What follows is the statement released by Charley Brown, chairman of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee, at the Unified Development Ordinance meeting.
What is most interesting is the objection to the failure to establish an advisory committee to oversee the UDO process. This is a concern that I share as stated in earlier posts. What makes this particularly interesting is that it is the first time that the Committee has implicitly put pressure on a Democratic incumbent. The Behan contract with the city included the advisory committee. Mayor Yepsen, who is identified as the project manager for the city, has so far been unwilling to take any action to see that this part of the contract is carried out. Michele Madigan was the only vote against the contract with Behan Associates. She has expressed similar concerns about the need for an advisory committee.
I do not view this as an attack by the Democratic Committee on Mayor Yepsen. I do not see this as the Committee supporting Madigan against Yepsen. What I see, and I am encouraged by it, is the Committee taking an important policy stand in the interest of the city. I also see this as the Democratic Committee expressing a concern shared by many about the potential for mischief as the city’s ordinances are rewritten.
It should be possible for the Democratic Committee to advocate for a position on an important issue that may differ from a member of its party who holds an office.
Disagreement over a particular issue does not necessarily constitute a lack of overall support. I applaud the Committee for eschewing the idea that people of good will who share a common purpose cannot disagree with one another about an important issue.
Statement re: Saratoga Springs UDO project
By: Charles Brown, Chair, Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee
To: Saratoga Springs UDO public meeting, Feb. 4, 2016
My name is Charles Brown and I am representing the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee. We have been actively involved in the Comprehensive Plan discussions from the outset. Our main points are as follows:
- Continue to protect the City’s Greenbelt.
- Incorporate the terms of policies officially adopted by the City in areas such as Complete Streets, the Urban Forest and similar documents into your work product.
- Translate the 2015 Comprehensive Plan’s principles regarding smart growth and sustainability; the City’s downtown character and its infrastructure into practical guidance within the UDO document.
Regarding the Unified Development Ordinance process, we are glad the community is being given this chance to participate. However, we remain concerned about the opportunities for continued involvement by the community and by our elected officials. The original UDO plan included the role of an advisory committee. We believe that it is not too late—indeed, this might be the optimum time—to form such a committee, to which our officials could appoint individuals to represent and advise them. The ideal make-up would be of people who are already familiar with City land-use code and the Comprehensive Plan discussion.
Your contract stipulates that an “advisory committee” made up of representatives of the City’s Departments along with representatives from City Boards was to be established. The contract further states that the consultants “will provide ‘check points,’ such as copies of any diagnostic reviews, recommended changes, draft outlines and copies of the draft code, over the course of the work to provide the city staff and public regular opportunities to review the progress and ensure a totally open and transparent project. These materials will be hosted online and made available to the public.”
The Saratoga Spring Democratic Committee believes that these provisions of your contract are essential in ensuring public trust, and an outcome that retains the integrity of the new Comprehensive Plan and the current Zoning Ordinances.
In particular we request that any, and all, proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinances be posted on your web page, and sent to the Stakeholders, before they are presented to the City Council for a vote. We also request that the public, and Stakeholders, have an opportunity to address the changes before they are presented to the City Council for a vote. We understand that this will entail a great deal of work and time. However, the decisions made from this process will have lasting effects on our City’s future.
It is evident that this final project is the point at which all the work of many, many people can lead to a valuable document that informs proposals and decisions about future development in our City. Given the tensions that exist between development and preservation, it also is the point at which we must remain vigilant about crucial choices of language for the UDO document and for amendments to City code. We encourage the UDO team to remain entirely transparent by exposing each draft to provide the maximum opportunity for ongoing pubic scrutiny and input.
Charles Brown, Chair,
Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee