It’s a work in progress.
That summed up the responses to concerns brought to the comprehensive plan advisory board at the Tuesday, July 31, public hearing of the city’s comprehensive plan, and the concerns were many.
Approximately 100 people filled the City Council chambers for the hearing, bringing with them myriad concerns regarding the 80-plus page document that will shape the future of the city’s growth.
Mayor Valerie Keehn had charged the committee with reviewing the existing comprehensive plan, inventorying the assets of the city such as the downtown, the greenbelt surrounding the city and the art district and identifying how those assets can be protected and enhanced. Each commissioner made appointments to the committee.
Advisory Board Chairman Manny Choy began by thanking the 15 members of the board for their hard work and perseverance since the board’s inception last summer.
`This started out as a six-to-seven-month project,` said Choy. `We’re now going into nine months and no one has quit on me.`
Choy explained the process the board went through for the better part of the last year. The board was divided into six modules, each dealing with a specific area of interest in the city, such as sustainable growth or housing diversity, and then concepts developed by those modules were voted up or down by a majority of the board. They also invited the input from the Saratoga County planner and members of various neighborhood associations.
`It is important that you understand that we did have a very disciplined process that the committee went through,` said Choy.
One resident thought the process wasn’t disciplined enough. Jane Weihe, who is running for the commissioner of finance position this fall, took issue with the draft plan’s verbiage concerning the city’s water supply.
Weihe said she was sent an e-mail on June 9 that contained the final working draft of the comprehensive that was going out to the public.
Spotlight Newspapers has obtained a copy of this e-mail. Contained in it was a bullet point that recommended the city `continue to pursue permitting of the proposed Saratoga Lake Water Source project to meet the city’s long-terms needs for an economical, high quality and city-controlled source of potable water.`
That bullet is missing from the draft that was disseminated for the public hearing.
`My concern is that it was there and now it’s not,` said Weihe to the board members. `Is this a Harry Potter moment, or what?`
Her husband, John Kaufmann, was more direct. `Does the city still support going to Saratoga Lake for water?` he asked.
Vice chairwoman of the board Nancy Goldberg said the bullet wasn’t omitted out of malice and said its absence did not mean that the board did not endorse the Saratoga Lake water supply.
`This is a process that we’re in the middle of,` she said. `I don’t understand why we’re splitting hairs.`
Other residents had concerns over the suggested building heights in the draft plan. Allowable building heights are regulated to a maximum of 70 feet on Broadway, down to 32 feet in other areas of the city. The maximum height of a building is determined by multiplying the width of the street by .8.
Some residents pointed out that some of the more narrow streets in the city would only allow for buildings that are 16 feet high.
Others said that the new height restrictions would simply be aesthetically unpleasant.
`This is a recipe for sameness,` said George Olsen, a town of Saratoga resident who owns property in the city. `We need to look at the richness of the environment and not that one formula.`
Audio of the public hearing can be heard at www.spotlightnews.com, in the `Sights and Sounds` area. A copy of the city’s draft comprehensive plan can be found at www.saratoga-springs.org/docs/bpwebsite.asp“