In an imprudent rush to initiate his three year extended outdoor dining “plan” , Saratoga Springs Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran has written to downtown business owners indicating he plans to erect barriers to build out “parklets” on city streets beginning April 1, a little over a week from today, March 23.
Efforts to convince him to establish proper notice for neighbors who will be impacted by the use of public right-of-ways for outdoor dining have been ignored as have calls for caution and the need to better define the program.
Samantha Bosshart, executive director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation and the board president, Adam Favro, have sent a letter to the City Council urging that further attention be given to the appearance of outdoor dining spaces in the city now that they will no longer be temporary.
They point out that the new ordinance allows for “‘decorations’ yet does not define what that means…”. In addition, no requirements exist for barriers, furniture, planters, lighting, etc. They urge that guidelines be established not only for esthetics but for safety, and that since these outdoor spaces will now be allowed for up to three years, that they “should receive the same thorough review that businesses with sidewalk cafes go through by the Design Review Commission…” [Their entire letter appears below.]
The establishment of standards has apparently been dismissed by the Commissioner. It is not even clear what hours these outdoor dining operations must operate within and the promised schedule of permit fees has not been issued.
Instead, Commissioner Moran has established himself as a kind of street czar. Without standards, he will determine policies on a case-by-case basis. This is an invitation to cronyism and corruption.
The big unknown of course is whether the New York State Legislature will act to extend the legislation that permitted outdoor dining designed to address the needs of restaurants during Covid. That legislation is due to expire on July 7,2022. Without this extension that would allow liquor to be served in these venues, Moran’s plan for outdoor dining will be effectively dead.
Preservation Foundation Letter
One thought on “Undaunted By Calls For Caution, Commissioner Moran Plunges On”
When I read that Commissioner Moran was going to start to build out “parklets” in our downtown, I thought it was a word he made up. But I Googled it and found out that according to Wikipedia a “parklet” is “a sidewalk extension usually installed on parking lanes and using several parking spaces. They typically extend out from the sidewalk at the level of the sidewalk.” Needless to say this sounds like a much more ambitious and permanent arrangement than we have seen the past two summers with outdoor dining. I’m not sure why some restaurants in town should be able to get the city to create these spaces for them in our public streets while other restaurants like on Broadway own and pay taxes on the land they use for outdoor dining and are subject to review by the Design Review Commission. And what do the DPW and the Police and Fire Departments think of building these parklets and where are they going??
I was also concerned to read in the Foothills Business Daily that Moran is working on finding a jersey barrier company to get the cement blocks to protect diners at these new spaces. In the past DA Collins has donated the barriers and delivered and removed them. Is Moran now planning to have the city buy and install them? What will this cost? I would think this purchase would have to be put out to bid. When is that going to happen if he plans to put these in place on April 1 which is next week?? Worst of all are these ugly structures now going to be a regular fixture in our downtown?
My biggest question, though, is why didn’t members of our city council ask some of these questions before they voted to approve this plan which is so poorly thought out and quickly morphing into chaos.
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