The November 7, 2017 election offers an opportunity to raise and discuss pressing issues relating to sustainability in this region. Sustainable Saratoga distributed a brief survey to candidates in an effort to better understand their plans for addressing key sustainability issues confronting our community.
As a 501 (c)(3) organization we do not endorse any particular candidate for an elected office. Candidate responses are posted here verbatim and without any comments.
CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR OF SARATOGA SPRINGS
Mark E. Baker
The “Greenbelt Plan is a living document that set goals and expectations for the present and foreseeable future of our community. As a guide, the Greenbelt Plan should be reviewed periodically and assured that it continues to be responsive and meets the needs of our dynamic city.
The issue of traffic, transportation systems and parking is a priority for all Saratogains. We have not been responsive and pro-active in meeting current demands or following the recommendations of numerous study groups and Task Forces as well as the Chamber, DBA and citizen groups.
I support the efficient movement of pedestrian, bikers and vehicle traffic into and through our community. Getting people onto the sidewalks into the parks, shops, restaurants and amusements is paramount to maintaining the culture and spirit that makes Saratoga Springs so special as well as building our sales tax base.
As Mayor I will review and implement many of the already offered recommendations—we don’t need new ideas. What we need is municipal leadership to take first steps toward solutions.
I will support and work with the Housing Authority and city, state, federal agencies and the private sector, who are already focused and have identified needs and potential solutions. Several projects are already in the development stages. I would facilitate in moving worthy, fiscally sound projects through the review process to approval and implementation. Again, we have many of the tools and ideas but need creditable leadership to get solutions implemented.
Get the 18-wheel rigs off Broadway. Educating and informing the citizens of opportunities; Pitney Farm, tree program, recycling and alternative energy concepts. Creating leadership so the community will want to follow and embrace new concepts and initiatives.
We already have many ideas and goals but have been short on implementation and municipal leadership to engage the general population—gain buy-in. Saratoga is a special and unique community. It is not “cookie-cutter” so will need equally Specail and unique approaches to challenges and solutions. As Mayor, I have the ability to co- facilitate that process.
I support the Greenbelt plan. If elected I will not seek to adjust boundaries, uses or densities. The adopted 2015 Comprehensive Plan Saratoga Springs “City in the Country” concept reflects a city with an intensively developed urban core and an economically vibrant central business district, with well-defined urban edges and an outlaying area of rural character, comprised of agriculture, open lands, natural resources and diverse environmental resources, low density development.
I will not compromise our cities future. Our land use board members are a key factor to keep with the Comprehensive Plan. I take these appointments seriously and will vet candidates in all areas of sustainability including the Greenbelt.
I am in support of creating a parking management system plan. If elected I will meet with the council to see how we can move forward with a team approach. We will need all departments and community partners involved to bring this to fruition.
As a team we would implement the Parking Task Force recommendations. Creating an advisory board that would include a representative from each department in City Hall, Complete Streets member, Downtown Business Association, The Saratoga Chamber of Commerce, Special Assessment District, City Center Authority and the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau. This advisory team creates a plan of action. They will make recommendations to City Council.
- Decide what department the parking management will be in. Many cities have their parking under the DPW
- Incorporate complete street recommendations
- Maximize Striping on and off-street parking
- Signage (New wayfinding phase one is complete with Parking signage).
- Promotion of other modes of transportation to help reduce parking demand. (Trolley, bikes, shuttles).
- Hire a professional management company (responsible for security, ticketing, revenue collection, smart parking meter systems, maintenance, upkeep & cleaning)
As Deputy Mayor I have been involved with several affordable housing projects. One on West Ave. and one on South Broadway. South Broadway will be mixed use with affordable housing, retail and office space, restaurant/brew pub and maker space. West Ave will have 150 affordable apartments for our citizens who work in Saratoga Springs and now will be able to live here.
There are several other affordable housing plans in the development stage and will be breaking ground by year end 2018.
As mayor, I would also ask City Council to revisit the Inclusionary Zoning initiative, which would encourage affordable housing for homebuyers.
The Greenbelt Trail along with the Governor’s 750 miles of trails throughout the state will be a large economic engine for Saratoga Springs. Families, seniors and young adults will visit the trail, they will eat, shop and stay in downtown. This will bring new business into the local economy.
LED and Smart Technology Street Lights. The city owns roughly 10% of all our street lights and rents the remaining lights from National Grid. We are currently researching the methods and savings purchasing street lights.
It is a high priority of mine to secure the Sustainable Coordinator position in the 2018 budget. This position is vital to continuing the city on a sustainable economic path.
If elected I will work to:
- Complete the policy for Complete Streets
- Recreation Masterplan
- Creation of Pocket Parks
- Recycle bins in the downtown core
CANDIDATE FOR COMMISSIONER OF ACCOUNTS
John P. Franck (No response received)
CANDIDATE FOR COMMISSIONER OF FINANCE
Michele Madigan (No response received)
CANDIDATES FOR COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC SAFETY
Donald J. Braim
I support the Greenbelt Plan. The vision expressed in the 2015 Comprehensive Plan is consistent with the notion of an Urban Core surrounded by development that is much less dense and supported by open space. The vision statements in the Comprehensive Plan are important and there will always be disagreements (I’m sure I will have some) at the margins, but the real test for the community is the adoption of the zoning amendments needed to implement the plan. Unfortunately, the zoning amendments have lingered for nearly 2 ½ years since the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan. It is in the adoption of the zoning amendments that the next Council needs to maintain its focus.
The Mayor’s Parking Task Force deserves credit for assembling a comprehensive approach to transportation in the downtown area. Much of the proposal can be implemented. I am not yet convinced that paid parking in the downtown area is a good idea, and I think the Task Force should come back to the Council to make its case on that part of the proposal. We will also need clarity on how the City Center Parking Structure (when completed) fits into the plan. To date, some of the accomplishments in the downtown on transportation management are impressive (signage, for example). Budgeting for the new position will be competitive as departments seek additional resources, but we may need to incorporate the responsibilities of the coordinator with existing personnel. Some of the logistical aspects aside, the plan is a solid (and badly needed) first step.
We need to encourage public transportation downtown (CDTA), and look at alternative options to transportation, including Uber and other new companies which are becoming more popular. In order for our downtown to be successful, people must be able to park and access downtown areas easily and quickly.
For several decades affordable housing has been talked about and we have struggled with the issue. Finally, as a community, we are close to breaking ground on two important affordable housing projects, off West Avenue and the South Broadway project. This will help to alleviate some of the immediate need, but it is not the final answer. We need to ensure that other options become available so all Saratogian’s can afford to work and live here. It’s also important we place these housing options near public transportation, like the CDTA bus-lines (as are both the new projects).
Other concerns deal with the elderly being priced out of their homes. We need to make sure all of our children can afford to stay in Saratoga Springs, if they choose to do so. Again, the affordable housing issue will take a teamwork approach at the City Council table so that we can control, and avoid increasing the property tax rate while still supplying the level of services to which we have grown accustomed.
I would like to see us find the level of proper inducement – density bonuses for example – that would persuade developers to include affordable units in new construction. This is an obtainable objective that is both desirable and achievable.
We have seen great success building within the inner core, keeping vibrant business in the downtown area, and we need to continue that model. This city has developed in the past few decades, however we need to ensure that future development is well planned and consistent with the vision of the Comprehensive Plan.
It is imperative we promote and encourage clean industry businesses to locate in the Grande Industrial Park (as well as other appropriate locations). They bring in valuable tax revenue that will help us decrease the tax burden to our citizens. If we place these businesses appropriately we can create a balance between business and environmental needs.
I am an advocate for the continued development of the Saratoga Greenbelt Trail and the use of our public thoroughfares for bicyclists and others. Complete streets is a good start. I would like to see us be aggressive in supporting recreational areas and programs, open space initiatives, trails, and a variety of outdoor activities that allow our residents the quality of life opportunities that make our City shine. We have built a solid foundation toward economic vitality of our City and we are strong in tourism, education, and the arts. We still have much work to do making the outdoor experiences for our residents accessible and enjoyable.
I genuinely applaud Commissioner Madigan’s solar initiative at the former landfill. It’s creative, economical and clean. The Smart City initiative is also deserving of our support. My area of expertise will be developing and supporting initiatives (many involving technology improvements) for both our police force and our fire department. We can do better by working smarter in these areas.
Peter R. Martin
I strongly support protecting a greenbelt around Saratoga’s urban core.
The greenbelt is not a new concept for Saratoga Springs. The Comprehensive Plan adopted by the City Council in 2001 incorporated the concept of the greenbelt, as a Conservation Development District (CDD), and this concept was maintained in the 2015 Comprehensive Plan.
The CDD designation allows for low density residential, outdoor recreation, agricultural, and other rural uses utilizing land conservation methods such as clustering. The current Plan specifically acknowledges that the greenbelt includes private recreational lands and institutional open space resources such as the Saratoga National Golf Course, Yaddo, and the racetracks; public recreational lands including the Saratoga Spa State Park; wetlands and stream corridors; rural and scenic viewsheds; linkage for wildlife and recreational trails, and; farms. Commercial activities are allowed only if they support rural and recreational uses and protect valuable open space and natural resources. The maximum density in the CDD is an average of 0.5 Units/Acre of unconstrained land. The boundaries of the CDD are indicated on a map which is incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan.
If elected, I would try to maintain these protections of our city’s greenbelt, as stated in the 2015 Comprehensive Plan. I look forward to applying myself as a member of the City Council to making sure that the city’s land use codes are made consistent with the 2015 Comprehensive Plan.
At the August 2, 2016 City Council Meeting, the council voted unanimously to adopt the recommendations of the Parking Task Force, with certain specified amendments. The plan calls for the creation of an Office of Downtown Parking Management with an advisory board made up of volunteers. The plan did not specify which department the Office would report to, nor what specific authorities the Office would have. Generally, the development of a comprehensive downtown parking system that treats parking as a valuable commodity is a good idea, but the existing plan contains too few details to say whether I support it. I support revisions to our current haphazard structure of various hourly limits applied to parking spaces in our downtown. I support using 21st century technology to make finding places to park vehicles easier. I support efforts to reduce the traffic congestion caused by visitors circling our downtown blocks searching for a parking space and merchants moving their vehicles frequently to comply with hourly restrictions. If elected, I would try to combine the recommendations of the Parking Taskforce with other recommendations made at the council table to better use our existing and currently planned parking spaces.
We need a variety of approaches to achieve this worthwhile goal. We should take advantage of Federal and State programs promoting site specific workforce housing, as currently proposed for projects on South Broadway and near West Avenue. While revising our city code to conform to the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan, we should examine the capacity for increased density in certain residential areas of the city to allow additions (e.g. residences over garages) if used exclusively for workforce housing. Working with banks and contractors, we should re-examine inclusionary zoning with different formulas that will meet our community needs. We need to adopt enhanced alternative transportation, including mass transportation, so that our city will be accessible to those who cannot afford to maintain a car and garage/parking space. We should not fear looking to other municipalities for plans that have been successful, even as we take great pride in our own city.
We need more economic diversity. Currently, the major economic drivers in our area are tourism and entertainment, high tech manufacturing, education, healthcare and agriculture (including equine). We also have some traditional manufacturing and military in or near our city. This mix is more diverse than many cities our size, but we are missing some key industries and we have lost our spot on the cutting edge of others. Specifically, we need to develop more of a downtown professional office segment. Generally, successful professional businesses attract more professionals, often with a low environmental footprint (especially if we achieve solutions for parking (question 3 above) and mass transportation. We have a robust tourism and entertainment industry, but we should be looking at future trends. Across the country, tourism is becoming more active/ physical. I have been working on completion of the Greenbelt Trail, but this is only one piece of active tourism. We need to develop public/private partnerships that will enhance active tourism in and near Saratoga Springs. We have two economic development organizations and several non-profit organizations that can help us with these goals.
If elected, implementing Complete Streets will be among my highest priorities. We have adopted a Complete Streets Plan that aims to improve safety, connectivity, and accessibility for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit users in our neighborhoods. Complete Streets incorporate the needs of all modes of transportation and, as a result, improves the safety, health, economy, and environment of a community. We must address the challenges posed by an older city with resolve and dedication to improving our paths, sidewalks, transportation hubs, etc.
As stated in answer to Question #4, I have actively supported and assisted in the development of the Greenbelt Trail and fi elected, I will continue to support that wonderful addition to our city. Recycling, composting and green energy initiatives are also important.
Several years ago, the city performed an energy survey on its existing buildings. We now have new opportunities to address energy efficiency as we plan for a new courtroom in city hall (and other department projects in our historic building. Also, with the loss of the Public Works building to fire earlier this year, we have an opportunity to replace that facility with a more energy efficient structure.
CANDIDATE FOR COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC WORKS
Anthony Skip Scirocco (No response received)
CANDIDATES FOR COUNTY SUPERVISOR
Patricia A. Friesen
I am absolutely in favor of maintaining the green belt as put forward in the Comprehensive Plan and maintaining our status as the City in the Country. At the same time, I realize there may be differences of opinion with regard to how to maintain the green belt and its exact boundaries, its uses and allowable densities. I am a listener and always make every effort to find thoughtful, evidence-based consensus by bringing all stakeholders and the public in on discussions. But... bottom line...the green belt must always remain.
Parking and development are both the issues of the day and one is affected by the other. The parking issue is huge and requires creative solutions. The plan has been adopted and should be implemented. The first thing is public awareness of the plan and getting the community on board to support. Then the public needs to organize to insist that the plan be implemented.
Included in that plan is the idea of paid street parking which I agree should be seriously considered. Other communities including Albany use a paid parking system that works very well and would curb some of the parking issues while at the same time bring in revenue for the city. This part of the plan is probably the hardest sell to community members so they need to be informed and brought in on the discussion. The public should be informed on the full plan to gain support and in turn see that the City Council implements.
I fully support the recent efforts of Sustainable Saratoga along with the City Council to actively develop workforce housing and development options. Fortunately there are two out of three workforce housing projects approved that will address the lack of housing for people who work in our city but cannot afford to live. There is a third project up for approval and I support that effort. At the same time, we need to continue to address the need for even more affordable housing and stay on top of the needs in our community while requiring developers to meet affordability and diversity needs of our community members. There also needs to be thoughtful planning to make sure the structures fit into the vision and comprehensive plan for our city in the country incorporating green space, trees, and streetscapes that aesthetically fit into the basic design of the city. All people who work in our city should have the ability to live in and enjoy our city and everything it has to offer.
A city such as Saratoga Springs located in the fastest growing county in the state needs to continually maintain robust oversight and creative and thoughtful planning because of the many development options and proposals being presented. Strong public input and participation should be encouraged to see that those who make the decisions are addressing the environmental impact, parking, water, sewage, and waste infrastructure. Another concern are large trucks that are continually coming into the heart of town for deliveries etc. This I feel needs to be addressed as our down town streets were not built to accommodate these massive vehicles.
Saratoga has accomplished so much by being a Certified Climate Smart Community and we need to continue working with the Capital District Regional Planning Commission and developing protections that meld development with sustainability. An active city council that listens to its residents and works with developers to meet the needs of a healthy environment would be the best solution. All stakeholders need to be at the table.
The Saratoga Greenbelt Trail offers safe, attractive trails for walkers to enjoy exercise and the outdoors. I am fortunate enough to live near the entrance of the newly completed Spring trail and it is beautifully done overlooking a creek and wetlands. It is such a beautiful addition to the city and its many quality of life offerings.
The idea of complete streets fits beautifully into the planning for our city as it allows a safe path on the side of a street designated for alternative modes of transportation such as biking and walking. I would also love to see more neighborhood sidewalks. Sidewalks was one of the main reasons I chose to build my former home in its neighborhood. The new bike sharing program is encouraging all to bike when able and the complete streets proposal allows community members to use those bikes and enjoy them more safely.
Tree Toga is a fabulous program on so many levels and I was honored to actually participate this year in planting a new tree in a family's yard. There is nothing more lovely than a tree lined street scape ...it is beautiful, it offers shade on a warm day, homes for birds and creatures and just enhances our our lives and beyond. And of course, they have a very positive environmental impact.The northeast abounds with trees but we can never have too many! As a child, growing up in Texas I longed for large, green trees to sit under, to climb, and to enjoy the natural beauty and now I have them!...though I am not climbing them these days!
As far as other initiatives, I would like to see Saratoga model itself after other modern cities that are adopting environmental policy for sustainable urban development, clean water and air, noise pollution reduction , parking and waste. We can learn so much from European cities who work to ensure urban environmental standards, and NYSERDA can assist as they did with the establishment and building of our new Solar Park. Both DEC and NYSERDA can assist in science-based leadership to keep Saratoga moving in the right direction in order to maintain a healthy environment. One of the things that I have loved in European cities is seeing large buildings with vertical gardens on the face of the buildings as well as rooftops. It is stunningly beautiful and again, contributes to a healthier and esthetically pleasing environment.
Tara N. Gaston
I fully support the greenbelt plan, although I would also like to see more protected bike lanes throughout the City and County to make biking safer and more accessible for all residents. While a County Supervisor would not be able to make much impact on the plans within the City itself, I would support the development and funding of trails and connections throughout the area.
Parking within the City would be outside the purview of the County Supervisor, but I would support any parking plan that encourages alternative methods of transportation, ideally cost- shifting to less environmentally-friendly methods of travel.
Housing within the City would be outside the purview of the County Supervisor, but would support the development of diverse and affordable housing within the City by developing a forward-thinking plan for infrastructure that supports higher-density housing, and also making certain that public health and social programming stays within the City, or easily accessible. I would also encourage the development of public and alternative private transportation methods, including walking, biking, and hybrid vehicles, to support building off the core downtown but within the City to reduce sprawl.
I believe that when looking for new economic opportunities for the area, we should focus on those that will stay and become a part of the community. This will hopefully minimize the need for new construction and development to support the business. I believe that the County and City should provide additional benefits for businesses who utilize sustainable practices, such as using renewable energy, being carbon neutral, encouraging the use of sustainable practices by their employees, etc. I also believe that rather than focusing on “high-tech” industries in the micro sense, that we should try to attract sustainable high-tech industry that will work with educational facilities, as well as County training and employment resources, to build a pipeline of workers in renewable energy, mass transit, and sustainable building practices.
I would definitely support and retain the Greenbelt Trail and Complete Streets programs, which I believe are essential to keeping us healthy, on the City and government levels. I would like to see more frequent hazardous/household waste days, at least once a quarter, to minimize inappropriate waste disposal. I would like to work with Pitney Farm and other area agriculture to develop programming to support urban gardening, composting, and general healthy cooking.
John F. Safford (No response received)
Matthew E. Veitch
Saratoga Springs has done the right thing over the years by creating a Zoning plan that concentrates development within the urban core and has less dense development in the ‘greenbelt’ or outer districts of the City limits. It has made our City a desirable place to live, to work, and to raise a family. I think the boundaries of the greenbelt are fine as they are. I do believe the next challenge for the City of Saratoga Springs is the ‘outer downtown’ districts such as South Broadway and Excelsior Avenue, and out toward West Avenue and the railroad station. Those areas are a great opportunity for the city both economically, but also for smart development. Those areas need to grow in a complementary way to Downtown, not as competition for downtown business. Further out into the greenbelt, if there are projects that would not be generally allowed, I do believe each proposal should be weighed on its merits, and allowances should be used sparingly with review from the City’s Land-Use boards. I would be against a total prohibition of all potential projects that do not fit zoning in the greenbelt area.
I am supportive of the Parking Management Plan that was adopted by the City Council, and would like to see the recommendations made by the Parking Task Force studied an implemented. As Supervisor, there is little I can do to directly implement the plan other than to urge the City Council members to move forward with the plan.
As County Supervisor, I do not have any direct involvement in any Zoning or Planning decisions at the City level. But I would advocate for any myriad of possible solutions for more diverse and affordable housing. There may be tax credits or other financial assistance available for those who are currently in Saratoga Springs that may need it. If there isn’t those programs available, I would advocate for the City to start one. Adjusting some Zoning may be appropriate to incorporate smaller housing units on smaller parcels to create market-rate, more affordable units. More mixed-use allowances such as multi-family units in some single-family areas could also be a solution. There may be other options for small units within larger buildings that could be built. Allowing secondary structures such as carriage houses to be converted into housing units should be encouraged in any Zoning review or amendment process. There may be opportunities to partner with our County neighbors on affordable housing projects as well, as our immediate surrounding communities also have increasing housing values, making affordability a challenge in our County.
There are several things I would do to promote Sustainable Economic Development. The first I had already mentioned, which is to make sure we properly develop the ‘outer downtown’ area. There is no stated provision for any open spaces in those districts, such as ‘pocket parks’ or other types of public space. As Saratoga develops outward, we must be cognizant of the fact that people need public spaces and parks in all areas. Additionally, finding the right types of development are also important. Saratoga Springs has a lot of hotel and retail development, and those are good for our tourist economy, but we also must consider other types of businesses, such as tech and other small businesses that do not place a large burden on our environment, and are less susceptible to an economic downturn in our economy. ‘Clean’ buildings in our industrial zones are also preferred. Looking for State tax credits and other incentives to promote ‘green’ buildings through our IDA should be looked at when we are looking to located businesses to our City and County.
I have been an advocate for Open Space preservation and Trail development in Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County throughout my tenure as Supervisor. I began the idea of having a Trails Committee at the Board of Supervisors, which exists to this day. That County Committee has built and maintains over 10 miles of hiking trails on County Forest parcels. Additionally, as Chair of the Open Space Committee we were involved in the Conservation Easement for the Pitney Farm and the purchase of several parcels that will help protect Loughberry Lake, our primary drinking water source. I would like to see the City begin a process of purchasing parcels nearer to downtown for ‘Pocket Parks’ to create small public spaces for people to take rest within the urban area of our City. Additionally, I am bringing forth a plan at the County level to designate County roads as ‘Bike Routes’ in keeping with the Complete Streets concept, at a different level. Where the shoulders on existing roads are minimum, I would push for making them wider for cyclists as well as for pedestrians. My hope is to expand some of the good programs the City has done, such as the solar park, to the County so that we can achieve a more sustainable County.