Saratoga County

Court halts work on new indoor rec facility

A week after awarding a contract for the new indoor recreation center, the city has been banned temp
PHOTOGRAPHER:

A week after awarding a contract for the new indoor recreation center, the city has been banned temporarily from doing any work on the project.

Judge Thomas D. Nolan Jr. on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order saying that the city can’t disturb the earth at the South Side Recreation Field until after Nolan rules on a preliminary injunction brought by a group of residents who oppose building a recreation center at the Vanderbilt Avenue site.

Nolan has asked that arguments from the city and Friends of South Side Park, which filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County, be filed by March 13.

After that, Nolan will decide whether to grant a preliminary injunction further stopping the city from working on the project.

City officials have said the city has to spend $1.7 million borrowed for the project by April 1 or it will lose the ability to spend those funds.

Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim, who has voted against funding the recreation center, said the judge’s restraining order might push the city into losing the first bond.

“The clock is ticking,” he said.

Other bonds — the city has borrowed $6.5 million — have later due dates and aren’t affected by that deadline.

The citizens group was pleased with Nolan’s order.

“We’re very happy that the judge made the ruling and the park is safe, for the time being, from a bulldozer,” said Joseph Berger of the Clifton Park firm Berger, Ducharme, Harp and Clark, attorney for Friends of South Side Park.

Mayor Scott Johnson, who has led the initiative to build the indoor recreation center, emphasized that the ruling was not made based on the case’s merits.

“It is not surprising to us the court issued the temporary injunction,” Johnson said.

The citizens group said that the city deviated from its own laws by not allowing the Zoning Board of Appeals to consider the project and that state environmental review papers were incomplete.

The planned building’s footprint exceeds required setbacks on the lot and would require special permission from the zoning board if a private developer wanted to build the structure.

“In this case, the mayor refused to refer it to the zoning board even though there were area variances on this building,” Kim said.

He and Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, commissioner of public works, voted against hiring contractor Bast Hatfield of Halfmoon to build the structure for $4.9 million.

The mayor has denied the charges brought by the citizens group, saying that the city’s boards are not required to approve the city’s own projects and that state paperwork was done correctly.

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