Mattt Jones represented the City Center at the planning board meeting. The purpose of his presentation was to get their approval to subdivide the Highrock lot.
I am not a city planner or attorney and while I think I understood the presentation, I invite any readers out there to correct me should I get any of this wrong.
According to Jones, a structure like the garage under our zoning must be positioned on the most active street that abuts the property. It must be placed fairly close to the street. I was lost by the numbers and do not know what the specific distance must be. Because the garage will be placed on the north side of the lot, it will not abut Lake Avenue which is the most active street and runs along the Southern most line.
In order to meet the zoning requirement the city center requested that the lot be subdivided into two parcels. The first parcel will abut Lake Avenue. The second parcel where the garage will be located will abut the first parcel. This makes mute the problem of the garage not being located on Lake Avenue since the parcel it will be on does not abut Lake Avenue.
The city would lease to the City Center each parcel individually. The length of the two leases will be different in order to allow the city greater latitude as to how to use the front lot in the future.
There followed a discussion about the fact that the City Center is pursuing their applications through the land use boards at the same time that an RFP has been issued that includes the same land.
Chairman Torpey had sent a query to the city council seeking some sort of assurance that it was ok to proceed with the City Center garage application in this light. He said he had no response. It was noted by a number of people at the planning board meeting that the City Council, when they issued the RFP had agreed that the City Center should continue with their land use applications.
An attorney representing the owners of the Mouzon House Restaurant challenged the Planning Board’s decision to entertain the subdivision application. He noted that it was being done for the sole purpose of getting around a zoning provision. He argued that the proper way to proceed was to seek a zoning variance. He asserted that this was a classic example of spot zoning. He also argued that the comprehensive plan called for a full study of the parking needs of the city and the development of a parking plan to address the needs of the city. He asserted that to go forward on this project prior to the completion of that plan was not in keeping with the comprehensive plan so that to grant a subdivision at this point would violate the comprehensive plan and be further proof of spot zoning.
At this point, Jennifer Leidig got up and addressed the Planning Board. She attacked the Planning Board for taking up this issue in August when people were on holiday or otherwise absorbed by other summer activities. To say that she implied that this was being done to force the project through would be something of an understatement. Ms. Leidig does not do nuance or subtlety. This occurred at approximate 10:15 at night after over three hours and with plenty left on the agenda. Board member Janet Casey was not pleased. She agreed with Leidig that it was August and then reminded Ms. Leidig that the members of the planning board were volunteering their time doing some very difficult work. She noted that some of the items before them were time sensitive due to the legal requirements and she made it crystal clear that at this late hour she did not welcome being lectured to.
Members of the Pedinotti family that own the Mouzon House Restaurant spoke to the Planning Board arguing that to go forward on the City Center application would serve to discourage developers who might be considering responding to the RFP for a mixed use project on the same site.
Sarah Burger (who was silent during the discussion on Saratoga National and who sat behind Mr. Newkirk, one of the owners of Saratoga National patting his back) spoke in opposition to the subdivision. She agreed with the Pedinotti attorney and with the statements of the Pedinotti family.
Matt Jones told the Planning Board that the decision to subdivide the lot came out of discussions with Steve Shaw, the city building inspector and that the approach had the building inspector’s support.
Mark Schachner told the board that they were required to entertain the application but that they were not required to make a decision that night.
The board again split. Mark Torpey told the members that he believed that the decision to subdivide should be combined with the site plan review and therefore put off. Janet Casey agreed with him.
It was apparent that the Johnson appointees wanted to approve it that night.
Mark Schachner then advised the committee that if they were going to pass it that night than they had to include in the resolution the criteria as set out in the zoning law as part of the resolution.
Kate Maynard was sent to get the appropriate supporting documents. By the time she returned it was after 11:30. Chairman Torpey recommended that they adjourn and have the staff work on the wording for the next meeting.