In a letter dated August 19, 2015, Mark Torpey, chairman of the Planning Board, sent the changes to the zoning laws and the comprehensive plan to the city council. Apparently, such actions are done through the Commissioner of Accounts which in this case is John Franck to whom the letter was written.Letter From Planning Board With Zoning Changes
I will be doing a further analysis of this but one striking anomaly/contradiction is the committee’s assertion that the changes to the zoning law to allow a golf resort in the city’s RR1 district (greenbelt) are consistent with the comprehensive plan. The contradiction is that the changes recommended in the letter include amending the comprehensive plan to allow “resorts.”
Here I quote from the Planning Board letter regarding the comprehensive plan change:
Add a sentence to the last paragraph of the Section entitled “Country Overlay Map” as follows:
The intent of this section is not to prohibit or permit any land use activity but instead to reaffirm that open space values be taken into consideration in development proposals within the Country Overlay Area. For example, a properly designed [ golf ] resort development with sufficient open space and natural resources protection and opportunities for public recreation could provide positive contributions to the City as well as to the long term preservation of the surrounding greenbelt.
It is unclear why the word golf is in brackets. Could there be other kinds of resorts? I do not know and I will try to find out.
The central issue here is that if, as a majority of the Planning Board asserted, changing the zoning to allow for a resort was consistent with the comprehensive plan, why is there a need to amend the comprehensive plan? This Alice in Wonderland logic is just another example of how tortured this process has been and how much a wealthy and influential player in Saratoga Springs can affect public policy.
Please also note that the language calls for setting aside 50% of the land to be “dedicated for open space purposes. The open space protected pursuant to this section must have ‘conservation value,’ which shall be determined by a conservation analysis as described in city code 241-12B(2)” Conservation Easement Chapter 241 12B(2)
Basically, a conservation analysis looks at how much land can actually be built on. This analysis would exclude wetlands, stream buffers, land that has sufficient drop to make it not suitable for construction, etc. There are also some other terms involving critical habitat, archeological value, etc. What is left after these lands are excluded in the analysis is referred to as “unconstrained land “(for developers this is the good stuff).
It is important to note that the easement of this land is supposed to be perpetual.
Michael Toohey droned on at length about the generosity of Saratoga National Golf Course’s support for this change. What he failed to mention is that if this were a proposal for a residential subdivision they would have to do the same analysis and they would be subject to the same limit of building on 50% of the “unconstrained land” just as in SNGC’s resort. There is a significant difference in that the balance of the land in a subdivision would not be required to go into an easement to allow public access. Still, since SNGC cannot use this 50% for development, they are not making any real sacrifice in allowing the public to use it. One outstanding question that still needs to be answered is where the actual golf course fits in. If 50% of the land must go into an easement, would there be enough land other than the golf course and buildings to provide the 50%? I do not know. I will see if I can get answers.