Joseph Levy sent a comment on my hearing post. As in past comments, it was so good that I am making it into a regular post so that everyone gets it. Here it is:
I was also at the Council hearing. When I arrived about 6:45PM, the chambers were full, so I joined the crowd of about 30 or 40 people in the hall where a projector and screen were set-up for the benefit of those unable to find seats inside. Judging from their tee-shirts, half of my companions were from the Carpenters Union. For the most part, they seemed bored with the proceedings, reading papers and joking around.
Most of the pro Golf Club expansion speakers seemed to be working from the same list of talking points, much the way Roger Ailes preps the Fox News presenters every morning with catch phrases to sprinkle into their shows throughout the day. In this case, the points included:
1. Failure to approve the variance (overlay, zoning change, whatever you want to call it) would mean a loss of revenue to other nearby destination resorts, such as the Sagamore at Lake George.
2. Opponents should learn to compromise and not reject this project out of hand.
3. Increased tax revenue would lower property taxes.
4. There would be more high-paying jobs for the community.
5. There would be an increase in business downtown.
In addition to Harry Moran of Sustainable Saratoga, John gave an entertaining description of his attempt to find and navigate the Nature Trail. He also pointed out many specific violations of the terms of the variance which was granted when the Saratoga National Golf Club (SNGC) was originally established.
A woman, whose name I didn’t catch, made some excellent factual points, as well. She mentioned that establishing the Golf Club in the Greenbelt in the first place was the compromise and that this expansion is simply a land grab after the fact. In addition, she mentioned that the average worker there makes only $8,000 per year (I imagine that many are part-timers or seasonal) and that the economic impact of sporting venues in Saratoga is way down the list of top economic generators. A few years back, a study found that the biggest local drivers of the economy were actually Saratoga Hospital and Skidmore College. (I remember that study, but could not immediately locate a copy.)
Another gentleman pointed out that despite the growth of million dollar houses and multi-million dollar projects over the past 20 years, there has never been a reduction of property taxes. Increased revenue just goes to fund increased costs.
Let me add that by definition, a “destination resort” implies that you never have to leave the grounds for food or entertainment. Expect on-premises restaurants and shops to keep many guests from visiting downtown Saratoga. In fact, with easy access from Exit 14, they may never even realize that a downtown exists.
I should also point out that a decade ago, the Anderson Group tried to build the 260-unit Spring Run Village on property immediately adjoining the SNGC’s. If the SNGC gets it’s way, you may expect the Anderson Group to revive their plans, too.
For the most part, supporters of the SNGC had no hard facts to present, economic or otherwise. Despite their large turn-out, their appeal was largely based on the premise that all growth is good, with not much else to say. It was up to a hand-full of opponents to present actual facts and figures.