Sonny Bonacio seems to have become the celebrity developer. Unfortunately, for Sonny, the coverage is not always favorable.
Mr. Bonacio, in a joint project with Roohan Realty, built a super expensive set of condos at 268 Broadway immediately adjacent to Congress Park. Rumor has it that one of the tenants is a sheik from the Middle East.
Apparently, when the structure was built, it encroached on to city owned land including Congress Park. There apparently were two different encroachments that will now require post facto easements or changes in what occupies the land.
Dennis Yusko broke the two stories on this and I include them with this post. I am just adding a few items to help fill in the stories further.
One of the problems has to do with a large transformer that was required to provide electricity to the Bonacio structure. At a City Council meeting some time in 2006, Commissioner Thomas McTygue asked for an easement for the transformer. In the brief discussion it was presented as a request from National Grid to place it “underground.” Mr. McTygue remembers it as a request by National Grid to replace a power pole. It passed the Council unanimously. As it happens, National Grid placed it on top of a slab on property that was part of our park which is under the New York State Parks and so required approval from the New York State Legislature.
The other piece of land involves a patio and walkway adjacent to the Bonacio building that encroaches on city land. There was no request by Bonacio and Roohan for an easement and none was issued.
It is important to note that in the Planning Board minutes back on September 13, 2006 they record that “Sonny Bonacio said there would be no penetration to the park but there would be glass there.”
At another point in the same meeting “Amy Durland asked where the park actually was on the site plan. Sonny Bonacio showed the board the property line. Amy Durland asked if the proposal currently went into the park. Mike Ingersoll [Bonacio’s architect with the L.A. Group] clarified that the project is only on their property.”
More recently, after the issue of the apparent infringement arose, Kieth Ferrar, Bonacio’s attorney claimed that a hand written deed they had was the basis of their claim to the land now in dispute. It is noted in the minutes of the meeting that “Keith provided a deed from 1892 (which is very difficult to read)…”
I would say that hard to read is something of an understatement.
More recently in April of 2015, when the City’s Realty Board began to try to untangle this mess, in a rare moment of candor, Keith Ferarra, attorney for Bonacio is quoted in the minutes as follows: “Keith Ferrara was asked how the easement came to be and he responded saying ‘Just did it, ask for forgiveness, Let’s see how it turns out.’” Later, Mr. Ferrara said he could not remember saying this.
Here are Dennis Yusko’s articles.
Exclusive: Bonacio seeks easement at Congress Park in Saratoga Springs
By Dennis Yusko on April 27, 2015 at 5:24 PM
Bonacio Construction has requested an easement from the city on a piece of Congress Park that the company may have encroached upon while building its Park Place condominium project, according to city records.
The company recently applied for access rights to an approximately 300-foot by 25-foot piece of city-owned parkland behind 268 Broadway, where it built a concrete patio and walkways, city officials said. The Saratoga Springs Real Estate Board is reviewing the easement request, which Bonacio Construction recently submitted after completing work on the six-story, 215,000-square-foot complex, according to Mayor Joanne Yepsen.
“They may need an easement to approve walkways and landscaping they did on park property,” Yepsen said when asked about it.
Congress Park is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and the City Council and state Legislature could make the final decisions on Bonacio’s land-use request, the mayor said. The Park Place building itself does not infringe on public land, according to city officials.
Bonacio Construction received city approvals to build the residential and commercial project along Congress Park and Broadway in 2006. Now, nine years later, questions about an easement — a legal right to use someone else’s land — have surfaced.
“After reviewing the plans, there is considerable property involved, and more investigation is needed to determine what the impact is,” Real Estate Board members said of the easement request, according to minutes from its March 5 meeting.
At the board’s next monthly meeting on April 2, Keith Ferrara, chief operations officer for Bonacio Construction, suggested that a 123-year-old property deed handed down from a previous landowner included an easement to build on the piece of Congress Park.
However, according to minutes of the meeting, when he was asked how the easement on Congress Park came to be, Ferrara had responded, “Just did it, ask forgiveness — let’s see how it turns out.”
Reached by phone last week, Ferrara said he didn’t remember saying it that way and said he thought the company’s work on a “unusable” portion of the park was permitted through the 1892 deed.
Bonacio Construction is not offering money or land in return for the easement, Ferrara said. “This is just taking a 100-something-year-old easement and cleaning it up,” he said.
The Real Estate Board, a little-known advisory committee, is chaired by City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis. Other voting members are Kameron Klippel, the city’s receiver of taxes, Brad Birge, administrator of planning and economic development, Tony Popolizio, the assistant assessor, and city police Officer Kevin Veitch.
DeLeonardis said the old property deed was handwritten and difficult to read, and the Real Estate Board must investigate if the document authorized the company to use parkland, or if additional approvals were necessary. The board is also looking into an anonymous claim that a city official or officials verbally approved an easement at the construction site years ago, DeLeonardis said.
“Right now we are in the preliminary stages of finding facts,” DeLeonardis said. “It’s important to note parkland is impressed with the public trust for the benefit of the people and state, and the use of land for anything other than park purposes requires approval of the state Legislature.”
Asked why the project never received state approvals, he said, “That’s a good question, and we’re looking into that now.”
The city approved Park Place in 2006. The Planning Board voted to allow the Design Review Commission to serve as lead agency in an environmental review process. The commission decided the project would not have a negative environmental impact on the surrounding area, but required the company to hire an archaeologist to monitor excavation of the site, according to city records. The project changed slightly as it evolved, DeLeonardis said. “Right now, we really have more questions than answers,” he said.
The Real Estate Board is expected to continue to discuss the easement application at its next meeting on May 7.
Bonacio’s project extended into Congress Park, Saratoga officials say
Areas of condo site violate boundaries of park, city land
By Dennis Yusko
Published 7:49 pm, Thursday, January 21, 2016
Bonacio Construction encroached on state parkland and city property with a six-story condominium project it built along Broadway and Congress Park, and the city may need action from the state Legislature to correct part of the problem, city officials said.
A recently completed land survey determined the construction company built on taxpayer-owned land behind the 215,000-square-foot Park Place building, and a National Grid transformer that serves the building sits on a small section of bordering Congress Park, which is owned by the state, Public Works Commissioner Anthony Scirocco announced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Further review of the project, which the city approved in 2006, revealed the City Council voted in 2007 to provide National Grid an easement to build the utility transformer behind the condominiums, City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis said. The city granted the easement for $1, according to a copy of the agreement, on land that it doesn’t own, according to Scirocco.
“There’s no way the City Council can grant an easement,” Scirocco said Tuesday. “The only way the easement can be granted is through the state Legislature because it’s state historic property.”
What land was used to complete Park Place became an issue last year, when the city engineer’s office noted potential land encroachments behind the building while reviewing final as-built drawings for the project. Bonacio Construction then requested an easement from the city on an approximately 300-by 25-foot piece of city-owned land behind 268 Broadway, where it built a patio and walkways as part of Park Place, according to city officials.
Scirocco had a land survey of the area completed to delineate exact boundaries. Performed by Environmental Design Partnership, the study found small segments of Park Place intruded on parts of city and state land, DeLeonardis said. He gave two examples: the National Grid transformer and a fenced-in picnic and barbecue area that was built on city property between the Palio and Holiday Inn buildings.
The Park Place building itself does not infringe on public land, DeLeonardis said. He said there had been some confusion over the park’s boundaries because the Broadway portion of a wrought-iron fence that surrounds the park and is thought to denote property lines was removed years ago, possibly during a major fire. City officials reviewed a number of old maps, documents and deeds to determine boundary lines with the help of Bonacio employees, DeLeonardis said.
The Saratoga Springs Real Estate Board was reviewing Bonacio requests for easements on city land that was used. But Congress Park is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and using it for anything other than park purposes requires approval of the state Legislature. The city is potentially looking at having to get authority from the state to allow the National Grid transformer to remain on Congress Park, or undertaking efforts to relocate the station, DeLeonardis said.
National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella said the company was open to moving the structure. A spokesperson for Bonacio Construction could not be reached.
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