Displaying items by tag: saratoga government

Thursday, 30 November 2017 11:31

Split City: Charter Challenge Underway

SARATOGA SPRINGS – An Election Day vote that split city voters nearly down the middle may be revisited in the next few weeks, following the filing of a petition seeking a recanvas in the referendum on charter reform.

On Nov. 24, an action was commenced in New York State Supreme Court in the hope of seeking a full review and recount – called a recanvass - of all ballots cast in the Election Day referendum for a new city charter. The action was initiated by Gordon Boyd - who filed the request as an independent voter, and on behalf of “other private individuals” who supported the campaign for charter change. 

The Election Night tally depicted a 48-vote lead in favor of charter change of the nearly 8,500 ballots cast; Following the opening of absentee ballots a week later the lead shifted, with votes in favor of maintaining the status quo ahead by a 10-vote difference: 4,458 to 4,448. Approximately half the city’s eligible 18,000 voters took part in the vote.  

“The current margin of 10 votes out of nearly 9,000 cast means that a review of all ballots and scanner machine records is imperative to assure that the voters can have confidence in the final count,” said Boyd. Boyd is a former member of the Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission, which disbanded on Election Day, as well as a contributor It's Time Saratoga! – a group that advocated for charter change. 

“A complete hand recount would take only a few days, would eliminate any doubt that the machines may have miscounted, and would serve the voters above all else,” said Bob Turner, former chairman of the commission.

According to Turner, an assistant professor of Skidmore College’s Environmental Studies and Sciences Program, 20 states and the District of Columbia provide for automatic recounts if the margin between the top two candidates is within certain parameters - typically 0.5 percent or less of votes cast for office or issue.  The margin in the charter referendum is 10 votes or one-tenth of 1 percent of the near-9,000 votes cast.  

“Our goal is to determine with utmost certainty that the final vote tally is valid.  Voting machines are not 100 percent accurate, which is why we are asking for a full recount of all ballots. It was so close that machine errors, if any, could have affected the vote,” Boyd said.

Election law attorney Joshua Ehrlich has been hired by Boyd and it is expected a hearing could potentially be held on or around Dec. 20 in front of a judge who will subsequently decide whether an election recount will be conducted. Boyd would not comment about how much money was raised to hire the attorney, and a phone message to Ehrlich seeking comment for this story was not returned.   

Electronic data used during the election – paper ballots and flash memory cards – have been secured by the Board of Elections in a vault, as is common practice.

At issue is the current Commission form of governing in Saratoga Springs, which relies on five elected part-time council members, each of whom are responsible for administering their own department, as well as serving as legislators. The proposed charter change to a Council-Manager form of governing would take effect in 2020 and would see that the council hires a non-partisan, professional city manager to carry out city policies.

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Memo from Turner

 

Heading into the final 11 days prior to the Nov. 7 referendum, It's Time Saratoga! had nearly $19,500 in its campaign spending balance. SUCCESS – a group in favor of maintaining the current charter - had just over $25,000 on hand. The total funds raised and spent by both camps won’t be known until Dec. 4, when 27-day post-election filings are due at the state Board of Elections. The official certification of the election by the board is anticipated to occur at about the same time.

“We trust the Board of Elections as being extremely professional and competent and see no reason for the recount,” said SUCCESS group member Richard Sellers.

Published in News

The southern gateway into the city may appear radically different in the near future if all goes according to plan.

A proposal currently under consideration calls for the demolition of the Saratoga Diner - closed in 2012 -  and the development of more than 100 workforce housing units in its place on a five-acre parcel of land on South Broadway. Mayor Joanne Yepsen this week met with a Florida developer who anticipates soon submitting an application for the proposed plan. The owner of the property, who was not publicly named, first engaged Yepsen in discussions about potential leasing uses for the land three or four years ago, according to the mayor.

“The owner said, ‘I don’t want to sell, I want to lease. What does the city need?’ I said workforce housing,” Yepsen said.

The lease proposal calls for the development of 120 affordable workforce housing units in a mixed-use configuration consisting of residential apartments and retail space. More than 100 of the rental units would be offered to those earning in between 60 and 100 percent of the AMI - a $50,400 to $84,000 range - while 14 units would be offered at a “fair-market rent” to military veterans. AMI, or the Area Median Income for a family of four in Saratoga County is about $84,000, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Parties involved in the potential transaction anticipate an official deal being in place by late April, or early May. 

Originally known as the Spa City Diner, sections of its more recent incarnation as The Saratoga Diner date back to the late 1940s. It was a once-popular stopover spot for visiting performers and political dignitaries such as Mario Cuomo, Liza Minelli, Count Basie – who was particular to the beef stew, according to published reports, and singer Tom Jones – a fan of the diner’s spaghetti and meatballs. The Spa City Diner in 2001 was re-named the Saratoga Diner. It closed for good in 2012.   

In an attempt to meet affordable housing needs in Saratoga Springs, the city also is pursuing potential plans for a large development off West Avenue, adjacent to the Saratoga Train station, as well as a project behind the Stonequist Apartments, where a mixed-income, mixed-use development facing Circular Street could feature as many as 60 to 100 housing units.   

Public Hearing on Spa Housing Zoning Ordinance Draws Large Crowd

A public hearing slated to take 10 minutes regarding a plan to site a percentage of “affordable” housing in all new developments across the city, consumed the better part of an hour Tuesday night. The SPA Housing Zoning plan – based on a 2006 ordinance that was never enacted – calls for all new housing developments and apartment complexes across the city to include 10 to 20 percent of the units deemed affordable to people with lower to moderate incomes.  

The Inclusionary Zoning, or IZ, would target potential renters and homeowners alike. Eleven members of the public as well as those representing area organizations addressed the council during Tuesday’s public hearing. Of those, three said they were in favor of some kind of affordable housing measures, but not the IZ as it currently stands, and six people said they were in favor of the IZ, at least as a starting point to address the city’s housing needs.

Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen had initially hoped the City Council may be able to vote on the measure as soon as May, but following a discussion that raised the concerns of local developers who would build the projects and of the banks that would finance them, members of the City Council expressed that it might be in everyone’s interests to hold one or two special workshops specifically on the topic in the near future, although no date for such a gathering was set.   

New Tap Room Coming to Saratoga Springs in June

The City Council unanimously approved an Economic Development Revolving Loan Application for R.S. Taylor & Sons Brewery Tap Room. Richard Taylor, who operates a tap room on his 50-acre farm in Washington County, is looking to open a 1,600 square-foot tap room in the Congress Street plaza in June.  The type of loan, initially federally funded, is for $75,000, carries a 3 percent interest rate, and calls for assurances that one position of employment is created for every $25,000 borrowed.   

Collamer Lot/ East Side EMS Land Deal: “It’s Time To Move On”

Nearly four years to the date since Chris Mathiesen first began working on a pair of land transactions that would have the city sell a parking lot adjacent to Broadway’s Collamer Building and subsequently purchase a Union Avenue parcel to build an East Side Fire/EMS station was publicly declared a dead deal by the public safety commissioner on Tuesday. “It’s time to move on,” said Mathiesen, invoking a sentiment not unlike an emotionally abandoned lover in a relationship gone-wrong. The arrangement had been mired in a lawsuit – in which the city reportedly spent at least $50,000 in legal fees – an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office, and a long period of inactivity. It is believed some type of City Council or legal action may now be necessary to officially nullify the potential deal.   

Upcoming

The Zoning Boards of Appeals will hold a meeting 7 p.m. Monday, April 10 at City Hall.

The Planning Board will hold a workshop 5 p.m. Monday, April 10 and a full meeting 7 p.m. Thursday, April 13 at City Hall.

The city’s Affordable Housing Task Force will hold a meeting 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 11 at City Hall.

Library Election and Budget Vote on April 13

On April 13, citizens of the Saratoga Springs School District will elect a library trustee and vote on the 2017-2018 library budget.  The election will be held in the Library’s H. Dutcher Community Room from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Saratoga Springs School District residents who are registered voters are eligible to vote.  A public hearing concerning the budget and an opportunity to meet the trustee candidates will be held 7 p.m. on Monday, April 10 in the H. Dutcher Community Room.Library Trustees are asking the voters to approve a tax levy of $5,103,600 for FY 2017-2018, which is a 0.5 percent increase from the amount approved for the 2016-17 fiscal year.   The library serves the residents of the Saratoga Springs Enlarged City School District.  The proposed budget can be found by visiting the library’s website at: www.sspl.org.

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Saratoga Springs Politics

Blotter

  • Saratoga County Court Justin P. Rock, 37, was sentenced Sept. 16 to 8-to-16 years in state prison, after pleading to four felony counts of robbery, in connection with a series of incidents that occurred in Saratoga Springs in February. Rock admitted he had entered several downtown businesses, claimed (falsely) he had a weapon and demanded cash from the register. He will also pay full restitution to victims, according to a statement released by Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen.  Robert F. Kennedy, 25, of Princetown, NY was sentenced Sept. 12 to 1 year incarceration, after pleading to attempted reckless endangerment in…

Property Transactions

  • BALLSTON McCormick Carpentry LLC sold property at 2 and 4 Shire Lane to Shire Farm LLC for $100,000 Ryan Kelley sold property at 132 Church Ave to Jeremy Blodgett for $275,000. Julie Walker sold property at 93 B Lakehill Rd to Nikalus Ratajczak for $225,000. Traditional Homebuilders and Developers sold property at 14 Mallory Way to Donald Dwyer for $460,950. Laurie Mach sold property at 7 Wendy Lane to Kelly Way for $307,000. CORINTH Mary Condomitti sold property at 42 Eggelston St to Kenneth Valentine for $310,000. Linus Howard sold property at 244 Angel Rd to Matthew Silburn for $265,000.…