Groups At Odds Over Saratoga Springs Parking Garage Plan

Jan 14, 2015

Credit myparkingsign.com

As Saratoga Springs continues to develop and expand its famed downtown, parking has been a perennial issue. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports a proposed parking garage is the subject of fierce debate.

The Saratoga Springs City Center over the past several months has developed a plan to build a multi-story parking facility with space for about 500 vehicles. Anyone who has circled Broadway on a Friday night would agree downtown needs more parking, but some residents have taken issue with the proposed location, behind the City Center by a local park. Parties for and against the structure have spoken out at several public meetings.

A petition at change.org directed to city planner Kate Maynard suggests that the proposal would cut off the High Rock Park from the rest of the city and create a “dead zone” on adjacent Maple Avenue. Since launching in November, the petition has gathered more than 520 signatures.

The City Center Authority went before the city Zoning Board of Appeals this week seeking a variance on its current plan for the garage.

Jonathan Tingley, an attorney representing the owners of the nearby Mouzon House restaurant, said the current plan violates zoning law, because it would cast a shadow on the restaurant’s rooftop solar panels.

“At that particular location, given the solar access provision of the zoning ordinance, the garage can only be a height of 28 feet tall. The City Center Authority is proposing a building that’s 70 feet tall. Now, is this a self-imposed hardship? Well, they have 2.6 acres to work with and they’ve decided to locate the garage as close to the Mouzon House as possible, while also keeping it at 70 feet.”

Attorney Matthew Jones, who is representing the City Center Authority, did not return a call in time for broadcast.

The applicants have already offered some design changes, although issues remain. In December before the City Planning Board, a number of parties expressed their opinions, including Jere Tatich, President of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation.

“While the design changes presented reduce the mass of the structure at Maple Ave., the Foundation still feels strongly that the multiple decks of the parking bridging over Maple Ave. is detrimental to the character of the roadway corridor, and it’s functionality as a visual links between the downtown districts.”

At the same meeting, Shawn Goodway, General Manager of the Saratoga Springs Hilton, which is attached to the City Center, spoke in favor of the plan.

“It’s important that we have parking. I challenge anybody to come by Saturday night around 7:30 and find a parking spot within a quarter mile of my hotel and the City Center.”

Goodway argued with increased development in the surrounding area, including the Albany Convention Center project, Saratoga must do its part to keep its convention and tourism business afloat.

“They’re doing their best to revitalize their area. We need to stay out in front of what’s happening there. If we lose groups that come to Saratoga down to Albany, there will be a real impact on Saratoga.”

Also at the December Planning Board meeting, Charles Holub, president of the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, said he welcomed changes to the plan offered by City Center President Mark Baker.

“Mr. Baker’s suggestion that the ground-floor area of the proposed structure designated as a community area and the adjacent ground-floor park in the area could possibly be used as a winter market area with some later adaptations was encouraging.”

Another adjustment to the plan would include an extended walking path into High Rock Park, where the Farmers’ Market operates in the summer, which Holub was also in favor of.

Baker said the City Center will consider more input, and hopes the zoning issue regarding the Mouzon House’s solar panels can be resolved.

“Future design, certainly, is something we’re going to look at as we go to DRC, and they’re going to be open to comments and suggestions of the Design Review Comission as to what they think, and what they’re seeing, and we want to be compliant to the degree and their ability to respond.” 

At Monday night’s zoning meeting, the Zoning Board tabled the City Center Authority’s request for a variance, and discussion will resume at a meeting scheduled for January 26th.