Sustainable Saratoga urges the City Council to have a better public process for the development of public lands

For over ten years, Sustainable Saratoga has advocated for improving the sustainability and quality of life for current and future residents of Saratoga Springs. We have hosted educational forums; added hundreds of trees to our urban forest; established a Repair Café to fix rather than trash broken items; and most recently, we organized our second successful Saratoga Recycles Day where about 800 residents were able to recycle or repurpose 26 tons of electronics, 4 tons of clothing/textiles, and over 100 bikes, diverting these items from landfills. These are just a few of the initiatives that our organization has created to improve our community. Equally important, we have been consistent proponents of smart land use and an open and transparent government where the citizens are engaged.

Sustainable Saratoga knows it is important to stay informed and advocate for sustainable decision-making in our local government. We were disappointed to hear that the City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution on November 5 that encourages the City Center to spend $250,000 to develop detailed drawings of a new parking structure on the City-owned High Rock parcel (see map below). Sustainable Saratoga believes the community should be included in making decisions about this important piece of property before any commitments are made. Therefore, we recently sent a letter to the City Council asking them to postpone the November 5 vote and undertake a more careful and complete planning process that encourages public participation. Read our position on this issue below and then contact the City Council to voice your opinion.

Mayor Meg Kelly: meg.kelly@saratoga-springs.org

Commissioner of Accounts John Franck: john.franck@saratoga-springs.org

Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan: michele.madigan@saratoga-springs.org

Commissioner of Public Safety Peter Martin: peter.martin@saratoga-springs.org

Commissioner of Public Works Skip Scirocco: skip.scirocco@saratoga-springs.org

Map of the location of the proposed Flat Rock Center from The LA Group’s presentation to City Council

FLAT ROCK CENTER – WE NEED A BETTER PUBLIC PROCESS

What would you do with the largest undeveloped City-owned parcel in the urban core? As a taxpayer, do you think you should have a say? On November 5, the City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution to encourage the City Center to spend $250,000 to develop detailed engineering drawings for a new parking structure on the City owned High Rock parking lot parcel. Sustainable Saratoga has long advocated for transparency in our local government; we believe the community should be included in making decisions about such an important piece of property.

The City Council has a new conceptual plan for the full development of the High Rock parcel – now called Flat Rock Center. The major feature of the plan is a parking garage with 754 spaces, nearly 300 spaces larger than the earlier City Center proposal. A small committee, meeting behind closed doors, created the plan and presented it to the City Council on July 17 – in the middle of the summer when few people pay attention to government business. The Council has not solicited public comments or held any hearings.

Sustainable Saratoga does not object to the City Center building parking for its own use. What we oppose is the lack of a public process to comprehensively plan for the entire parcel – a very important piece of public land in the downtown area.

This is a rendering of the Flat Rock Center concept plans created by The LA Group that were presented at the City Council meeting on July 17, 2018 (renderings were taken from The LA Group’s presentation, which can be accessed here).

Just last week we were made aware of the upcoming resolution and had a chance to discuss the conceptual plan. Clearly there are some improvements over the original City Center garage proposal, but there are also many unanswered questions.

  • How does this plan fully embrace the zoning requirements for vibrant mixed uses in the core of the city?
  • Why has the idea of a multi-modal transportation center been rejected?
  • Could there be more incubator commercial spaces along the street facades?
  • Parking garage construction and maintenance are enormously expensive. Who is funding which portions of the proposal, and what is the financing plan?
  • Why is the Council supporting the expenditure of millions of dollars on a parking garage without first implementing its adopted citywide managed parking strategy?
  • How did they determine how big the parking structure should be?

These are questions that the City Council – not the City Center Authority – should take the lead in answering through a process that seriously solicits public input. They should develop and adopt a concept plan with public support before letting the City Center spend $250,000 on a detailed design.

This is a very important piece of public land in the downtown area, and decisions about its development should not be rushed. The City Council should postpone the November 5 vote and take the time to undertake a more careful and complete planning process that encourages public participation.

This rendering was taken from the conceptual plans created by The LA Group for the Flat Rock Center, which can be accessed here.
November 2nd, 2018|Hot Topics, News|