The Planning Department: A Little Courtesy Would Be Welcomed

Some land use board members and perhaps others have wondered why members of the public get upset trying to resolve land use issues in this city. I offer the following as instructive of what it can be like to deal with the City’s Planning Department and in particular with City Planner Susan Bardon.

On March 8th of last year I emailed Ms. Bardon raising an issue regarding a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals.  I requested that when she forwarded my question to this person that she copy me.

On March 10th when I had not heard from her, I emailed her again asking the status of my request.

Later that day I received the following from her:


Your question has been communicated to Mr. Kaplan.

Thank you,


 According to Mr. Kaplan, Ms. Bardon never forwarded my email to him.

On April 14th of last year, I emailed Lindsey Gonzalez in the Planning Department asking why a ZBA workshop had not been videotaped.   Ms. Gonzalez did not receive my email due to a mistake in the email address.  On April 20th Ms. Gonzalez, having received my email, forwarded my request to Ms. Bardon.

On April 30th, having heard nothing from Ms. Bardon, I followed up making the request to her again.

This is a follow-up to my inquiry regarding why the workshop on April 11 for the ZBA was not included in the video on the city’s web site.  As the email below documents, you received this inquiry on April 20.

I look forward to your response.

On May 2nd I received her response:

Hi John and thank you for the reminder.

We start the webcast when a quorum is present and the board starts conducting business.

Also, there are times when board members meet to discuss legal strategy with one or more attorneys representing the City.  At these times there is no webcast. Susan

Most recently, on June 3rd of this year, in light of the Kaplan incident I sent Ms. Bardon the following email:

Would you please see that the members of the ZBA receive copies of this email and copy me.  If you do not plan to do so, would you please advise me clearly on this.  As you may recall, Mr. Kaplan claimed that he never received the last email I asked you to forward.


On June 28 at 11:36, having heard nothing from Ms. Bardon,I sent this follow-up:

I am resending an email I sent to you last week.  Please confirm that you have received this.

That same day, I received the following email from Ms. Bardon at 1:21:

I have received your email and it has been forwarded to the board.

Pitney Farm Plans Progress

Plans unveiled for community farm in Saratoga Springs

By Brett Samuels June 27, 2016

Photographer: Erica Miller


Corn field


Mike Ingersoll, with the LA Group, reveals the new plan during the Pitney Meadows Community Farm Unveiling Event in Saratoga Springs on West Ave. on Sunday afternoon, June 26, 2016.

  •  Members of Pitney Meadows Community Farm Inc., the group spearheading the preservation project; local government leaders; and Michael Ingersoll, a partner at the LA Group land-planning firm, spoke to about 150 people gathered at Pitney Farms about plans for the property. The idea is to maintain the farmland and keep it as open, farmable space, while using the rest of the property as a community farm to teach visitors about modern agriculture, train farmers and sell locally produced food.“This is prime real estate, and that this is staying agricultural, the community should be proud of that,” Ingersoll told those in attendance.Paul Arnold, one of the leaders of Pitney Meadows Community Farm Inc., said the group is aiming to purchase the land by Nov. 1. The city is committing $1.16 million from its open space fund to buy the conservation easement, which would prevent the land from being used for non-agricultural purposes in the future.“We want them to keep coming back,” Arnold said. “We want them to be able to learn where green beans come from, or why peppers turn from green to red.”The project has been in the works for years and has been supported by the city and the county, Yepsen said.The Pitney Farms land was originally going to be owned by Saratoga PLAN, but the group dropped out of the project in April. Project leaders said Sunday’s event is just part of the beginning stages of the process, which a couple of people involved with the effort said could take about five years to complete.The Pitney family has owned the farm since 1862, said Bill Pitney, who added that he’s excited the property is going to be used by the community.
  • The cost of attending Sunday’s event was $50. Before the plan was discussed, attendees sat under a tent beside one of the barns on the property and were served dinner and could purchase beer and wine. Proceeds from the event went toward the project, Arnold said.
  • In total, the project is expected to cost about $15 million over the five years. Major fundraising hasn’t begun yet.
  • “This city wants this, and this city is fully behind this,” Yepsen told attendees.
  • Several speakers addressed those in attendance before the actual sketch was displayed. Project leaders and local government officials, including Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner and Saratoga Springs Mayor Joan Yepsen, spoke with pride about the project and discussed the importance of Pitney Farms to the community.
  • Arnold added that he thinks residents in the area are excited to not have the land turn into housing or another type of development project. He wants people to feel connected to the farm, he said.
  • He added that the mission was to balance preserving what’s on the property currently with the addition of new buildings that would house events and educational programs. So far, response to the proposed project has been enthusiastic, he said.
  • A sketch of the plan revealed that project organizers intend to keep half of the land as farmland, leaving it as it is now. Other buildings currently on the plot of land along Western Avenue will remain there and be repurposed as educational stations, Ingersoll said. A few new buildings might be added farther back on the property, and walking trails could be added along the farmed area leading to the back of the 166-acre site.
  • SARATOGA SPRINGS — Plans for a community farm development years in the making were unveiled Sunday evening when local and project leaders gathered to detail the future of Pitney Farms.

Remember the “Affiliation” stories? Albany Med Just Ate Saratoga Hospital


Last fall, Saratoga Hospital posted the following Q&A on their web site:

“What will the relationship be between Albany Medical Center and Saratoga Hospital? Is this a merger?

This is not a merger. [My emphasis added]   As an affiliate of the Albany Medical Center health system, Saratoga Hospital will continue to have its own Board of Trustees and senior management team. We will continue to be known as Saratoga Hospital, and will be identified as an affiliate of Albany Medical Center. Perhaps most important, although Saratoga Hospital will continue to take the lead in serving the Saratoga region, we will have a partner to help us increase our patients’ access to highly specialized care and technology.

“Who will lead and operate Saratoga Hospital?

“Under the terms of the letter of intent, the current Saratoga Hospital leadership team and Board of Trustees will remain in place.”

As recently as October 27, 2015, in a joint press release with Albany Med they stated: “

 Under the terms of the letter of intent, Saratoga Hospital will retain its name, local leadership and governance, and oversight of services delivered in the community.”

Contrast these statements with stories from the Times Union and the Albany Business Review:

From The Times Union:

Saratoga Hospital files with state to make Albany Med its parent

No cash or assets would be exchanged under deal

By Claire Hughes

Published 7:15 pm, Monday, June 13, 2016


Saratoga Hospital has filed its application with the state to make Albany Medical Center its parent and co-operator, an affiliation the two health systems announced they were pursuing in October.

The state Health Department is reviewing the proposal, which is similar to the arrangement Albany Med established with Hudson-based Columbia Memorial Health at the beginning of the year.

The proposal would give Albany Med authority over Saratoga Hospital’s budgets and strategic plans, the hiring and firing of Saratoga Hospital’s chief executive, incurrence of debt, and hospital policies and procedures. Each health system would have representation on the other’s boards. [My emphasis added.  Affiliation?  Orwellian?]

No cash or assets would be exchanged under the deal.

Officials at both hospitals declined to comment on the proposal.

In October, Saratoga Hospital officials said the affiliation with Albany Med would enable it to expand medical services.

The affiliation would also theoretically allow the organizations to pursue contracts together with insurance companies.

The proposed affiliation comes as government-led health reforms seek to reduce the need for costly hospital stays, and both public and private insurers are changing the way they pay for care. Under an emerging payment system called global budgeting, health systems will be paid a set fee per patient for providing all the patient’s care.

To adapt to that change, hospitals have in recent years sought to become the hub of health systems that provide all levels of care, acquiring doctors’ practices and building community-based primary care and urgent care offices.

Health systems also need to have a broad geographic reach to achieve improvements in “population health” — the health of the entire community — a goal that is being supported with substantial state funds.


From The Albany Business Review:

Picture Of Saratoga Hospital

Donna Abbott-Vlahos

Albany Medical Center and Saratoga Hospital have finalized an affiliation agreement the two health care providers have been working on since October.

The agreement would establish Albany Med, the region’s second-largest hospital system, as the “parent and co-operator” of Saratoga Hospital. It has been submitted to the state Department of Health for approval.

Donna Abbott-Vlahos

It’s similar to an agreement Albany Med reached with Columbia Memorial Health to the south.

With the addition of Saratoga and Columbia to its network, Albany Med’s system will rival St. Peter’s Health Partners, the largest hospital system in the area. Albany Med CEO Jim Barba has been focused on building the reach and range of the academic medical center’s services.

Bringing in more services across a broader geographic reach will help position Albany Med remain an independent, locally controlled system to weather the constant challenges of an evolving health care system, Barba has said. Mergers and affiliations have become more common in the health care space.

That broader reach will also help Albany Med achieve goals in population health, where providers seek to proactively manage the well-being of people to keep them out of the hospital. That’s seen as a way to reduce the ballooning costs of health care.

The agreement’s goals, based on a summary on the health department’s website, are to optimize clinical services and health benefits and forge a strong relationship between Saratoga Hospital and Albany Med. The affiliation will lead to efficiencies through clinical and administrative integration and create a better delivery system for communities served by Albany Med and Saratoga.

Albany Med has more than 9,000 employees and the affiliated physician group is the largest in the region, with 465 local doctors. The academic medical center is the region’s only Level 1 trauma center and is the “hospital’s hospital,” providing highly specialized care.

The system has about 30 current or planned locations outside of the core Albany County area and has continued growth at its New Scotland Avenue campus in Albany.

Saratoga Hospital’s system, with a 171-bed hospital in Saratoga Springs, also includes a nursing home and several other outpatient locations. Albany Med and Saratoga partnered on an advanced urgent care location in Malta.

Under the agreement, Albany Med would have approval of Saratoga’s budgets and operating plans, hospital policies and procedures and contracts for clinical and management services. Albany Med would also have authority to appoint or remove the CEO, according to information submitted to the health department. [My emphasis added:  Affiliation?  Orwellian?]Those actions are subject to certain conditions based on the hospital’s own bylaws.

Like the agreement with Columbia Memorial, Albany Med and Saratoga Hospital will each have representation on one another’s boards.

The affiliation agreement was reached May 17.

A spokesman for Albany Med declined to comment. Saratoga Hospital CEO Angelo Calbone could not be immediately reached.


City Hosts Meeting On Making Our Streets Welcoming And Safe

I received this release from Commissioner Madigan.  It looks like it should be a good program.  [Note: The Charter Commission is supposed to meet in the same room at the same time.  I assume that this program will take precedence]


The City Mission of Schenectady has graciously offered to present to the City of Saratoga Springs information about their Ambassador Program on Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 7:00 pm at City Hall in the City Council Chambers.  For more information about this program please visit their website at

I believe this group has potential answers and solutions to many of the issues we have encountered in our city … issues our surrounding neighboring city’s have been dealing with for many years. The meeting will consist of a presentation and video by the Schenectady Ambassadors and it is my hope that we will have members of the Schenectady business community in attendance to discuss the many success of this program. Michael Saccocio, Executive Director for the City Mission of Schenectady, Christopher Silipigno, Associate Executive Direcotor and Business and Donor Development for the City Mission, and Jake Bowman, with Schenectady Ambassadors will be in attendance. There will also be the opportunity to meet with Ambassadors following the meeting and time for networking and the exchanging of business cards. It is essential we have support from our business community, residents, Shelters of Saratoga, and all interested stakeholders at this meeting. Please forward / share this information with anyone you think would like to attend this Council Workshop / Presentation.

I look forward to seeing you at this special meeting. Lets work to determine if their existing and successful program has direct applications for the City of Saratoga Springs.

Thank you,

Commissioner Michele Madigan

Disgraceful Condition Of Downtown Walkway

Readers have contacted me about the disgraceful condition of the walkway that runs west from Broadway to the parking lot beside Putnam Market.  This walkway does not belong to the city.  I have emailed Mayor Yepsen asking what can be done to address this situation (see below – it covers the issue in more depth).  I will post Mayor Yepsen’s response when I receive it.










From: John Kaufmann
Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2016 4:18 PM
To: ‘Joanne Yepsen’
Cc: ‘Christian Mathiesen’; ‘Skip Sciroco’; ‘Michele Madigan’; ‘John Franck’;
‘Vincent DeLeonardis’
Subject: Walkway

I have been contacted by people disturbed by the walkway that abuts Putnam Market.  For at least a month there have been sawhorses blocking part of the path there (see picture).  In addition, there does not appear to be any maintenance of the area.  The walkway is strategically located at one of the center points of the city but it has been allowed to become an unsightly embarrassment.  Trash has been allowed to accumulate there (see pictures).

I have been in touch with the Public Works Department and have learned that this area is privately owned and is not under the jurisdiction of Public Works.  I understand that the heating system that is supposed to keep the walkway free of snow needs to be
repaired.  I expect that this might be a major engineering project and can understand that this cannot be fixed overnight.  I have learned that the owner does not expect to begin work on this until after the racing season is over.  Whether this is a reasonable time frame, I do not know.  What I do know is that the walkway is dirty and unbecoming of our city.
Has the city taken any action on this matter?  If not, can the city take action to require the owner to keep the area clean and to expeditiously do whatever repairs are necessary to remove the sawhorses?

I know you take as much pride in our city as any citizen of this community and expect that you share people’s concerns that this problem be addressed.    Could you please keep me advised on this and I will share the progress with the people who read my blog.


Another Neighborhood Attempts To Protect Itself From The ZBA



Tracie Millis III is the president of the Maple Avenue, Marion Avenue, Maple Dell Neighborhood Association.

As a little background, Mr. Millis family goes back eight generations in our city.  Following his career in the U.S. military he worked at the Watervliet Arsenal as a contracting officer before retiring in 1995. He was more recently the executive director of the New York State Military Heritage Institute which is a support group for the Military Museum on Lake Avenue.

At the June 21st Zoning Board of Appeals meeting Mr. Millis spoke in opposition to an application to grant a use variance to allow a dentist office at  34 Marion Avenue which is in a residentially zoned neighborhood.

At the meeting Stephanie Feradino, who represented the owners, spoke from 8:20 to 9:20.  Mr. Millis spoke for eight and a half minutes and two neighbors spoke for four minutes each.  Keith Kaplan was chairing the ZBA meeting in the absence of Chairman William Moore.  Following the first neighbor’s brief comments, Mr. Kaplan admonished the public not to use their time repeating anything said previously.  Ms. Feradino is an articulate and talented attorney.  Brevity, however, is not her strength.  Mr. Kaplan made no attempt to expedite her very long presentation.   Given that Ms. Feradino had submitted her arguments to the ZBA in writing, to allow her unrestrained time to make her case and then admonish the neighbors who, in contrast, were the soul of brevity seemed unfair but sadly consistent with the ZBA’s attitude toward the public.

In the course of the ZBA questioning of Ms. Feradino it became painfully obvious that the ZBA was disposed to grant her client’s application.  Board members spent considerable time discussing with her how her client might buffer the property from the neighbors regarding lights and noise to the point that they discussed specific plants the applicant might use.

It is hard to believe but no one on that board even acknowledged that given the other commercial development in the area around Maple and Marion Avenues that granting this variance might accelerate the decline of this residential neighborhood.  This is simply another example of how low in its priorities defending existing zoning is for this board.  Mr. Millis presented a petition representing twenty-eight homeowners from the neighborhood trying to defend their community.  For those skeptics, I invite them to watch the video of the meeting which is up on the city’s web site.

Here is Mr. Millis’ statement:


Saratoga Springs Board of Appeals:                                                                                       20 JUN 2016

This is the THIRD (3rd) time we have appeared in front of this Board of Appeals speaking against a proposal to SPOT ZONE, 34 Marion Avenue, as Commercial.

In the instant case the required application cites addresses that are not correct, fails to prove an “unnecessary hardship”, cites an “OLD” appraised value (1994), and further attempts to confuse the “ORIGINAL” listing price to the appraised value (Then vs Now).

The “Unique Financial Hardship” stated is Not Accurate.  The owner has been attempting to sell this property since at LEAST 1983!  Whereas he has occasionally rented it – It has always been offered for sale by local realtors.

The “History of Marketing” is not reflective of the facts either.  Whereas they only cite the offered price since 2005, we have tracked it further.

The price for this residentially zoned property, that is 0.43 acre, has been offered for sale from $499,500 to the supposedly present (2014) $135,000.  For less than ½ acre?  For a vacant building lot?  Residentially Zoned!

This alleged Hardship is a 100% Self-Created Hardship! We state that undisputed fact EVERY time we appear here to discuss the “Infamous Healy Property!”  He is simply requesting too many dollars for a small Residential lot in Saratoga Springs.  Are you kidding us?

The zoning does not allow for this proposal.  We fought to get that exact zoning for over 30 years in the prior/current Master Plans since 1981.  We want to protect our homeownership investments, and obviously there can be NO Hardship claimed by the proponent.

I now present our Original Neighborhood Petitions signed by over twenty eight (28) Single Family Residential home Owners directly impacted by this proposed project.

We are ALL opposed to its approval!

Tracy Millis III

Neighborhood Association President

Further, and I probably should not admit this – I went “off script” and exclaimed to the Board that we have invested Many hours (and years) in the development of the “Master Plan” relative to how the Northern Gateway of Saratoga Springs should NOT resemble South Broadway!  For over 40 years Saratoga Springs has stated in their Master Plan that our “Northern Gateway” should not resemble South Broadway with the Honkey-Tonk businesses.  Marion Avenue extends from the Arterial to SOUTH of the Triangle Diner!  All the properties within that Codified distinction are, wait for it now – Single Family RESIDENTIAL!!  Hello!  The Triangle Diner is in Greenfield! All of the properties on the West side of Marion Avenue are Zoned as RESIDENTIAL!  Changing one, especially one at the end of OUR ZONING border, invites nothing less than catastrophe for the Residential owners that invested in their homes. The bottom line is this – An individual that purchased a RESIDENTIALLY zoned property in 1982, for 40K$, and thereafter offered it at 499K$ for RESIDENTIAL use, cannot thereafter claim A HARDSHIP because nobody bought the property!  Hello?  $499K for less than 1/2 acre? As Residential? DUH?


Murphy Lane Zombie Barn Stalks Zoning Board of Appeals

On Monday night Ms. Jean D’Agostino, owner of the late barn on Murphy Lane, appeared again before the ZBA with her attorney, James A. Fauci   Briefly, Mr. Fauci claimed that the variances to build a one family home on the site of what had been a barn, had no constraints.  He asserted that his client had a right to erect a home on the site as high as sixty feet as allowed by the zoning for that district.  He claimed that there was no basis to require an additional height variance.

Keith Kaplan, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of William Moore, said the stop order was not based simply on the height as had been stated in an email by building inspector Steven Shaw to Ms D’Agostino.  He referenced the inconsistency of what Ms. D’Agostino had done in contrast with her application that was approved by the ZBA.

What followed was a chaotic discussion in which Mr. Fauci insisted that his client be told clearly why Mr. Shaw had issued a stop work order.  At this point board member Adam McNeil interceded and proposed that a written explanation be drafted and sent to Mr. Fauci.  Attorney Mark Schachner, who is a consultant to the city on land use issues, intervened to support Mr. McNeil.  Mr. Fauci then asked why, since Mr. Shaw was sitting behind the ZBA table, the city building inspector could not simply explain why he had issued the stop work order.  At this point Mr. Kaplan interceded to cut off the discussion.

Dear reader, the neighbors of the late Murphy Lane barn have been asking, to some extent the exact same question for the last five months of this debacle.  They have repeatedly asked why the ZBA in light of the fact that Ms. D’Agostino in her application specifically stated that she would not tear down the barn because it would be a detriment to the neighborhood,then tore it down, did not void the variances she had received.   In its effort to accommodate Ms. D’Agostino, the ZBA has dodged this question for months.

The discussion on Monday night laid bare the poverty of the way the ZBA has handled this whole business.  I expect that Mr. Schachner and Tony Izzo will now sit down and try to prepare a document that will explain why the project was stopped that will withstand the potential lawsuit that may follow.



[From The Neighbors of Jumel Place]

It has been a long fight, but we’ve got one more presentation to make; and a large show of support would make the ZBA think twice before rubber-stamping this.

Since the last meeting, we have appealed to the City Council — each commissioner and each deputy. We’ve asked them to do whatever they can to stop this. We heard some encouraging words. But we have no idea if anything has come of it. So, we’re headed into what is likely going to be the final battle on this.

Please come to the meeting! You can make all the difference, especially if you make a comment!

The agenda is here (as of now we are last in the order):

As usual, background info is below…

Thank You

Neighbors of Jumel



-We do not oppose Mr. Witt per se, or that he should develop this property.

-We all agree that the existing building is an eyesore and should be replaced

-But, first and foremost, we contend that this multi-family proposal (he is asking to build 7 homes as “condominiums” on one non-divided lot) requires a USE variance, as multi-family is not allowed in our zoning district (UR-3)

-And, at the same time, we are opposed to the massive scale of the AREA variances he is requesting and of the project as currently designed.

-We feel that the current design and density of the proposal and the number and size of the proposed homes are out of character with this historic neighborhood.

-We want a revised more reasonable proposal MORE IN LINE WITH OUR ZONING LAWS.


*In 2013, Mr. Witt was granted the same variances he is re-applying for now (the variances lapsed, so he has to re-apply). He and the board have leaned heavily into “well, we passed this before, so let’s do it again”. However, in 2013 we were dumbstruck when the board granted approval. We feel they made a bad decision. Today is a new day, a new application, and a chance for the board to look more closely at the massive variances Mr. Witt is asking for.

*We do not oppose Mr. Witt per se, or that he should build on this parcel. We are opposed to the mass and scale of the proposal and want our zoning laws to be enforced.

*We agree the old building should be replaced, but that is not reason to grant these massive variances and allow this project to depart radically from zoning. A reasonable project would still accomplish the goal of replacing the old building.

*We are NOT at odds with the few neighbors who have supported this project based on their desire to see the old building gone. We just want it to be replaced by something reasonable. The developer is counting on our fear of “getting nothing” if we don’t allow “everything”.

*Witt has stated that he will sell these homes for $700,000 to $1,500,000. He has also stated that in order to make a profit he has to build and sell seven. We believe that a reasonable proposal of five homes could certainly still be profitable for him.

*Our aim is to make the Zoning Board require Mr. Witt to come back with a more reasonable proposal, more in line with the zoning laws that were intended to protect us from projects like this.

THE 5 CRITERIA THE BOARD CONSIDERS (and some of our possible answers):


The core benefit to the city and neighborhood is eliminating the current structure. This can be accomplished by building fewer homes and requiring minimal area variances. Whether or not this is as economically advantageous to Mr. Witt is not a zoning issue.


These huge, tightly packed-in homes are out of character with this historic neighborhood. The square footage of the proposed homes is clearly greater than the existing surrounding homes, in some cases double and triple. Rather than creating privacy as claimed, this proposal produces a walled environment, which separates the new homes from less expensive housing next door.


It is blatantly inaccurate to describe this project as minimal. All the variances being requested (variances listed below) by the applicant are very substantial.


The difficulty was self-created by the developer by asking for too much.


-One home is allowed on this lot, or five, if the property is subdivided. But space would be needed to accommodate an access road, so four homes seem more likely if the proper route, in line with zoning, were taken.

-Witt is asking to NOT subdivide yet be allowed seven buildings instead of one (a massive departure from zoning).

-He is calling them “individual condominiums”. He needs the land to be commonly owned, since, if not subdivided, who would own the property?

-Each home will be selling for between $700,000 and $1.5 million

-Our zoning allows 30% of the parcel to be covered by buildings. He wants to be allowed to cover 46% (a 52% increase from what is allowed).

-By not being required to subdivide and calling these “condominiums” he relieves himself of the setback and maximum coverage requirements of our zoning laws and can arrange the seven buildings any way he wants, tightly packing them in.

-On the north side of the parcel he is required by zoning to leave 25 feet between the backs of his buildings and the adjoining properties. He wants to be allowed to reduce that requirement to only six feet. The backs of these 32 foot high buildings would be virtually on, and towering over, the property line, with no room for buffer or trees. All existing trees would be cut down.

-These buildings will be large (see below), and out of character with the neighborhood.

-As of yet, Mr. Witt has not made any concessions or compromises to his plans. He has stated that if he is not allowed the full extent of what he is asking, this project would not be profitable enough for him. We feel this is a false claim – that he could certainly make a profit with a more reasonable project, more in line with zoning.


So far there are no actual measurements per unit, only Witt’s very generalized predictions.

The (rounded) square footage (reflecting all living space – not just footprint) of some of the existing houses on Jumel are: 1400, 900, 1200, 1300, 1500, 1200, 1500, 1900, 1600, 2000.

Witt’s footprints (footprint=first floor only) are: 2,449, 1357, 1472, 2099, 2739, 2340, 2070. A guess-timate of second stories would lead us to predict Witt’s proposed homes to be clearly larger — and possibly double or more — than most of the other existing houses on the street. Even his footprints alone are larger than the full square footage of a good number of the surrounding homes. From his rendering of the facades it looks as if the homes will also have a third story (see attached pdf).


1) The maximum building coverage allowed on this lot is 30%. The applicant is asking to be allowed to cover 46%, or 52% more than what is allowed. Granting this request would be a massive increase from what is allowed by zoning.

2) The applicant is asking for maximum principal buildings on one lot to be increased from one to seven, a 600% increase. Only five single-family units are allowed by law on this property — BUT ONLY after the property is subdivided. Why is this property not being subdivided? To go from one to seven houses is a massive increase.

3) The rear yard setback required for each unit is 25 feet. The applicant is asking that this requirement be eliminated by 100% for five units, going from the 25 feet required to zero (0) feet. For the remaining two units he is asking for a 76% reduction in the rear yard setback from 25 feet to 6 feet.

4) The front yard setback required for the two front units is 10 feet. The applicant is asking for only a one (1) foot setback, a 90% reduction in the front yard. The applicant claims that this is so “our (2) front porches [can] be placed on the unit.” However, his drawings show that he is not proposing porches, only overhangs.

5) The fence height allowed in this UR-3 residential area is six feet. The applicant is asking for an eight-foot fence, a 33% increase in height over what is allowed. Why is this necessary only for this development? Is the applicant trying to exclude the rest of the neighborhood? A fence this high would create an exclusive walled enclave shutting out the existing neighborhood.

Update on Charter Review Commission

According to the  Times Union the Mayor’s Charter Review  Commission  met last Tuesday, took their oaths of office, and set a regular meeting schedule.  Apparently the Mayor has added two more members to the Commission  for a total of 14.  The newest appointments  are:

Minita Sanghvi:   Ms. Sanghvi is an assistant professor of marketing management and business at Skidmore College with a specialty in “Political Marketing.”

Ann Bullock: Ms. Bullock is a local attorney.  She was appointed by Mayor Yepsen to the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority,

The Commission decided at this meeting to meet regularly at 7PM every second and fourth Tuesday of the month in the City Hall Chambers. Their next meeting will be June 28th.

Although a time and place for future meetings has now been publicly announced I did not recall seeing any notice of this first meeting of the Commission.  I emailed the Mayor and inquired as to when notice of this meeting was given.

The Mayor replied indicating that she had “referred to the meeting” at the last City Council meeting. Unfortunately a review of the video and minutes of that Council meeting indicate that there was no announcement of when and where this first organizing meeting  of the Charter Commission would occur.   Even if the Mayor had indeed made such an announcement, it would not have fulfilled the requirements of the Open Meeting law. While the Commission has thus gotten off to a bit of a rocky start the Mayor has indicated that the live stream and minutes of this meeting will be on the city’s website and all meetings of the Commission will be open to the public and live streamed [Note: As of this morning, Saturday June 18 this archive was not on the city’s web site].

An update on the Charter Review Commission is on the Mayor’s agenda for Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Extremely Well Presented Analysis Of Threat To Saratoga Race Course

[From Thoroughbred Racing Commentary]

The distribution of the proceeds from Aqueduct’s VLT casino to NYRA

Charles Hayward  |  June 15, 2016


The casino at Aqueduct Race Track. Revenue streams from VLTs there are used by NYRA for capital improvements, operating expenses, purses and breeder awards

Disclosure: I was fired as President and CEO, along with our general counsel, from the New York Racing Association on May 4, 2012, by the NYRA board after NYRA was alleged by the State Racing and Wagering Board to have knowingly overcharged our betting customers 1 percent on all exotic wagers. At the time and to this day, I have continued to assert my innocence regarding this allegation.

Shortly after my termination from NYRA, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo took control of NYRA, announcing that he was creating a new board. As reported by Joe Drape in the New York Times on May 22, 2012: “Racing in New York will now be overseen by a board dominated by appointees of the governor and senior state legislators. But Mr. Cuomo stressed that the state takeover was designed to be short-lived, and last no longer than three years. ‘We know that the long term this is not a venture for government to run,’ Mr. Cuomo said.”

It has now been over four years since that announcement, but last Wednesday (June 8), according to an article written by Tom Precious in The Blood-Horse: “The New York Racing Association would be returned to private hands, though with a tiny leash from the state government that has controlled its operation over the past four years, according to legislation proposed June 8 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.”

Deeply saddened

The article went on to say: “The bill’s introduction also comes a day after Saratoga Springs’ John Hendrickson resigned as Cuomo’s special adviser to the NYRA board; Hendrickson said Cuomo did not take his advice, did not listen to him and was poised to take measures – including the VLT payment reduction in the new bill – that are hurting the state’s Thoroughbred racing industry.”

Anyone at all familiar with racing in New York had to be deeply saddened by this development.

It is not my intention here to write about the past, present or future of the NYRA franchise. However, I think that it is very important to review the public records regarding the NYRA 25-year franchise renewal. It is important to note that all the information contained in this article came from documents available to the general public.

NYRA went through a protracted process in securing a new 25-year franchise to run Aqueduct Race Track, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course and to receive contractual payments from Aqueduct video lottery terminals (VLTs) for the term of the franchise.

Installation of the VLT facility

During this period, on November 2, 2006, NYRA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to stabilize and protect its business pending the completion and implementation of the VLT facility. The debtor, NYRA,  continued to manage its properties and operate as a debtor in possession, in accordance with sections 1107 and 1108 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code.

On September 4, 2007, a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Governor Eliot Spitzer, representing the State of New York, awarding NYRA a 30-year franchise (later reduced to 25 years in the legislation) to run Thoroughbred racing at its three tracks, and for NYRA to receive Aqueduct VLT revenues for capital expenses, operating expenses, purses and breeder awards, and other financial considerations, in exchange for NYRA’s agreement to relinquish any present or future rights with respect to ownership of the three racetracks.

This MOU was contingent upon legislative approval.

The Senate Majority Leader at that time was Joseph Bruno, and he was critical of the Spitzer MOU and announced three State Senate public hearings to be held in September and October 2007 to review a number of aspects of the plan.

The hearings and discussions went forward, and on February 13, 2008, the New York legislature approved legislation awarding NYRA a new 25-year franchise to operate its three tracks, allowing installation of a VLT facility at Aqueduct and conveying ownership of the three racetracks to New York State.

Agreements to be negotiated

The payments to NYRA and the racing industry were set as a percentage of the net win of the Aqueduct gaming facility. Under the legislation, NYRA was to receive 4 percent for capital expenses, 3 percent for operating expenses, 6½ percent, increasing to 7½ percent in the third year, for NYRA purses and 1 percent, increasing to 1½ percent in the third year, for breeder awards. No caps or limits were set on these payments. A Federal Bankruptcy Court hearing to seek approval of the NYRA reorganization plan was set for that March.

On April 28, 2008, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved the NYRA reorganization plan. Here is a link to that publicly available NYRA confirmation plan.

The final approval by the Bankruptcy Court of the NYRA reorganization plan was contingent upon NYRA negotiating a series of agreements with the State. These agreements included:

  1. A settlement agreement with the State regarding the transfer of the NYRA land to the State and other outstanding disputes;
  2. A franchise agreement that would contractually bind NYRA and the State to the terms in the franchise legislation;
  3. Individual lease agreements for each track regarding financial terms and approved uses of the properties. Each of these agreements that was subsequently negotiated includes the specific percentages that NYRA would receive from the Aqueduct VLT operation for capital expenses, operating expenses, purses and breeder awards, as noted in the legislation for the term of the franchise.

It was essential that NYRA secure the terms of the legislation with contractual obligations on behalf of the State of New York both to conform to the bankruptcy reorganization plan and to have secure legal protection for the Aqueduct VLT payments.

Bankruptcy reorganization plan

It is important to note that NYRA’s legal team negotiated directly with legal staff from all major state government entities. The bankruptcy court had requested that these negotiated agreements with the State be finalized by June 30, but the complexity of the issues and the number of negotiating parties resulted in the negotiations continuing throughout the summer.

On September 12, 2008, NYRA emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy under a plan of reorganization reliant upon a new 25-year state franchise and secure revenue streams from VLTs at Aqueduct for capital improvements, operating expenses, purses and breeder awards.

Under the franchise agreement and the related contracts negotiated between NYRA and the State, NYRA deeded the three racetracks to the State in consideration for the operating expenses, capital expenditure, purses and breeder awards and other financial considerations.

Fast forward to where we are today.

In recent weeks, two Saratoga organizations, Concerned Citizens of Saratoga and the Saratoga Race Course Local Advisory Board, which was created by the 2008 franchise agreement to act as a liaison between NYRA and the Saratoga community, spoke out about their concerns about the State’s privatization plan for NYRA and its impact on New York racing and the Saratoga community.

Serious threat to racing and breeding

However, what concerned me most in the June 8 Tom Precious Blood-Horse article mentioned above was the suggestion from some unidentified “sources” that some reduction in payments to NYRA from Aqueduct VLTs for capital and operating expenses would be instituted. Further, NYRA would be required to seek an annual state appropriation approved by the legislature for capital expenses.

This is a far cry from the contract negotiated with the State and approved in the bankruptcy reorganization plan. This is a very serious threat to the future of Thoroughbred racing and breeding in New York.

There were some brilliant legal minds working on the NYRA bankruptcy to make certain that the contracts and obligations of the State for Aqueduct VLT monies would be unencumbered and not reduced for the term of the 25-year franchise. While the State took control of the NYRA board in May 2012, there currently are six NYRA board members, including the former chairman and two former vice chairmen, that were serving on the previous NYRA board. They most certainly are well informed regarding the existing contracts for Aqueduct VLT payments to NYRA, and equally well informed of their fiduciary responsibilities as NYRA board members.

Reporting on performance standards

One further point about the use of VLT distributions paid to NYRA: under the NYRA franchise contract, there are numerous performance standards that NYRA reports on annually to the Franchise Oversight Board (FOB), and the FOB is required to formally review the compliance with these performance standards every four years.

The standards include conditions relating to racing dates, NY state-bred races, stalls, jockey and equine safety, CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) requirements, backstretch environment, Saratoga training, handle and attendance, purse accountability, expenses and community interaction.

As a careful observer of racing jurisdictions, the issue that is consistently discussed by NY State administration officials and regulators is that “NYRA needs to be profitable before accounting for VLT distributions”. Nowhere in the NYRA performance standards is there any reference to NYRA’s use of VLT distributions, nor is there any mention anywhere else in the franchise or settlement agreements regarding this point.

The NY State legislature is scheduled to adjourn its spring-summer session tomorrow (June 16). Whatever happens this week regarding the NYRA franchise, the issue of ongoing and full payments to NYRA, horsemen and breeders from the Aqueduct VLTs needs to be properly and legally resolved.