The Text Amendment Sought By Saratoga National That Went To The Planning Board: Hard To Believe How Bad It Is

I have a copy of the memorandum from Michael Toohey, the attorney for Saratoga National Golf Course, to the city with three different drafts of the proposed text amendment to the city zoning law.  The memorandum is a narrative explaining what SNGC is seeking and why what they want is a benefit to the city.

For those of you who want to go through the documents yourselves you can link to it here.  SNGC Clubhouse Proposal

The cover memorandum makes a variety of claims which I will not go into because they are pretty much “spin” and do not merit space on this blog. 

So here is the proposed definition for a “Clubhouse-Golf” that Mayor Yepsen, Commissioner Franck, and Commissioner Madigan voted to send to the Planning Board for an advisory opinion with my explanatory analysis:

Most of us think of a clubhouse as a single building with maybe a luncheonette, bar, and locker rooms.  Not so here.  The proposed amendment describes it as “A structure or clustered group of structures…(my emphasis)”  This structure or, more accurately, these structures “…may include locker rooms, spa, health and fitness retail, restaurant, and banquet facilities, business center, lodging for up to 100 rooms, and up to 6 free-standing golf lodges, containing common space and up to 8 guest rooms…”  

In order to address any suspicions that these “golf lodges” may be condos in disguise the zoning ordinance requires that these (remember this is a clubhouse) may not have kitchen facilities and they may not be privately owned.

This (these) clubhouse(s) must be 3000 feet from the clubhouse’s “primary, public road entrance with no building being higher than 50 feet.”  Here is a standard dripping in irony: “Only one clubhouse can be constructed in relation to the golf course.”

The final sentence reads (yes, this is a very brief definition): “Retention of permeable land and public access shall be a criterion considered (my emphasis) by the Planning Board in granting of a Special Use Permit and/or Site Plan Review.”

Permeable land is important in development projects because such land helps protect water quality in the watershed.

Now one might ask “What is public access”?  Is it the ability of people to come on the property and play golf?  Is it the right of people to walk through wetlands and trails not part of the golf course or to paddle on any bodies of water on the land?  Is it a permanent and legally binding agreement that gives the public use of the property?

Apparently we must wait to find this out because there is no further discussion of this in the amendment.  Once this zoning change is made and Saratoga Golf National Golf Course applies to the Planning Board for a special use permit and/or approval of their site plan, we will find out.

Some may ask, what happened to the easement that its attorney, Michael Toohey, has been dangling before the public?  In his covering memo we are told that “This is an opportunity (my emphasis) for a portion of the land…to remain permeable with a mandate (my emphasis), that through the special Use Permit and Site Plan approval process that components of public, year-round, access become conditions to the granting of the required permits.”  Has the word “mandate” ever been more abused?  The mandate is that the planning board must consider it.  Note that there is absolutely nothing about how much land will actually be set aside nor what the terms of this access will be.  We will have to wait until, with this ill defined concept, SNGC goes before the Planning Board for its approvals.  Finally, with not a hint of irony, Toohey declaims: “A plan such a this is the only way the ‘Greenbelt’ is guaranteed to remain green.”

Folks, I am not making this stuff up.  Just click on the link to the document and read it yourself. 

If you want to be inspired, watch Commissioner Mathiesen and Commissioner Scirocco statements opposing sending on the text amendment to the Planning Board.  Statements BY Mathiesen and Scirocco Got to 25:18 minutes for the statements.


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