From The Gazette:
Restaurant sues Saratoga Springs over garage plans
Owners fear shadows cast on solar panels
By Stephen Williams October 14, 2015
PHOTOGRAPHER: PATRICK DODSON
The Mouzon House, with Saratoga Springs City Center seen in the background, is pictured on Oct. 1
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The owners of the Mouzon House restaurant on York Street have sued the city in an effort to block plans for the City Center parking garage proposed to go up next door to their business.
The lawsuit filed Friday in state Supreme Court in Ballston Spa seeks to annul a law passed by the City Council in July that would allow the proposed 500-parking-space garage to cast a shadow on the solar panels the Mouzon House has on its roof. It also seeks to annul a subdivision of the parking garage site approved last month by the city Planning Board.
Mouzon House owners David and Diane Pedinotti have been outspoken opponents of the City Center’s proposed five-story garage, which would dwarf their fine-dining establishment. A number of other residents have also spoken out against the project, which City Center officials said is needed to meet the center’s and downtown’s parking needs.
“The Saratoga Springs City Center has pursued a project in contravention of the Zoning Ordinance,” the Pedinottis state in the lawsuit, which names the city, the City Council and Planning Board, and the Saratoga Springs City Center Authority.
According to court papers, the Mouzon House in 2011 approached city officials about installing solar panels on its roof. The panels were eventually installed in 2014 and generate electricity for the business.
The Zoning Board of Appeals in March ruled that under the city’s Solar Access Ordinance, the proposed garage couldn’t cast a shadow on those panels that would block access to the sun in the winter — in effect, blocking the controversial multi-story garage from being built.
But by a 3-2 vote in July, the City Council amended the Solar Access Law to exempt properties in the downtown area from the “shadow rule.” That is one of the actions the lawsuit seeks to overturn, with an argument that it was done solely to benefit the parking garage plan and without sufficient environmental review.
“The City Council did not identify the relevant areas of environmental concern, did not take a hard look at such areas of environmental concern, and did not make a reasoned elaboration for its conclusion that [Finance Commissioner Michele] Madigan’s proposed amendment … would not result in any potential environmental impacts,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also seeks a court ruling that the city violated the Freedom of Information Law by withholding some electronic correspondence between Madigan and the City Center after Mouzon House attorneys sought it through a FOIL request.
The lawsuit also contends that the subdivision approved last month by the city Planning Board is premature, given that the city on Sept. 29 received two private proposals to build mixed-use projects — residential, parking and commercial space — on the 2.62-acre lot, which is owned by the city. Those proposals are currently under review by the city.
City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
The city-owned lot now contains a surface parking lot.