(Due to a formatting Problem, the earlier version of this post was truncated. Here is the corrected version)
In 1998, when the Saratoga National Golf Course was proposed, the developers pitched it sotto voce. The emphasis was on how it would fit into the bucolic tone of the city’s conservation district (greenbelt). One of the conditions they accepted was that they would limit their “special events” to no more than three per year. These events were defined as any gathering that required more than their regular parking. This requirement was contained in the Special Permit they were issued. This same permit allowed them two hundred regular parking spaces and another seventy-three for overflow. Geof Bourneman, who was the City Planner for many years and who was the Planner at the time, believes that the overflow was not to be included when calculating what was a special event. This would mean that they could only have three events each year that brought more than two hundred cars to their property.
It may be that at some point in the last seventeen years they were able to amend their Special Permit to allow for more spaces. I asked at the City Planning Office to review any amendments to the original permit. Unfortunately, I have had to FOIL for this and the city has about five weeks to provide it to me. I am sure I will get it but it may happen after the city decides on the SNGC expansion.
I visited the City Planning Offices on Monday at City Hall and spoke to Steve Shaw who is the Building Inspector. He is also responsible for enforcement of things like the limit on “special events” at Saratoga National Golf Course. I asked him if he knew what the limit was at SNGC for “special events?” He did not know. I asked him about how Saratoga National Golf Course is monitored for compliance. Steve is a very nice guy. He told me that the Planning Board passes many, many of these kinds of regulations on to the Planning Department without considering how they will be enforced. He was candid with me that no one was actually monitoring Saratoga National Golf Course to see that they comply. Basically he told me that if someone makes a complaint or inquiry that he would have to contact them to find out. In effect, Saratoga National Golf Course is supposed to police itself.
So I went to the Saratoga National Golf Course web site to see what kind of capacity they have for events. I cut this from their site:
Saratoga National Social Event Spaces::
- Grand Ballroom (75 – 200 guests)
- Howard Room & Lounge (20 – 50 guests)
- Crystal Room (20 – 40 guests)
- Veranda and Patio Terrace (50 – 300+ guests)
- Blue Stone Patio Tent (50 – 200+ guests)
Just a cursory review of their site turned up large events. They put on two nights of a special Travers Race party in the Blue Stone Patio Tent that their web site said was sold out. That venue holds 200+ (how much plus is plus?) As the list shows, there was plenty of capacity left in other venues on their grounds. Their restaurant, Prime, alone seats 220. What are the possibilities that on a Friday and Saturday night on Travers weekend that the restaurant was fully occupied? Sounds like we are well over four hundred people for that night.
I also noted a full page advertisement for a St. Jude “Gala” fundraiser for September 3rd. Here is a link to the web site of the sponsor. http://www.angiodynamicsforhope.com/ What are the chances that this is going to be big? So in one week, there is the real possibility that they will have filled their quota.
Given the “rigorousness” with which they have adhered to their agreement to operate a nature trail on the west side of their property, there is every chance that they are taking similar liberties with their “special events.”
Per the Building Inspector’s direction, I have sent an email inquiry regarding a potential violation at SNGC. Bearing in mind that Mr. Shaw will be asking SNGC to self report on their events, I am a little skeptical about what he will receive. I feel quite confident that whatever he may receive, it will happen after the city decides on the zoning and Comp Plan changes SNGC is seeking.
Finally, I have spoken to people who live around Lake Lonely. They tell me that to them it seems that the golf course frequently puts on fireworks events with the accompanying irritating noise. SNGC also has outdoor music which can be heard from a considerable distance. Most of us would not consider these activities consistent with the low intensity use of the Conservation District.
Here is a link to the page on the SNGC web site that promotes their hosting of weddings. Does that strike you as consistent with rural residential/agricultural environment? http://saratoganationalevents.com/weddings.php
How about corporate events: http://saratoganationalevents.com/corporate.php They offer the same facilities for these events as they do for the weddings.
The point of our Conservation District is to have an area that has “low intensity” use meant to go with the rural and bucolic character of the country part of our city in the country. It was with this in mind that SNGC was supposed to limit its “special events.” Just think what it will be like when it becomes a resort.