Another Neighborhood Attempts To Protect Itself From The ZBA

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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?

 

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4 thoughts on “Another Neighborhood Attempts To Protect Itself From The ZBA”

  1. While my sympathies are entirely with Mr. Millis, $499,000 for a 1/2 acre building lot in a residential neighborhood within the city limits is not without precedent. However, it’s all about location and Marion Avenue is not there yet. Here are some examples of recent vacant, residential land sales in that price range:

    1. In July, 2015, a 1/4 acre building lot adjacent to 35 Greenfield Avenue sold for $489,000.

    2. A year earlier, a slightly less than 1/2 acre lot a few blocks away, on the corner of State and First Streets, sold for about $940,000.

    3. In 2009, a nearby 1/5 acre lot on Park Alley, off Granite Street, sold for $260,000.

    One could go on with numerous examples of high-priced tear-downs in the same neighborhood (it’s where I live). In contrast, during the 1970s, you could pick-up a building lot in the same area for $4,000. High land prices are another example of why Saratoga Springs has become a victim of its own success.

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  2. Within 1/4 mile of Tracey’s house, there is a diner, a gas station owned by Stewart’s, another Stewart’s shop, a Physical therapist office (directly opposite this vacant lot) an Adirondack Trust Co. kiosk, and a mini strip mall on his own street (Maple Dell). There is an abandoned dump. There is Matt’s Towing/used car lot in Tracey’s back yard.
    This guy was never elected, he is a self-appointed president of a neighborhood association that he manipulates, whenever he feels the need to harass the owners of that corner lot.
    Whether you publish this comment or not, it would behoove you to research his past practices.

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    1. henry37 is quite incorrect. I’ve been elected every year since we started the Neighborhood Association. ALL the businesses he references are/were “Grandfathered” under the Master Plan with only Two Exceptions granted by the ZBA. Please research our Neighborhood actions since I became President. We have successfully battled against a huge Strip Mall on Loughberry Lake, a huge strip mall and later an apartment complex on Maple Avenue, and countless attempts to change Marion Avenue to “Commercial.” BUT, even if I was the World’s Greatest Manipulator; how would that change the facts? The small lot is zoned residential, right? No hardship has been proven. The entire block consists of residential houses. And 28 homeowners are against the proposal. And finally – I have never FELT the need to “Harass the owners of that corner lot.” In fact I have always appreciated the donations the owners made to all the local Civic organizations over many years. T. Millis

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    2. Henry37, I have read Tracy’s response to you and therefore will not rehash the information and history given to you regarding the continued attempts to spot zone this area. You accuse him of being a self appointed President of this neighborhood association when in fact the association has continued to elect him to that position. If this is a problem for you why don’t you run? You accuse him of manipulating the members of the association. That would mean that we are unable to make decisions about how we want to live without him telling us what to think…I assure you that is NOT the case. It would seem to me that you have a stake in having this neighborhood zoning change and it is not for the benefit of the neighborhood, it would somehow benefit you. We understand how spot zoning works. It is the first step in a domino effect. We continue to fight to prevent that door from being opened to the next step and the next step and the next step until the area is totally commercial. We have continually listened to the proponents of spot zoning telling us how good this would be for the neighborhood as it would make the properties worth more. That is not true if you are trying to live in quiet enjoyment of the property you bought and have invested in. That would not be true if you are continually dealing with encroachment of business and traffic and all the other issues that come with a zoning change. That would not be true if you now had to pay at a different tax rate because your zoning had changed. I know of what I speak…look at what is happening on the other side of Rt 50. Do you think we want that on this side? I am already greatly impacted by all of that, my neighbors don’t want the same, of course if you feel so strongly about what is good for this neighborhood and believe it will greatly benefit you to have this change maybe you should offer to buy all of the houses here and that will give you the power to do as you please. Anyone that believes spot zoning is a good thing for a neighborhood has to have a good reason for that belief ..it’s usually money. For us, we want to preserve our neighborhood. It comes down to one thing..do you value community or value money….we have chosen our community.

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