Commissioner Moran Schedules Yet Another Meaningless Public Hearing

In Search Of Proposed Code?

On the preliminary agenda for Tuesday night’s (5/3/22) Saratoga Springs City Council meeting is yet another meaningless public hearing. The current City Council members confuse scheduling public hearings with providing a real opportunity for public input. They repeatedly have scheduled these hearings but neglect to tell the public what it is they are being invited to comment on. The public hearing on amending the “City code Re: Alcohol Sales and Use ” is just the latest example of this.

This time I presume it is Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran who is responsible for this hearing. I’m guessing this has to do with some of the ideas he threw out at the last City Council meeting about extending outdoor alcohol consumption in public spaces but who really knows since the specific wording of the changes to the city code are not provided.

What is the point of asking the public to comment on a change to the city code if the public is not provided with a copy of the proposed language? The devil is always in the details so seeing the proposed changes in writing is essential for the public to be able to constructively respond.

This is just another unfortunate example of this new Council claiming to provide transparency as they stumble forward.

3 thoughts on “Commissioner Moran Schedules Yet Another Meaningless Public Hearing”

    1. I agree that it is difficult to comment during a Public Hearing if there is not adequate information on what the hearing is supposed to pertain to. I cannot find a code titled ‘Alcohol Sales and Use’ anywhere on the City website. The hearing should include the specific Chapter of the Code that is being considered for amendment.

      Chapter 61, Alcoholic Beverages, is the open container law. Chapter 136, Lodging and Eating and Drinking Establishments, has multiple sections and sub-sections, including 136-24 through 32 on Sidewalk Cafes and 136-33.1 through 33.11 on Temporary Outdoor Seating Area Permits. I assume that the hearing is about Chapter 136-33.9 which gives the City Council the power to extend legalization of the Temporary Outdoor Seating Area Permits after the September 7, 2020 expiration of these expanded eating and drinking venues.

      I have no problem with the seasonal expansion of the outdoor eating and drinking. However, I think a better approach would be to amend the Chapter 136-24, which authorizes our Sidewalk Cafes and has worked well for years, to include a section on Temporary Outdoor Seating. There is an odd inconsistency between Chapter 136-24 through 32 and Chapter 136-33.1 through 33.11. The Sidewalk Cafe ordinance limits sales of alcohol to 2:00 AM and service of any kind on the outdoor cafe to 2:30 AM. The Temporary Outdoor Seating Area Permits ordinance has no such restriction. I would think that potential adverse impacts of late night service involving the Temporary Outdoor Seating would be more significant than for the Sidewalk Cafes.

      Any time that a drinking establishment makes a change in their operations such as adding outdoor dining, they must first inform the NYS SLA. There is a 6 page form to be filled out (specifically page 6 for outdoor dining). They cannot serve alcohol in those portions of their businesses until they receive approval. The SLA seldom objects. When a municipality imposes further restrictions on an establishment such as the City’s restriction on alcohol after 2:00 AM on the Sidewalk Cafes, the SLA incorporates those restrictions into the SLA license agreement with the establishment. The SLA requires that they abide by both state and local laws.

      The SLA has over the years become more accepting of local input. In NYC, last call hours are determined by Neighborhood Associations, not by statewide allowances, and nearly all new liquor licenses in NYC have a 2:00 AM last call. Of course, in the rest of the state, last call for alcohol sales varies widely with fewer counties allowing sales until 4:00 AM. Warren and Essex Counties were the latest in our area to change last call to 3:00 AM. Both counties experienced fewer incidents of rowdiness, violence and disruption. Unfortunately, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors has been reluctant to make this change.

      Chris Mathiesen

      Liked by 1 person

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