In August I FOILed the city about a number of issues. One of my requests involved what appeared to be a lack of compliance with the Special Permit issued to Saratoga National that limited them to no more than three large events a year. The response to the FOIL as regards this matter (The FOIL involved other documents which I will cover in the future) was quite remarkable. According to the city attorney, they have no records regarding responsibility for monitoring compliance with the stipulations in the special permit issued to Saratoga National, at least as regards large events.
This prompted me to write the following email to Mayor Yepsen with copies to the council:
Cc: Christian E. Mathiesen; Skip Sciroco; John Franck ; Michele madigan
Date: September 17, 2015
According to the original special permit issued in 1998 to Saratoga National Golf Course, they agreed to limit their “special events” by which was meant, events that exceeded their regular parking to only three a year. It is apparent that based on their promotional materials on their web site and other information that they are routinely violating this commitment. In 2007 when they asked for a substantial expansion to their project they reasserted that they would keep to their original commitment of only three events.
In August I asked Kate Maynard, the city planner, who was responsible for insuring their compliance with their Special use Permit? She did not know and I followed up with an email/FOIL. I received a letter dated September 17 from Vincent DeLeonardis, the city attorney, in response to my FOIL in which he states “Please note we do not have any records regarding who is responsible for monitoring Saratoga National’s special events as defined in the Special Use Permit.”
I find this quite strange. Some weeks prior I called Geof Bourneman who was the previous head of planning. He was, in fact, the head of planning at the time of the original application. Mr. Bourneman told me that the building inspector was responsible for enforcement of compliance with such things as Special Permit agreements. At the time, I approached Mr. Steve Shaw, who is the current building inspector. He told me that he was in fact responsible but that given his available time and the many special use permits and other such documents approved by the Planning Board, it was not possible for him to regularly monitor such things. I believe his description is quite reasonable and I have no criticism of him. I asked what I could do in light of the apparent on-going violation of this stipulation in the Saratoga National Golf Course Special Permit. He told me to send him an email with an inquiry and he would try to look into it. I did so. I have not had a response as of today.
So on the one hand, the previous head of planning and the current building inspector believe that there is someone responsible and yet the formal response from the city is that the “city has no records regarding who is responsible…” I hope you find this as disturbing as I do. I find it particularly problematic that based on the response from the city attorney that there is not only no formal vehicle for enforcing a very important agreement but there does not seem to be any concern about the fact that there is none.
I am not being rhetorical when I ask, what is the purpose of a special permit if there is no document assigning responsibility for enforcement let alone an actual person to do the enforcement.
I would be grateful if you or someone you assign with the task, could address this issue by indicating what actions the city plans to take to correct this problem.
Currently SNGC is permitted to have up to 3,000 people at an event. The new language for a resort currently sets no limits and it appears that SNGC feels free to stretch beyond the limits currently. I always wanted to go to a Stones concert. Maybe I will be able to rent a chair in one of the backyards of the people who live around Lake Lonely and have my dream come true? Hello Lake Lonely!
4 thoughts on “More Bizarre Stuff With Saratoga National Golf Course: The City Has No Record Of Who Would Enforce Compliance With Special Permits”
Mr. Kaufman, I freely admit to not “understanding the Planning Board process.” What amazes me is that the City Council allows themselves to be pawns in the SNGC chess game. In a prior post you mentioned SNGCs possible desire to leave the issue open till after elections. Can’t the people of the City demand a reaffirmation of of the Comprehensive Plan or threaten a law suit or something?
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I love your passion. The best thing to do is to email Yepsen and Madigan. John Franck is committed to them and I doubt you can effect him. You also should email Scirocco and Mathiesen thanking them for their defense of the greenbelt. While I think there would be grounds to sue the city if they approve the project, the cost of litigating the city would probably be prohibitive.
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Hi John, Aaaahhh … the joys of a commissioner form of government. While the responsibility for planning/land use comes under the mayor’s office, it is the responsibility of code enforcement, part of the Department of Public Safety, to make sure that there is compliance with special use permits, variances and all zoning ordinances. Due to the insufficient number of code enforcement officers employed by the city, the reality is that it is just not possible for those employees to routinely monitor compliance. This leaves it is up to city residents to alert the Department of Public Safety/code enforcement of possible violations. I would hope that a few phone calls, emails and publicity would be sufficient to get some action.
What’s the penalty if SNGC is found by the city to be in violation of their permit? Can the city enforce this and make them scale back their events? What if they are told to and refuse? Why even think of making some kind of “compromise” with them when they have proved themselves to be such unreliable partners in any deal they’ve made so far.