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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 Athletes Headed for Track States
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A handful of Saratoga Springs athletes are set to run all the way to state finals this weekend.
At the final state-qualifying event at UAlbany this past Sunday, a number of athletes from Saratoga Springs High School secured their spots in the 2017 NYSPHSAA Indoor Track & Field Championships at Staten Island on March 4. Among the events that they will compete in are 4x800 relay races, long jump, 3,200 meter races, hurdles, and more.
At the qualifier on Sunday, Saratoga senior Will Navin took the baton in the anchor leg position of the 4x800 relay while his team was in 2nd place behind Shenendehowa. Staying focused on the prize, by the end he crossed the finish line in 1st place and secured his team’s trip to the state finals. Along with Navin, the 4x800 relay team consists of senior Nick Brady, sophomore Peter Moller, and sophomore Ezra Ruggles. For Brady, Moller, and Ruggles, this will be their first ever state meet.
“I was feeling really confident,” Navin said about starting the final leg of the relay. “I just locked my eyes on [the Shen guy’s] back, stayed with him, and when it was time to go it was time to go.”
In the 3,200-meter event, senior Declan Hines and sophomore Shea Weilbaker will be competing. This is the first state-level meet for both athletes. Both Weilbaker and Hines say they are keeping their practice routines consistent with what they have been doing to keep themselves fresh and calm leading into the meet on Saturday. Senior Nick Cavotta will be competing in the long jump event, and after his strong performance at Sunday’s event, is already qualified for championship division nationals. Cavotta usually competes in both long jump and 3K, and so is changing his practice routine to focus strictly on long jump. This means shorter, “more explosive” work outs.
“They say its gonna be a pretty competitive field,” Hines said. “Gonna be good to just get out there and race.”
“I’m just excited, I don’t really have anything to lose,” Cavotta said. “I didn’t expect to even get to this point.”
Senior Mimi Liebers, junior Keellyn Cummings, junior Caroline Starace, and sophomore Kelsey Chmiel will also be competing in the girls’ events at the state meet. Chmiel and Liebers will be entering familiar ground this weekend, as each athlete has competed at multiple state level championships in the past. Liebers will be competing in the hurdle, Cummings in the 1K, Starace in the 1,500 leg of the relay, and Chmiel in the 3K.
“They’ve been working really hard,” Coach Chris Conley said, speaking to the achievements of his athletes. “I think [making it to states] is a tribute to the work they put in.”
The venue for the state championship event will be the Ocean Breeze Track Facility in Staten Island. According to coach Conley, the large location with its 200-meter track has a good chance of bringing strong times from the athletes competing.
“Should be some good performances down there,” Conley said.
Neighbors: Snippets of Life From Your Community
Neighbors: Snippets of Life From Your Community
Who: Dawn Oesch.
Where: Saratoga Sweets Candy Co., Washington Street.
Q. What are you doing today?
A. I’m making bunnies. Chocolate bunnies, and Tall Bunny - the big guy is 2-1/2 pounds.
Q. Where are you from originally?
A. Lake Placid.
Q. How long have you been in Saratoga Springs?
A. Nineteen years. I love the city more than anything. Moving here, I loved that it had the same charm as Lake Placid, but on a bigger scale.
Q. How has Saratoga changed over the years?
A. We’ve been getting more commercial with more big-box stores coming into our area, which is a little scary. There’s room for everybody, but you don’t want your quaint town to turn into Everyday U.S.A. because you can go anywhere and see these places. So, keep it to the minimum we have now. No more thank you.
Q. What’s the best thing about Saratoga?
The people who live here. Some say this is a tourist town, that money falls from the sky, but any business person will tell you it’s not like that, especially when they first open. What makes it is the locals. I love that I know their names and what they want. That’s the best part of it.
Q. What is the biggest challenge you personally face?
A. My dogs destroying the garbage can every day. I have two dogs, both beagle mixes: a beagle basset I rescued last year who’s three or four, and Sawyer – a six-year-old beagle border collie who’s stubborn and smart I’ve had since he was a puppy. With the garbage can, I even have a lock on it and they still get into it.
Q. What is the biggest challenge you face business-wise?
I’ve been here for 19 years and I love my little store. This is my baby and I would like to be here for another 19, but our landlord sold our building, or is in the process of selling it. We can possibly go in the new building (when completed), but where do you go while they’re building the new building?
Q. Tell me a joke
A. My favorite is a knock-knock joke. It goes like this:
Q. You are active in regional theater?
A. My favorite theaters to work in are Home Made Theater in the State Park, and the Local Actors Guild at the Arts Center.
Last fall I directed “Shrek The Musical” at Home Made Theater. We had a cast of 32 and a tech crew of 15. There was a three-week run and it was awesome. The next thing I’m going to do is “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” That has a cast of about 50. that will be next spring, so I can start planning now. I’m a planaholic. I like to be uber-organized.
Maple Ave Students Head to Regional Science Competition
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A team of Maple Avenue Middle School students will be competing in a regional competition to determine who will go to the upcoming U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) 27th National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C. The event will be held on March 4, at General Electric National Research in Niskayuna. The winners of the event will receive an all-expense-paid trip to D.C. to compete at the national level representing the Capital Region of New York.
The team from Maple Ave. is made up of the following students: 8th graders jack Murratti, Max Su, Stephen Verral, and Jason Zheng; 7th graders Isabelle Girolamo, Hana Nguyen, Jack Maiellaro, and Ethan Murnan; and 6th grader Andrew Hope. Their team’s coach is Maple Ave. science teacher John Scrivo.
“This is our third year participating and we made tremendous strides last year,” Scrivo said. “Finishing second in the car race and reaching the semifinals in the academic competition. This has set the bar high for this year’s team to try to improve on last year’s success.”
At this weekend’s regional event, the team will take part in two events. The first is a weighted car design challenge, wherein the team must design a small car powered by a falling weight, with the goal of getting the car to go 10 meters. This challenge is strictly designed for the regional middle school level event, and has no impact on the team moving on to the national competition. The second event, and the one that will decide if the team moves on, is an academic question-and-answer style competition. According to the DOE’s official website, teams will “tested on a range of science disciplines including biology, chemistry, Earth science, physics, energy, and math.”
The team’s preparations for the event have involved in-class and out-of-class work. In class, they have practiced for the academic challenge by answering questions using a simulated version of the buzzer system that will be used at the event. Out of class, they have been working on the designs that they will use in the falling weight challenge. This has involved not just the design for the car itself, but also the launcher that will get the car moving, as well as testing the ideal amount of weight to use.
After the regional event on Saturday, the national event will take place in D.C. from April 27 to May 1. The National Science Bowl has been held annually since 1991, and draws more than 14,000 middle school and high school student each year.
Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Saratoga's History
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Did you know a freight train disaster at the Saratoga Railroad Station in 1940 resulted in nine injuries and two deaths? How about the mid-1970s incident that saw a sniper open fire on a west side elementary school playground that wounded two children? Or, that the Saratoga Race Course provided the scenery for a handful of Hollywood movies - from “Saratoga” in 1937 to “Seabiscuit” in 2003 - to say nothing of novelist Ian Fleming’s visit to the track to conduct research for his James Bond book, “Diamonds Are Forever.”
Saratoga’s history, from the well-documented to the obscure, can be unearthed in a handful of places in the city, most of which are readily open to the public and provide a wealth of resources, if one knows where to look.
“The city historian, the museum, and the library are three separate entities – we all work together - and there are others,” says city historian Mary Ann Fitzgerald, as she muscles open the heavy vault door inside her office at the Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center. Here, Fitzgerald says, people need to know what they’re looking for before they come in, because of the overwhelming number of primary materials and other original documents.
Inside the vault, the shelves reveal handwritten council meeting minutes dating to the city’s incorporation in 1915, criminal dockets from 1876, fire disaster records, urban renewal papers, and countless other original documents, including a prized signature by Saratoga Springs founder Gideon Putnam that dates to 1810. The vault is perused largely by archivists and historians searching for original source material.
Across the street, the Saratoga Springs History Museum is being prepped for its upcoming exhibition - “Internationally Famous” – featuring Cris Alexander - a celebrity photographer and artist, and Shaun O’Brien, a dancer with the New York City Ballet. The couple moved to Saratoga Springs in the early ‘70s and were together for more than 60 years. Collectively, their lives trace a line through the art, dance and celebrity world of much of the 20th century.
In addition to its changing exhibitions and its permanent displays – original furniture and gaming equipment sit in the historic 19th century casino – the museum’s library houses research-friendly manuscripts, diaries, and business records of prominent local families like the Batchellors and the Walworths, as well as rarities documenting Caffè Lena, and the life of Frank Sullivan.
A third aspect of the museum’s offering is the George S. Bolster Collection. Culled from approximately 360,000 images, glass plates and negatives, the compilation depicts a long-gone era of city hotels and lake houses, public events, visiting celebrities, and time-captured scenes of the race course and private homes in their original splendor.
“People looking for pictures come to me,” says Bolster Collection Curator John Conners. “Some of them date back to the 1870s and every time I look at the pictures I still find something different, something I haven’t seen before.”
In 1928, the city’s borders cradled 14,000 year-round residents and housed 16 churches, 287 retail stores, five grade schools, one high school and two parochial schools. The house numbers and owners’ names can be found in the pages of the city directories - beginning in 1868 - at the Saratoga Room, located inside the Saratoga Springs Public Library. A few yards away, visitors can unearth the everyday lives of early 20th century residents in Sophie Goldstein’s oral narratives in the Saratoga County Jewish History Project.
The Saratoga Room also boasts a multi-media collective of Saratoga-related films and documentaries, publications, illustrated newspapers, cookbooks, street maps with numbered houses dating to the 1800s, and a popular collection of Saratoga cookbooks. Frank Sullivan’s personal library consisting of more than 100 books and his personal typewriter are here, as are a treasure-trove of high school yearbooks, a century old.
Discoveries To Be Made: Did You Know?
The New York Knickerbockers and Boston Celtics played an NBA exhibition game at Convention Hall in 1955.
Sylvia Plath found peace on earth during her residence at Yaddo in the winter of 1959.
The Olympic Torch passed through Saratoga Springs in 2001.
True Crime: The bullet-riddled body of the victim of a suspected “mob hit” was found on the steps of Saratoga Hospital in 1936; A grisly discovery of the dismembered body of a young woman was made at Saratoga Lake a decade later.
Sophie Tucker, Senor Wences, and “a breathtaking ensemble of lovely girls!” performed at The Piping Rock in 1947; 16-year-old Philip Seymour Hoffman studied acting at Skidmore in the 1980s; The band U2 performed at Saratoga Raceway – the current grounds of Saratoga Casino – in 1992, and Bob Dylan earned $50 for a two-night stand at Caffè Lena during his first visit to Saratoga Springs in 1961.
Fires: The city’s worst occurred in 1955 on Caroline Street and claimed the lives of eight people; The “Great Fire of 1957” destroyed a block of the downtown business district on Broadway, and eight years later the 5,000-seat Convention Hall was destroyed in a mammoth blaze.
Activism: In 1965, more than 600 Saratogians took part in a “Stand Up To Be Counted” silent March down Broadway in support of Civil Rights.
Some Saratoga History Resources – note some are by-appointment.
Crandall Public Library, Center for Folklife, History, & Cultural Programs, Glens Falls. Phone: 518-792-6508, Todd DeGarmo (Director) x237; Erika Wolfe Burke (Archivist) x238. Web: www.crandalllibrary.org.
Saratoga National Historical Park, 648 Route 32, Stillwater. Phone: 518-664-9821 ext. 224. E-mail: Contact Form at website - www.nps.gov/sara.
Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, 112 Spring Street, Suite 203, Saratoga Springs. Phone: 518- 587-5030. www.saratogapreservation.org.
The Saratoga Room at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs. Phone: 518-584-7860, x255. E-mail: Contact form at website - https://www.sspl.org/research/local_history/collections/.
NYS Military Museum & Veterans Research Center, 61 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs. Phone: 518-581-5100. Web: www.dmna.state.ny.us/historic/mil-hist.htm.
Funding for Special City Election Hits Council Snag
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Council held a lengthy and at-times heated discussion Tuesday night about whether to fund a Special Election in May or June as requested by the Charter Review Commission, to potentially change the way the city is governed.
Since its inception as a city in 1915, Saratoga Springs has operated under a Commission form of Government – that is, with four commissioners and one mayor each running separate departments and all having equal say. Mandated to review the City Charter every 10 years, the Charter Review Commission, a 15-person group appointed by members of the City Council, recommended bringing to voters a proposal that the city adopt a Council-Manager form of governing. Under such a plan, the council would be charged with hiring a professional city manager to carry out policies.
A measure to fund the Commission’s $46,000 administrative budget – which includes fees for legal consulting, sending informational mailers to residents and a clerk to transcribe meeting minutes – received unanimous council approval, but a $37,000 request to fund a Special Election in May or June was rejected by a 3-2 vote.
City Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who voted to support funding the Special Election, said if the Charter Commission desired to hold a vote in May, then it was their right to do so. “I think we’ve got to let the voters decide. I don’t think it’s up to us - when it should be, or what they should put on the referendum,” Yepsen said. “I think it’s in our best interests to move this forward regardless of what we all think personally.”
Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, who vehemently opposed funding a Special Election, argued that the council’s actions are not politically motivated whereas the Charter Commission’s are, and received like-minded commentary from Accounts Commissioner John Franck. “To say this group has not advocated for a change in the form of government is blinking at reality,” Franck said. “They’ve been disparaging the current form of government, but telling about this new form of government. They’re not supposed to be doing this. They’re supposed to be educating.”
Franck, Madigan, and DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco rejected the funding request, and each stated the public would be better served – both in cost savings and by a larger voter turnout - should the referendum be held in November.
“I think it disenfranchises people. This is voter suppression, I don’t care what anybody says,“ said Scirocco.
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, like Mayor Yepsen, voted in favor of funding the Special Election. He argued that the issue requires its own attention rather than it being added to this November’s Election Day slate, which will include all five council member seats up for vote.
“I think this is such an important issue and a vital part of looking at where our city is going that it needs to be decided upon separately, and in an environment not muddled by the political intrigue that often comes with our November elections and all the special interests that rise up,” Mathiesen said. Following the vote, Yepsen attempted to provide information about the ramifications of the council’s vote and what the next steps might be regarding the Charter Commission’s potential actions, but was not permitted to do so by other members of the council.
“This will come down to a lawsuit, I suspect, and the courts will decide what they’re going to do with this,” Franck said. “There may even be a lawsuit at the City Council level.”
750-seat Venue Targets Fall 2018 Opening
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Galleries, museums and classic architecture. A cinema. Public parks. Taverns, restaurants and cafes. Together they are the elements that contribute to community vibrancy.
But, for the past half-century, one noticeably missing piece in this walkable city has been the lack of a year-round, mid-sized venue – an unfulfilled need since Saratoga’s 5,000-seat Convention Hall was destroyed by fire in 1966.
With an extensive renovation of Universal Preservation Hall set to get underway, that cultural vacancy is set to soon be filled. “This will be an acoustically perfect theater-in-the-round and will hold about 750 people,” said Teddy Foster, campaign director at UPH. “There will be a lot of music, Broadway cabaret and live theater.”
The current schedule of events will conclude in five weeks and a $5.5 million renovation of the historic building is slated to get underway in June. When UPH re-opens in the fall of 2018, it will house new heating and air conditioning systems, a kitchen, an elevator and new light and sound fixtures with acoustic treatments.
“It will have everything,” Foster said. The main room’s flexibility will allow for the relocation of seats as events dictate and a community room located on the building’s lower level will hold another 140 people. New entry doors will be set on the building’s Broadway facing-side to provide theater-goers close proximity to a 450-vehicle public parking garage on Woodlawn Avenue.
The Victorian Gothic structure on Washington Street was built in 1871 and served as a Methodist church and a gathering place. Teddy Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass and William Howard Taft to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg have each taken a turn atop the main stage during the building’s 146-year history. A century after its construction, the building began to fall into disrepair and the church sat empty for several years. In 2000, the city condemned the building and members of the community rallied to save the structure from demolition.
Today, the nonprofit group UPH owns the building and maintains a 21-person board of directors. A local Baptist congregation – which continues to host weekend services at the hall - owns the land on which the church sits. An initial wave of renovation work began in 2003 after $3 million was raised. The current Capital Campaign - The Road To Opening Night – is ongoing and has secured about 90 percent of the $5.6 million it seeks to raise, Foster says. A fundraiser will be held in May at Saratoga National.
In 2015, UPH got an added boost when it became an affiliate of Proctors. The Schenectady based organization will lend their expertise in securing programming and coordinating ticket sales and marketing, in addition to other areas. Proctors was built in 1926 in downtown Schenectady and was one of a dozen vaudeville houses along the east coast of the country. A half-century later, it was among the last standing theaters of a deserted downtown landscape. Like UPH, it also was saved from the wrecking ball.
Last week Proctors’ creative director, Richard Lovrich, and its publicist, Michael Eck, staged a slide show presentation and discussion at UPH based on the release of their new coffee-table book, “Encore: Proctors at 90,” which depicts everything from the backstage application of character makeup for a production of “The Lion King,” to images capturing gracious remembrances of a theater visit by Sophia Loren. It is a narrative of renewal and rebirth, and a tale of a city and a theater taking turns saving each other, the authors say.
After undergoing a transformative restoration of its own, the historic theater today features everything from ZZ Top, this weekend, to the staging of “Hamilton,” during its 2018-19 season. Of UPH, Proctors CEO Phillip Morris says he envisions a welcoming place to gather and a cultural heart of the city.
After the Saratoga Springs venue reopens with its 45-foot-tall ceilings, bell tower and walnut and ash staircases that feed into the main hall, it is anticipated it will stage 200 or so annual events. “I like to say I imagine the hall as Saratoga’s living room,” Foster said.
Homeless Population Registry Being Conducted This Week
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A week-long effort by Shelters of Saratoga is currently underway to create a real-time, by-name registry of the homeless population in Saratoga Springs.
The data gathered from surveys, which are voluntary, will provide the community knowledge of the needs of people experiencing homelessness, and the work that needs to be done to end homelessness in Saratoga Springs, organizers say.
“Registry Week” has taken place in 186 other US communities. This is the first time it is being conducted in Saratoga Springs.
Coordinators say the surveys will help agencies connect people to the services they most need, and that the by-name list will provide insight as to specific vulnerabilities for each person, enabling agencies to provide specified care for each person. Meantime, the Code Blue emergency shelter – which is under the auspices of Shelters of Saratoga – has been operating at near full-capacity this winter. Adhering to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandate that shelters service the homeless when temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit has increased Code Blue’s hours of operation.
“It’s been a challenge,” noted shelter director Cheryl Ann Murphy-Parant.
In its two full years of operation, the shelter - previously located at the Salvation Army building on Woodlawn Avenue - was open 85 and 88 nights, respectively, in 2014-15 and 2015-16. Code Blue had averaged 35 nightly guests during the two years and was open a combined total of five times during the daylight hours. This winter season, through Jan. 18, the relocated shelter on Caroline Street has already been open 62 nights and 12 days, and has housed an average of 41 guests – 10 to 12 of which are women. “That (women guests) is a big jump this year,” said Murphy-Parant.
It is anticipated the data gathered from the surveys this week will be compiled in the spring and that a second “registry week” survey will be conducted locally during the warm-season months.
Council No-Shows Cause Cancellation of Special Meeting to Fund Special Election
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Wednesday’s “Special” City Council meeting lived up to its noteworthy title: so special it was that it never took place.
The meeting was called to discuss funding for the May 30 special election when voters will be asked to decide whether to maintain the status quo of the city’s century-old commission form of governing, or change to a council-manager form.
Following eight months of committee meetings, community surveys and interviews conducted with city employees, the Charter Review Commission - a 15-member group independent of the council - recommended a special election be held on May 30. The group estimates total budget expenses to be about $46,000, in addition to approximately $37,000 in costs associated with a special election. There has been growing disagreement among council members debating the timing and costs of holding a special vote in May, versus placing the issue on an extension of the standard November ballot, which is when all five council seats will also be up for vote. Those in favor of the May date say adding a Charter vote to an already busy city election season would muddle matters. City Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Commissioner Chris Mathiesen were the two lone members attending Wednesday’s meeting, leaving the board one member short of a quorum, and forcing the 17 people and two council members in attendance to leave City Hall without discussing the matter.
Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco issued a statement following the cancellation of the meeting to say after “it had been indicated that both Commissioner Madigan and Commissioner Franck would not be in attendance,” he also would not be attending. “I feel it only fair that when voting on an important issue that impacts all city residents, and our future as a city, that all members of the council are in attendance.”
Commissioner Michele Madigan said in a statement, that after learning Commissioner John Franck “would not be attending the meeting for professional reasons,” she contacted the mayor’s office to ask the meeting be cancelled because she wanted all five members of the City Council to be present to discuss and vote on the budget amendments from the Charter Review Commission. Some in attendance remarked after the cancelled meeting that council members opposed to a change in the form of governing were using delay tactics.
The City Council has until February 20 to approve the request to fund the Commission’s expenses as well as the special election; if it fails to do so, it is believed the mayor has the ability to approve the amount of funding sought to defray expenses for the Commission’s budget and for the special election.
Under the council-manager form of government, the city council approves the budget, determines the tax rate and focuses on the community’s goals, major projects, and long-term considerations such as community growth, land use development, capital improvement plans, capital financing, and strategic planning. The council would be charged with hiring a highly trained non-partisan, professional city manager to carry out these policies with an emphasis on effective, efficient, and equitable service delivery. Managers serve at the pleasure of the governing body and can be fired by a majority of the council. Among the Commission’s other recommendations are: increasing the number of council members from five to seven and terms of service from two years to four years putting a system in place to ensure members come from all corners of the city, and giving council members confirmation power over all mayoral appointments to city boards and judicial appointments. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council is Feb. 7.
“You are looking at significant development”- Saratoga Springs Grows West
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Ten new buildings, a five-story hotel, more than 400 residential units and nearly 30,000 square feet of retail space may soon rise from the rustic landscape of the city’s west side.
The city’s Land Use boards are evaluating two projects that seek to develop a stretch of vacant land from the south end of the Saratoga Springs train station to Washington Street/ Route 29, and just west of West Avenue.
“You are looking at significant development,” said Bradley Birge, administrator of planning and economic development for Saratoga Springs.
The Station Park project, which would be built out over five phases, calls for two buildings to be dedicated as a mixed-use space with each building housing 36 residential units, and a total of 22,000 square feet of retail space. The 72 residential units would be for-sale condominiums, said Lou Giardino, chief development officer of the project for Top Capital of New York. The Rochester-based firm has secured a purchasing option on the 17 acres of the land where it would develop the $80 million project, if the city grants its approval.
Additional development would include two buildings - each providing 57 units for senior housing and 33 units for senior assisted care, a 110-to-120 unit five-story hotel and spa, a pool and fitness center, and a free-standing building with an additional 6,200 square feet of retail space. Nearly 600 parking spaces would span across the location to cater to residents, retail workers and shoppers.
The second proposal, submitted by the Missouri-based Vecino Group seeks to develop one three-story building and three four-story buildings to stand just east of the Station Park proposal and near the Washington Street post office. The 160 apartment units contained within seem to fall in the “workforce,” or “affordable” housing categories, although detailed information has yet to be released and phone calls made to the Vecino Group and their local partners at the LA Group that sought comment about the project proposal were not returned.
“They’re two separate and very independent projects coming forward at the same time,” said Birge. “They don’t come as a partnership, but we’ve tried very hard to encourage them to collaborate and at least share their plans (with each other) so that we can approach them in a comprehensive manner.”
“We’ve met with the Vecino Group and support their project,” Giardino said.
According to city officials, two additional firms are also currently readying proposals for further development in the immediate vicinity of the Station Park project, although the size and scope of those two potential projects are not currently known as those plans have yet to be submitted to the city.
The west side build-up is intentional and by design, said city Mayor Joanne Yepsen.
“When we updated our Comprehensive Plan – the first new one in the city in 14 years – we identified West Ave as a growth area, along with Weibel Avenue and South Broadway,” the mayor said. “We’ve also been proactive in looking for a partner who would be involved in affordable housing.” The Vecino Group project would seem to answer some of the city’s affordable housing needs.
The West Avenue corridor has witnessed an increase in development over the past dozen years. In 2004, a $6 million renovation project was conducted at the Saratoga Springs Train Station. Three years later, The YMCA of Saratoga opened its $10 million, 75,000-square-foot community and fitness center 1/4 mile south of the Saratoga Springs Junior-Senior High School. And in 2009, Empire State College completed its Center for Distance Learning facility at its West Avenue property, located a few yards from the college’s graduate studies and international programs building, which was built in 2004. s