Saratoga Lake Association Challenges John Witt’s Tree Removal From Watershed


A Little Background

According to an April 2 article in the Times Union, John Witt “chopped down a forest in Greenfield for his Old Stone Ridge subdivision to provide views of the Green Mountains. But the site plans approved by the Greenfield Planning Board did not show clear cutting. By the time the code enforcement got a stop-work order, the trees were gone.”

The Current Controversy

Statement From President of Saratoga Lake Association President:

The Saratoga Lake Association took the first steps to stop clear cutting of forested lands above Saratoga Lake. On March 31st  Charles Malcomb, a partner at the Hodgson Russ law firm, issued the attached demand letter to the Town of Saratoga to stop the clearing at the proposed Cedar Bluff Subdivision. In the letter Malcomb states the current actions by Witt Construction are without any required approvals and are being done in order to sidestep the review process. He further points out that the actions “are in flagrant violation of the Zoning Regulations, the Town’s subdivision laws and SEQRA” (the State Environmental Quality Review Act).  The Town has ten days to respond to the Lake Association’s demands.

SLA President, Eliot Cresswell, issued the following statement to the association membership announcing this initiative. Thus far the membership response has been positive and supportive.

MEMBERSHIP EMAIL

I’m reaching out to inform you of an action that the SLA Board of Directors has recently taken. On behalf of its membership and in fulfillment of our mission, the SLA board unanimously approved the Hodgson Russ law firm to draft and transmit a demand letter to the Town of Saratoga. The letter, which was transmitted today (attached for your reference), demands that the Town stop the tree clearing at the proposed Cedar Bluff Subdivision. The letter states that the current actions by Witt Construction are without any required approvals and are being done in order to sidestep the review process. The letter further points out that the actions are in “violation of the Zoning Regulations, the Town’s subdivision laws and SEQRA” (the State Environmental Quality Review Act). The Town has ten days to respond to the Lake Association’s demands.

As you have hopefully observed, the SLA board has made it a priority to foster engagement with all relevant localities on issues of development, environmental safeguards, watershed stewardship, and information sharing. In many respects, we have been encouraged by the response to our outreach. We are building relationships with partners who share our desire to protect the lake’s health and to find ways to work together. At the same time, we have struggled to find common cause with other partners and as such are exploring other approaches to elevate our concerns. This demand letter is one such approach.

The SLA board takes our mission and our responsibility to our members very seriously. We listen to feedback and questions we receive from you and strive to make sure our actions reflect your views and goals. The SLA board does not blindly oppose development or fail to consider the rights of landowners and business interests. What we seek is for the short- and long-term health of Saratoga Lake to be a top priority for the localities around the lake and for land-use and lake-related decision making to be done in a transparent and environmentally principled way.

I encourage you to familiarize yourself with this matter and with other issues that have an impact on the short- and long-term health of Saratoga Lake. The more curious, informed, and engaged we all are, the more likely we’ll be to find solutions with shared benefit.

As always, you can share your feedback and questions with us by emailing sla@saratogalake.org.

Thank you for your membership and your on-going trust,

Eliot Cresswell

President, SLA Board of Directors


3 thoughts on “Saratoga Lake Association Challenges John Witt’s Tree Removal From Watershed”

  1. Not only did Witt chop down a forest in Greenfield against the agreements with the Planning Board, but the trees were located on the side of a steep hill. This endangered the property of an abutting neighbor at the bottom of the hill. In addition, Witt appeared before the Zoning Board numerous times seeking area variances on the lots he had subdivided. The Board finally told him that they would not hear further requests for variances, since any problems were created by him when he originally subdivided the parcels. Planning Boards need to keep tight oversight and control over his developments.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Developers have a key advantage over citizens, in that their peremptory desecration of land nearly always gets a pass by all bodies with some regional control.
    What can be done about it?Virtually nothing. Therefore, the developers nearly always win. Grin and bear it, unless the public rallies to make the lawmakers change the rules. So sorry, but money always wins.

    Like

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