Trish Bush To Leave Job In City Hall

Trish Bush is the city attorney, Vince DeLeonardis’, secretary.  The burden for dealing with FOIL requests for the last three years has fallen on her shoulders.  That, of course, is only part of her job.  She has been enormously helpful to this blogger as I am sure she has been to all the other people (including Vince!) who have taxed her energy and patience.  I would like to publically thank her for all her work on behalf of our city and wish her all the best in her next endeavor. 


Murphy Lane Project Has A Major Twist

The saga of the barn at 39 Murphy Lane that had permission to be renovated but ended up as new construction took yet a new turn.

At the start of the April 11 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, chair William Moore announced that that due to a recent event, they would discuss the 39 Murphy Lane application at the beginning of the meeting.  City Attorney Tony Izzo then got up and told the board that he had received a letter from an attorney representing the property owner, Ms. D’Agostino.  He said he had not had time to fully review the letter as it was not received until 4:30 that day.  He then asked the attorney (whose name I did not catch) to come forward and confirm that his client was withdrawing her current application for variances.

This is a little confusing but basically, a stop order had been issued on the property because aside from the fact that it was inconsistent with the original application (they tore down a building that was supposed to be renovated), it was going to exceed the height of the original building and thus required additional variances beyond the many they had already received.

Apparently, the applicant had decided that they were not going to endure the additional requirements that were going to come from the Design Review Commission (see earlier post).  The attorney seemed to be asserting that his client did not need the additional height variance or any other additional variances.   Since they had already received the earlier variances, they were asserting their right to go forward with the project.  How they were going to get around the height issue I have no idea or the fact that they tore down a building that they had promised to renovate or that they had put in a full raised basement when their application and plans said that they were going to place the building on a slab.  The attorney’s  letter should be posted on the city web site shortly.

As soon as I can get a copy of the letter, I will post on its implications.



On Civility and This Blog

This post is to review the principles of this blog.  In order to foster thoughtful discussion on our city’s issues it is critical that the tone of this blog be civil.  No one should have to worry that they will be the subject of coarse invective for expressing their views.  I have always been scrupulous about blocking comments that are personal attacks on other commenters.  I have been more tolerant of attacks on me but even here,  if I am too tolerant and allow ugly rants against me, others might fear that they would become subjects of similar attacks.

For those of you who have posted comments, you know that you must enter an email address to register to comment.  When I receive a comment that is excessively abusive, I always take the time to email the individual and offer to publish their comment if they will make it more civil.  It is interesting that in 100% of the time, the email address that they have registered with is invalid.

So to the person or persons who is/are submitting these abusive comments, please be advised that you are wasting your time because they will not be published on this website.


Skip Scirocco Proposes Theater District

That Jenny Grey!  The Saratogian might be in better shape today if they had hired her ten years ago and given her the freedom to write long and thoughtful stories.

This is a story about a proposal by Commissioner Scirocco to create a theater district between the City Center parking structure and Lake Avenue.

Theater District 1


Public Works commissioner proposes a High Rock theater district

By Jennie Grey, The Saratogian

Posted: 04/10/16, 1:00 AM EDT |

The theater district plan would construct another such building on High Rock Avenue. Image provided

SARATOGA SPRINGS >> While the City Center’s parking project advances, the city council continues to think about the rest of the High Rock parcel; and now Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco has presented his dramatic vision for that key part of downtown. He proposes creating a theater district.

“The time is now to give back the city a beautiful part of its history; something for future generations,” he said while presenting to the council April 5. “The creation of a vibrant theater district will spur economic activity downtown, create jobs, raise tax revenues, and be a substantial boost to our arts community and the quality of life for our residents.”

He later explained where the idea had come from.

“I like theater, but I don’t go very often,” he said. “Mostly I’ve seen high school plays. I’ve never actually been to a Broadway show. So this plan is just something I think would be good for the city. It’s not because I have a personal theatrical agenda.”

Scirocco had met with Assistant City Engineer Deborah LaBreche to discuss possibilities for the remainder of the High Rock lot.

“We thought, ‘What don’t we have here in the city?’” he said. “And then the light bulb went on.”

Although a popular destination for the arts both back in Victorian times and now, Saratoga Springs presently lacks a year-’round live theater venue downtown. Scirocco and LaBreche considered the idea of building a city theater, to be run by a professional theater company, on the part of the High Rock parcel nearest Lake Avenue. A small park bordered by mixed-use buildings would take up the central part of the lot.

“We want this to be new, innovative and modern,” Scirocco said. “But we want to keep the historic connection, too. The city is so well-suited to this idea, being a community of the arts.”

Back in the day, entertainment and horse racing made the city a tourist destination. Only a few steps from the train station, visitors could find everything from side shows to serious world-class operas. The Leland Opera House, a grand theater that could seat 1,600, was erected on the parklike grounds behind the Grand Union Hotel. Both buildings are long gone now.

But vibrant cities invest in their theaters, Scirocco said. Nationally, theater is a $135.2 billion industry that supports 4.1 million jobs and generates $22.3 billion in government revenue. Attendees spend $24.60 per person beyond admission during a visit to the theater. And theaters are resilient even in tough economic times.

“So many historic theaters are being brought back, complete with today’s technologies, by enthusiastic developers, supportive communities, skilled architects and craftspeople,” he said.

His presentation showed such renovated theaters returned to their former splendor in Brooklyn, Massachusetts and North Carolina.

Of course Saratoga Springs does have several theatrical venues at present, some of them likewise being renovated, such as Universal Preservation Hall (UPH).

“I think over the years, the UPH has done a great job and should be commended for what’s been done,” Scirocco said.

The Music Hall on the top floor of City Hall may soon be taken for much-needed additional City Hall space, likely for the courts.

The other existing Saratoga theaters are Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the Spa Little Theater, the Museum of Dance Riggi Theater and Café Lena.

Scirocco cited data saying that competing theaters benefit one another. The 40 Broadway theaters in Manhattan’s theater district continue to flourish.

“I think the UPH and a new theater could both be successful and work well together,” he said.

Some benefits of a High Rock theater district would include extending Broadway show business from New York City north to Saratoga Springs; providing a year-’round economic powerhouse; offering high-quality space in which local and out-of-town troupes can perform; generating revenue for the proposed parking on High Rock Avenue via theater patrons; increasing business for hotels, shops, restaurants and the local theater community; and building a classically and elegantly design theater building to showcase the city’s history and create a sense of community pride.

Looking at the mixed-use Winston-Salem theater district in North Carolina, Scirocco summed up the pieces that would already be in place for a similar High Rock theater district: the City Center with its convention-goers, paid parking in the planned facility, and plenty of nearby hotels and restaurants.

“The theater district could be proposed as a mixed-use plan for condominiums, retail and artist rental lofts associated with the new theater,” he said. “Green roofs could be included, and the theater courtyard could include green space for a park.”

Mixed use is a phrase much associated with the designs that came in from the High Rock requests for proposals. Generally, the community-minded design includes retail on the ground floor, with office space above that and housing at the highest level.

Bill Dake, the owner of Stewart’s Shops, commented on the current state of mixed-use development during a public hearing at the latest city council meeting.

“Mixed use doesn’t work,” he said. “Look at all the unleased space in Ellsworth Commons in Malta and here in Saratoga on Weibel Avenue.”

The face of retail is changing, he said. Consumers buy more merchandise online. Retailers therefore need less storefront, so those shop spaces go unleased. Developers then have to raise the rents on the apartments above, putting them out of reach for many people. The developers say they can’t afford to build affordable or low-income housing. So a whole mixed-use building can sit empty.

Scirocco tried, therefore, to think of different angles for mixed use, like the artists’ lofts.

“When we’d laid out the plan, we couldn’t find any negatives, only positives,” he said. “I think the city is hungry for a theater district. I am really excited about this.”

The next step would be to do a request for proposal to find a consultant who would then do a market analysis. Think of this as intermission.


Design Review Commission Grapples With Murphy Lane Barn

View From Street 2
Original House
New House

At their last meeting the Zoning Board of Appeals asked the  Design Review Commission  to provide an advisory opinion on what could be done with  39 Murphy Lane.  

The Design Review Commission reviewed the building at its April 6 meeting.  The Commission members had visited the site. 

They took their charge as finding some way that the building could be rebuilt to closely approximate the original barn.  It was not their responsibility to consider the troubled history of the project.

Their initial  concern was that  the  concrete slab the barn had originally sat on had been replaced by a full, raised basement, making the building higher than the original structure.  This was discussed at length.  Since the original structure was gone, there was controversy over what the original height of the entire building had been.

The DRC unanimously agreed that at a minimum, most of the foundation that is above the grade of  Murphy Lane should be cut away to lower the height of the building.  They discussed at some length the proper materials that could be used to try to approximate the original exterior surface of the structure.  They noted that it would be important to restore at least the appearance of the original barn doors.  They also discussed the type of roofing material that would be appropriate.

The engineer from American Engineering who had been hired by the owner Ms. D’Agostino to work on 39 Murphy Lane pointed out that the original design that had been accepted by the city included a car port that would radically affect the appearance of the building.  The engineer also noted that by law the building would need significant windows to meet code which would also affect its appearance.

The DRC was going to make some general recommendations to the Zoning Board of Appeals about what would need to be done.  As pointed out by a member of the audience, this still left much of the design of the appearance of the structure unresolved.  It was noted that the Zoning Board of Appeals had requested the DRC’s advice because they did not feel qualified to get into the precise appearance of the structure.  This left  the question of who would oversee the re-design of 39 Murphy Lane up in the air. 

 Brad Birge, head of the city planning department, suggested that the DRC volunteer to provide  oversight of the design to the ZBA.

This passed unanimously.

On the way out I overheard the owner of the property, Ms. D’Agostino, say to her engineer that she was going to put a for sale sign in front of the property.  I took that more as a bitter commentary than as a real decision.


Neighbors Appeal To Mayor Regarding Murphy Lane Controversy

Brian Rodems lives a short distance from what had been the barn at 39 Murphy Lane.  He and the neighbors have done an extraordinary job mobilizing people to oppose what they see as a threat to their neighborhood.  Below are the documents they have sent to the Mayor’s office in an attempt to solicit assistance.  The central argument is that the majority of the Zoning Board of Appeals are more concerned with facilitating construction than in carrying out the purpose of zoning to protect the character of the neighborhoods.

Below are photos meant to show how the barn was a lovely and integral part of the community before it was torn down along with pictures of the house being built in its place.  Also below is an excellent explanation of the issues by Mr. Rodems in his email to the Mayor and the city attorneys along with a letter from an attorney representing the neighbors that lays out the legal issues.

As of this evening they have not heard from the Mayor’s office.


Neighborhood Character
How Barn Fit Into Neighborhood
Original Barn Side View
Neighborhood Character 3
How It Fit Into The Neighborhood
Neighborhood Character 2
How Barn Fit Into Neighborhood
Neighborhood Block Party
Block Party On Murphy Lane In Front of Original Barn
Construction Sequence 1
Construction Sequence #1
Construction Sequence 2
Construction Sequence #2
Construction Sequence 3
Construction Sequence #3
Construction Sequence 4
Construction Sequence #4
Neighborhood Character 5
Analysis #2
Neighborhood Character 4
Analysis #1

Email To Mayor And Attorneys

From: Brian Rodems [] Sent: Friday, April 1, 2016



Subject: Opinion from City Attorney – ZBA Procedures as outlined in City Zoning Code

Mayor Yepsen & City Attorney’s Mr. Izzo and Mr. Deleonardis:

Property owners in this community continue to be placed at a disadvantage by the very board that is entrusted with the enforcement of the Zoning Codes for our city.  We are faced with the continued threat of over development or poorly planned development that will have a deleterious impact on our quality of life and the value of our property.  It would appear that the members of the ZBA have a predilection to provide support for developers – at the expense of neighborhoods – by loosely “interpreting” the zoning code to favor developers.

A case in point is ZBA Variance #2807.1 – 39 Murphy Lane.  One only has to watch the videos from the ZBA proceedings (see City Web Site) to understand the dilemma that we face.  During the Feb. 8 meeting (beginning at minute marker 6:58), as well as the subsequent meeting on Mar 21 (watch from the beginning), you will observe:

  • The ZBA discovers that the applicant has blatantly disregarded the conditions under which the original (x7) variances were granted, i.e. NO longer a renovation of a barn (and actually tore it down – see attached photos).
  • The Chairman, Bill Moore, repeatedly apologizes for the mistake he made in approving the original (x7) variances (that were key to advancing this project).
  • Members of the board ask the question – When are we going to finally hold an applicant accountable for NOT following board’s directives and forcing them to adhere to the city zoning codes?  In their words – they never have!
  • The Vice Chair admonishes the applicant and then looks to find a “compromise”  – instead of holding the applicant accountable.
  • The Board fails to follow the procedures outlined in the Zoning Code and allows the applicant to go forward with an appeal / modification to a previously granted variance.

Given this evidence, I would like to ask the City Attorney to address the following questions and to draft an opinion with regards to the procedures that the members of the ZBA must follow – as written in the City Zoning Codes:

  1. Is the ZBA compelled by the City Zoning Code to follow the procedural regulations in the performance of their duties, i.e. as referenced in City Zoning Code, Section 8.5(G)?


For reference, see the ZBA Variance #2807.1 – 39 Murphy Lane.  In this case the Applicant is asking the Board to reconsider and modify its prior decision:

  • “In order to rehear an appeal previously determined by the ZBA, the following must occur:
    • A ZBA member must move to formally rehear the appeal
    • A unanimous vote of all ZBA members present must approve the motion to rehear
    • The appeal shall be subject to the same notice provisions as an original hearing
    • The ZBA may reverse, modify or annul its original decision provided that the ZBA finds that the rights vested in persons acting in good faith reliance upon the reheard order, decision or determination will not be prejudiced thereby
    • A unanimous vote of all ZBA members present is required to reverse, modify, or annul its original decision”
  • Please see the attached document containing a legal opinion as drafted by an outside counsel, Amy Mele, Esq., who was retained by the property owners adjacent to 39 Murphy Lane property.

2.   Is the ZBA compelled by the City Zoning Code to force compliance with a previously approved variance?

For reference, see the ZBA Variance #2807.1 – 39 Murphy Lane.  In this case the Applicant was granted (x7) zoning variances, with stipulations attached to the final ruling.  In the approved variance application the ZBA outlined explicit requirements and conditions under which the variance was granted and to which the applicant had to comply with.

Once a variance is approved, does this document become legally binding and the conditions under which the variances were approved enforceable under city code?

Once the ZBA issues a ruling on a variance request doesn’t the applicant have to comply with the conditions stated in the variance?  And, if the Applicant fails to comply with those stipulated conditions, doesn’t the city have the right to fine the Applicant for damages and/or force them to remediate.


Brian Rodems

ZBA letter - Final-1

ZBA letter - Final-2

ZBA letter - Final-3

ZBA letter - Final-4

ZBA letter - Final-5

ZBA letter - Final-6

ZBA letter - Final-7

Jenny Grey Story On Vote On City Center Lease

I know that I already posted my report on the City Council meeting that adopted a lease for the City Center but in a number of ways I think Jenny Grey’s story is better than mine so I am posting it here.

Council approves High Rock lease to Saratoga Springs City Center

By Jennie Grey, The Saratogian

Posted: 04/06/16

SARATOGA SPRINGS >> After a public hearing that lasted nearly two hours, the Saratoga Springs City Council voted 3-2 to lease the High Rock lot to the City Center, which plans to build a parking facility on one-third of the parcel. The two dissenting votes were Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Accounts Commissioner John Franck.

“A mixed-use approach is best for the city,” Yepsen said. “So a standalone parking garage is not the best solution.”

Franck objected to what he saw as the low lease rate of $50,000 annually.

Before opening the public hearing, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan presented the lease issue. The City Center will lease the northerly portion of the High Rock lot, leaving 93 free surface spaces. The City Center will give the city $50,000 annually as a lease payment, plus 50 percent of the net paid-parking revenues after operating costs, debt service and reserves.

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The 25-year lease will permit the City Center to build a four-and-one-half-story parking structure with 480 spots, connecting the facility to the convention center with a covered walkway. Since the facility will be built on only a part of the High Rock parcel, the rest of the land is left for the city to develop.

The City Center will pay for the construction with bonds, and paid parking will support the project thereafter.

Madigan called City Center President Mark Baker to also speak on the lease, being sure to explain the financial aspects to the public.

“This is not the Mark Baker Proposal,” he said. “But I’m excited about it as well.”

He described the parking study commissioned by the City Center and undertaken by Michigan-based firm Carl Walker in 2014, from whose numbers the City Center Authority extrapolated figures for weekends, evenings and track season. The authority also adjusted revenues, which the city council and the authority both found too conservative in the Walker survey.

“This project creates no tax burden on the city,” Baker said. “The parking structure will be built, maintained and operated by the City Center. The city won’t be left holding the bag or get a monstrosity. The City Center Authority will maintain your asset to the community, just as we maintain the City Center.”

Before people took the microphone, Yepsen announced a new guideline for public hearings of allowing everyone just three minutes to speak during any one hearing. She wants to keep council meetings from going past 11 p.m. She didn’t quite succeed in this new 11 p.m. goal that Tuesday, but then the agenda was packed.

Many voices for and against the lease were heard during the public hearing and during the council’s following discussion.

John Baker, owner of Gaffney’s Restaurant, called the City Center one of the most important entities the city has. But because of convention competition and lack of parking, Saratoga Springs loses revenue.

“I have lost several catering jobs because of the lack of parking,” he said.

Cindy Hollowood, general manager of the Holiday Inn, said the increased parking would be beneficial to the entire community. She said downtown businesses, which depended on the parking, sponsored residents’ sports teams and donated gift certificates to local clubs’ fundraisers.

“Our city’s quality of life would go down without these businesses,” she said.

Charles Holub, president of Saratoga Farmers’ Market Association, said he was speaking for the market, which badly lacked parking. He supported the parking facility and the agora, or public space, on its first floor, which the market will use year ’round.

Michael Lenz, the supervising pharmacist and a partner in Fallon Wellness Pharmacy of Saratoga, and a former Saratoga Springs mayor, praised the city’s vital community and incredibly vibrant downtown.

“I have the utmost respect for the leadership and decision-making process of the City Center,” he said. “I think this is the right thing to do.”

However, Charlie Samuels of Marion Place said he was against what he called Mark Baker’s plan.

“The city deserves better than this design from the last century,” he said. “This garage is unworthy of a progressive city like ours.”

Julie Cuneo, chair of Citizens for High Rock, was among the residents who encouraged a multiuse solution to the parking issue, wanting businesses, retail, affordable housing and green space blent with parking.

“Our solution was palatable to the city at large,” she said. “So I hope to keep working with Mark Baker and the two development teams.”

Dianne Pedinotti, one of the owners of the Mouzon House Restaurant on the edge of High Rock Park, came to the microphone with a catch in her voice. She said she feared having the parking structure built right next to her restaurant would bankrupt her.

“Please remember the Mouzon House’s plight in all of this,” she told the council.

Pedinotti and her husband, David, have filed a lawsuit against the city, accusing the City Council of voting to change Saratoga Springs’ solar access law to benefit the City Center’s parking structure. Their solar panels would be blocked by the facility. The matter is still pending.

With a touch of humor, Rick Fenton of Leffert Street, a member of Sustainable Saratoga and Citizens for High Rock, and a longtime opponent of the single-use parking garage, said, “We’re getting to the end of a long, rough road, but when we get there, at least there’ll be parking.”

He expressed confusion and disappointment that the city had not worked further with the development teams that had designed mixed-use proposals for the High Rock lot.

Later in the meeting, Madigan made a motion to add an item to her agenda: voting on how to reply to those development teams. The request-for-proposal process, spurred on by the public, had run contiguously with the City Center’s application to build its parking facility on that same land. Yepsen said she wanted to wait until the next council meeting to vote on this item, which she had originally placed on her own agenda for discussion only. The matter carried, however, with 4-1 voting to reject both of the proposals. Yepsen dissented.


The Very Long, And At Times Strange, Adoption of the Lease For The City Center

Highrock North 1 Revised
City Center Looking Northward

The public hearing on the lease for the City Center project lasted for some two hours.

The business community turned out in force.  This included Bill Dake of Stewarts and Charles Wait of Adirondack Trust along with Joe Dalton who headed the Saratoga Springs Chamber of Commerce for decades and who chairs the City Center Board. A number of longtime downtown small business owners such as John Baker from Gaffney’s and Steve Sullivan of the Old Bryan Inn also spoke at length about the positive impact  the City Center has had on their businesses and the health of downtown but also the frustration their customers often expressed at the difficulty finding parking spaces in the downtown area. The need for more convenient parking was also discussed by numerous speakers whose groups have used the City Center for events from everything from Mixed Martial Arts to high school graduations. A representative of the Farmers’ Market  spoke in favor of the City Center’s proposal not only in terms of alleviating the parking crunch on market days but in terms of the possibility of the market utilizing the agora part of the parking structure.

Pretty much everyone that spoke either for or against the proposed lease, agreed that the City Center was critical to the health of the downtown and had been a great success.  There was also a consensus that parking was a problem for downtown.

The basic arguments of the advocates of the lease were:

  1. The City Center must operate in an increasingly competitive environment especially with the Albany and Schenectady convention facilities coming on line.  In this light, they argued that there was an urgency to get the new parking facility built.
  2. There is an absolute lack of parking which is hurting the downtown merchants.
  3. People looking for parking spaces resulted in greater downtown traffic congestion.
  4. To successfully attract conventions it was critical that parking be integrated into  the City Center to make it more convenient for the attendees.
  5. The financial plan for funding the new facility was sound.
  6. The city liability was protected by the stipulations in the lease agreement.
  7. The High Rock Lot RFP Technical Review Committee that had reviewed the RFP responses had unanimously found the proposals received by the city for a mixed use project were both inadequate.
  8. The proponents pointed out that the City Center proposal  had been discussed for three years rejecting arguments that it was being rushed through.
  9. The proponents argued that the parking facility was being built without any money from the City Of Saratoga Springs government.  Moneys to offset potential losses during the first years would be paid for out of the current dedicated hotel room tax part of which goes to the City Center.
  10. They pointed out the high quality maintenance of the City Center and asserted that the same quality maintenance would be afforded the parking facility which also have a number of security features including staffing unlike the other parking structures in town.


Members of Citizens for High Rock such as  Julie Cuneo, Rick Fenton, and Mark Lawton along with the owners of the Mouzon House, as well as Harry Moran from Sustainable Saratoga  were among those who spoke against the lease proposal .

The basic arguments of the opponents were:

  1. A central point of the opponents was that limiting the development by building a stand-alone parking structure underutilized a uniquely important city owned parcel.
  2. They believed that the city had failed to work effectively with the responders to the RFP.
  3. They believed that the responses to the RFP were strong and should have been pursued.
  4. They rejected the urgency that had been asserted by the proponents and argued that the city needed to take the time necessary to carefully pursue these alternate proposals.
  5. Some argued that it was unclear whether or not there was a lack of parking in the sense that the city needed to develop a comprehensive parking plan before deciding on building another parking facility.
  6. The finances for the City Center project were dubious.
  • a. They claimed that the parking study done by the City Center proved that the proposed facility would lose money.
  • b. In light of the fact that the lease was twenty-five years, they asserted the city would end up owning a parking facility that would lose money and be in poor shape.

After more than two  hours the public hearing was closed. After a short break, a presentation by Commissioner Scirocco on the idea of creating a downtown theatre district, and a unanimous vote for Nicholas’ Law, the Mayor moved Commissioner Madigan’s lease proposal up on the agenda.

Michele Madigan moved and Chris Mathiesen seconded that the Council instruct the Mayor to sign the lease with the City Center.

Commissioners Madigan, Mathiesen, and Scirocco supported the resolution and made the points noted above in the discussion that followed.

Commissioner Franck opposed the project on two grounds.  His first was that he questioned whether the city was getting its “fair market” value for the lease.  To address this, Vince DeLeonardis was asked to come to the microphone.  The discussion was a bit confusing because the “fair market” value had two dimensions.  One was a legal issue and the other was a monetary issue.

Commissioner Franck asserted that a payment of $50,000.00 a year was woefully low given the value of the parcel which had been appraised at 2.6 million dollars.  Commissioner Franck, who is a certified accountant and appraiser, then offered an analysis based on the projected twenty-five year lease arguing that the numbers showed the payments were inadequate.  Mr. DeLeonardis then responded that Mr. Franck was not taking into account the value of the improvements that the City Center would be making to the property.  He noted that the projected cost of the parking facility was $9,000,000.00 and that at the end of the lease the city would own the facility as well as the land.  Commissioner Franck dismissed the idea that the building would be worth anything after twenty-five years.

Mr. Franck went on to admit that the parking structure did have a public value, though,  and that, not being an attorney, he could not really offer an informed decision on how legally the value would be defined.  He argued strenuously that running the numbers (assuming that the facility would be of little value in twenty-five years) the city would fail to realize the value of the land were it to agree to the lease. Other Council members joined in a lengthy discussion about the value of a portion of the lot versus the lot as a whole.

Franck also argued that it was inappropriate to decide the lease before resolving the status of the outstanding proposals for the RFP.

The Mayor basically held that the city would be better served by pursuing the mixed use option as reflected in the RFP responses.  She further questioned the need for a parking facility at all before the city could develop a comprehensive parking plan.

It was approximately 10:00 pm, some three hours after the start of the public hearing, when the Council voted on the lease.  It passed three to two with Commissioner Franck and the Mayor voting no, Commissioners Madigan, Mathiesen, and Scirocco voting to approve the lease.

Mayor Yepsen had, as an item on her agenda, a discussion of what to do about the outstanding RFP responses.  It was after 11:00 pm when this item came up.  The discussion was rambling and strange.  It perhaps reflected the late hour and the fatigue of the Council members.  Mayor Yepsen described the history of the responses to the RFP and then stated (3:18 in part 2 of 2 of the Mayor’s agenda in the video of the meeting) that city should “put out new revised proposals.”  Commissioner Scirocco then, in exasperation, asked why the city having just agreed to lease a major part of the parcel, would solicit proposals.  Commissioner Madigan then asked to introduce a resolution to reject the RFP responses to bring closure.  Commissioner Franck argued that since the RFP’s had come out of the Mayor’s office that she should be the one to introduce such a resolution.  The Mayor then asserted that she would not take action on the RFP proposals at the current meeting.  Commissioners Mathiesen, Scirocco, and Madigan argued that there appeared to be no reason to take up more time on the proposals since they were based on developing the entire lot which was no longer available.  The Mayor refused to entertain a motion under her agenda.

Commissioner Madigan’s agenda arrived after eleven thirty.  She told the Council she would like to have a vote on rejecting the outstanding RFP proposals.  In order to add this item to her agenda she needed a motion.  Commissioners Madigan, Mathiesen, and Scirocco voted to allow the motion to be made and Mayor Yepsen and Commissioner Franck opposed it.  Madigan then moved  to reject the RFP proposals and Mathiesen seconded it.  Not surprisingly, there was virtually no discussion and it passed.  Interestingly John Franck joined Madigan, Mathiesen, and Scirocco in rejecting the proposals.  Mayor Yepsen was the lone vote against.



City Approves Lease With City Center

After a public hearing that went on for almost two hours, the City Council voted 3-2 to approve a lease with the City Center to build a parking structure on city owned land.  This was the second of two hearings on the proposed lease and drew strong support from the business community. Yepsen and Franck voted against the lease.  Madigan, Mathiesen, and Scirocco voted for the lease. More to follow tomorrow.


Reporter Dennis Yusko Leaves Times Union Newspaper

Dennis Yusko has left the Times Union after twenty-five years.  Friday was his last day and he is now the communications director for the Albany County Legislature.

Dennis was just a great reporter.  As the Times Union cut back on its resources his beat got bigger and bigger.  In spite of that he did a phenomenal job covering Saratoga Springs.  He was fearless in his  reporting and he was also thorough and professional.  He is also one helluva nice person.  Wec an only hope that whoever replaces him will be of the same caliber.

I know I speak for many here in Saratoga Springs in wishing him all the best in his new job.

Here is a link to his facebook page.

Link To Facebook