From the Saratogian February 15
City moves to dismiss Mouzon House lawsuit
David and Dianne Pedinotti, the Mouzon House owners, filed this suit against the city Oct. 9, 2015 in the New York State Supreme Court in Ballston Spa, accusing the City Council of voting to change Saratoga Springs’ solar access law to benefit the City Center’s controversial parking structure proposal. The Pedinottis are represented by attorney Jonathan Tingley of Tuczinski, Cavalier and Gilchrist in Albany.
The Pedinottis’ suit specifically asked the city to repeal that law, which as written would permit the taller parking structure to cast a shadow on the solar panels the Mouzon House has installed on its roof. The suit also seeks to annul a subdivision of the parking garage site the Planning Board approved in September 2015.
Since the parking structure’s inception, the Mouzon House owners have battled the project, which is designed to go up right next door to their eatery on the edge of High Rock Park. The land there, currently a parking lot, is owned by the city.
Now City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis has filed a legal motion in the state Supreme Court, arguing that the Pedinottis were aware of plans to develop the High Rock parcel before they installed their solar panels in 2014. He also said that the 25-year-old solar law the city changed last year needed a review since it was inconsistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan. That plan encourages the growth of high-density development in downtown Saratoga Springs, which could have been slowed by lack of an updated solar ordinance.
The Pedinottis have been claiming this type of growth would take away business from their restaurant, which would be hidden from view by the proposed five-story parking structure. In spring 2015, the Saratoga Zoning Board of Appeals denied the City Center a variance, saying the proposed building would block the sun to the Pedinottis’ solar panels, thus violating the solar ordinance.
The City Council voted to change that law in July 2015. The Pedinottis then accused the council of spot zoning — changing a law or granting a variance for the sake of one sole project and not for the greater good of the community. But the city attorney disputes that claim.
“The courts of this state have long since held that where, as here, zoning is found to be in compliance with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which is calculated to serve the community’s general well-being and welfare, it is not, by definition, spot zoning,” DeLeonardis wrote.
According to him, city officials told the Pedinottis a decade ago that the High Rock parcel could be developed with a multi-story facility. The couple said then that it would not oppose the development of the 2.6-acre lot, recently assessed at $2.9 million.
The City Center is awaiting a response from the council on a lease for the land before returning to the planning board with its site plan. Concurrently, the city is reviewing two designs received for the High Rock parcel after sending out a request for proposals (RFPs) The proposed plans feature a mixed-use development, with housing, business and retail space as well as the parking.
“I encourage the planning board to take a long view of what the city will become,” said Dianne Pedinotti at the Aug. 12, 2015 planning board meeting. “Citizens have spent a lot of time, money and effort talking to the city council and supporting the RFPs … Have faith in the talent that’s out there, and in the people.”