John Witt Responds Regarding Downton Walk

The following is John Witt’s response to my posts regarding his project.  I will respond in a future post.


I read with great interest your introduction to and Sandy Cohen’s analysis of my application for variances at 27 Jumel Place and your more recent post containing my letter to property owners, as well as our emails.

With regard specifically to the Sandy Cohen’s analysis:

I personally went door to door and spoke with more than 30 people who live within one block of Jumel Place, including on East, Granger and Lake avenues. With very few exceptions, my plans have been positively received.  After Downton Walk is constructed and sold, the upgraded neighborhood will enjoy raised property values, benefiting homeowners.

I will be removing asbestos and chemicals from the property.

  • I will be installing new water main on Jumel.
  • I will be installing new plantings and a decorative fence to ensure privacy for dwellings on both sides of the buffer.
  • The Jumel Place plan aligns with the goal of the city to infill urban areas, rather than promote sprawl.  The zoning allows for four duplexes, for a total of eight units. I am proposing only seven, which does not constitute overbuilding the space. The writer herself rents out a garage apartment, as well as other units within her house, making hers a multi-family dwelling and maximizing use of the property. The two cottages on Downton Walk main living area is 20-6” feet wide (see enclosed elevations of #2 and # 3 and # 2 first floor) and only 1,800 square feet in interior size, small by new-construction standards, and include a single-bay, tandem garage. The other five homes will be 2,800-3,000+ square feet in size, comparable to current new-home-size standards.
  • The front-yard setback is a technicality. The neighbor to the left has no setback at all, while the neighbor to the right has a five-foot setback. The Downton Walk construction will be set back accordingly and does not change the character of the neighborhood, but mirrors it. The “encroachment” is merely a front stoop and overhang, not a building.
  • We meet the side-yard setbacks without a variance.
  • The fence height we propose is eight feet high, instead of six, with the top two feet being a decorative lattice. I would remind you that the current fence is, already, eight feet high, so we would not be changing the current height, but would be significantly improving its appearance, as well as protecting privacy on both sides.
  • The six-foot backyard setback under fire is, again, to accommodate an overhang and not a building. In fact, we are setting the building back further from the east and north property lines than it is today.
  • The current building covers 49% of the area and we are actually reducing the footprint to 46%.

I would remind the writer and your readers that I am a Saratoga Springs native and lifelong resident, as well as a successful, established small-business owner and employer.

I take pride in what we build and in our reputation for excellence and would direct your attention to a similar concept in the popular, high-profile Park Alley North neighborhood near Skidmore College, which is a coveted address for homeowners.

Downton Walk is a well-conceived project and will offer residents both privacy and accessibility to the downtown, as well as enhance the neighborhood. Saratoga Springs is thriving, in part because of the beautiful architecture and homes – not just what we are preserving, which is vital, but also those we are currently building, because we also need to protect the future viability of our city as a community where people live full-time, as well as work and visit occasionally for pleasure.

Enjoy London…. I spent a week there and touring The city and the Cotswold area to get inspired for completing the designs of the homes and cottages for Dowton Walk.  Please schedule a meeting with me when you are back so I can share some new city projects I am working on.



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