavorable Advisory Opinion on Shelter Buffer Zone

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics
City Council Dismisses Planning Board’s Unfavorable Advisory Opinion on Shelter Buffer Zone

The Saratoga Springs City Council proposed an amendment to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) that would set a 1000-foot buffer between a “homeless shelter” and any “Educational Facility – Primary or Secondary.”

The UDO is a comprehensive document setting out policies and procedures for land-use issues. The city’s zoning is codified in the UDO.

The City Council is required to seek an advisory opinion from the Planning Board on any changes to the UDO. In this case, the Planning Board voted four to one to issue an “unfavorable advisory opinion.” In an unusual move, the Council voted to ignore the Planning Board’s advice and adopt the amendment anyway.

The following Are Excerpts From The Planning Board’s Opinion

The Planning Board’s opinion lays out issues that make the current language in the Council’s amendment potentially problematic both in terms of lack of clarity of the language used, potential future conflicts that would create non-conforming parcels of land, and unnecessary rigidity in the language that could make future placement of shelters an issue.

Here is the Planning Board’s advisory decision:






The Pitfalls Of Poorly Crafted Legislation

Converting an idea into legislation is a challenging business. Poorly crafted legislation is a magnet for litigation, especially in land-use issues and ESPECIALLY as regards the siting of a homeless facility.

The Planning Board’s unfavorable opinion was not prompted by opposition to the need for a buffer but by the lack of clarity in the language and by the potential problems with setting a rigid and arbitrary distance.

You would have thought that the Council would have engaged in some thoughtful discussion in response to the Planning Board. This was not the case.

I am told that Mayor Kim never solicited an opinion from the two city attorneys regarding the concerns raised by the Planning Board. This is yet another example of Mayor Kim assuming the role of City Attorney rather than consulting with those he has put in those positions to give him advice.

It is worth noting that Kim was a staunch advocate for locating the homeless shelter at what was the city’s Senior Center which abuts Spa Central Catholic School property. In fact he had a testy exchange with the parents of Spa Catholic students at a meeting during which he vigorously defended the proposed location.

The only acknowledgment of the Planning Board’s concerns was the rambling and incoherent musings of Mayor Kim at the Council table. At one point he actually says “I have no question that the procedures that were put in place to bring this UDO amendment forward were less than ideal for us to move this and make solid law today.”! The other Council members apparently had all tuned out at this point or didn’t care as no one, as usual, spoke up. In many ways, the remarks by Kim are a testament to the poverty of what passes for analysis and thoughtful discussion at the Council table. It is this poorly considered approach to legislation that threatens to impact our city negatively.

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