Interesting article in Saratoga Today by Marissa Gonzalez on the city shutting down Gary Stone’s driving range on Weibel Avenue. What I find of interest, but not surprising, was that Mr. Stone could ignore the zoning laws of our city for so long. In the article he asks, “If there were no permits, how could it be running for twenty years?” The answer is that the city has done an appalling job of enforcing the zoning laws. The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals has set the tone by forgiving pretty much every land owner/developer who comes before them asking that they approve a variance after the fact. In Mr. Stone’s case a court upheld the city’s determination that he had 79 violations. In fact fifteen years ago, a court found Mr. Stone in contempt for his violations. He is the poster child for the utter failure of administrations both Republican and Democratic to enforce the city’s land use laws.
I will happily credit Mayor Kelly’s administration for doing what other administrations simply ignored.
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Interesting thoughts, but castigating the city for not enforcing its zoning laws is somewhat an overreach John, a practice that more recently has been shared by some city land boards in their decisions, and some critics suggesting perfection and nirvana from their city charter. Allegations of ultra vires rulings and broad sweep accusations are comparable when attempting to distort the comprehensive work of these boards and the municipality. I don’t have a horse in this particular race, but I have accused those commissions of the former charge, realizing that they falter when they are not apprised of their oversight. That my friend, is education, which comes from many sources, such as from support staff, professional seminars and even, public responses. Zoning and its cousin, Building Codes are the legislative tools a community has in their tool boxes to address both the review of new work, preexisting and non-conforming structures and those which most do not like to discuss, unpermitted “dirty hands” construction. There is clearly an attitude of late, of, “don’t ask permission”, ask instead for leniency after the fact. In medieval days, they would stage a hanging in town square to let the people know one meant business.
As you know, one of the purposes of zoning is to protect property values. The juxtaposition of mixed zones in the inner district neighborhoods is a product of preexisting construction and development, yet the rule of law assures that the municipality will stand by its authority to carry out its mandate. Whether or not this offender has affected the values of his adjacent property is not the issue, yet addressing it, having been given the light of day, will require an application, a public review and hopefully they’ll be no sounds of the construction of gallows in Congress Park.
Six months into her new role as Mayor, Meg Kelly has been hard to work, first to assuage a community that has endured the latest chapter in a 12-year war and then to address a myriad of issues, such as these, while maintaining the face of her office. I trust we are in good hands, although married to a judge, the sounds and ceremony of gallows could be tempting.