The Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council has sued the village Zoning Board of Appeals to overturn a recent ruling that the social services agency can’t locate in a downtown building.
The lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court for Saratoga County calls the ZBA’s July 25 decision that the agency doesn’t qualify for a variance “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.”
The board ruled 5-1 that the private non-profit organization doesn’t qualify as providing “vital human services” under the village zoning code. People spoke in both in support and opposition during a public hearing before the vote.
Village zoning requires that the first floors of central business district buildings be used only for retail sales, though providing “vital human services” can be an exception.
The EOC, which is currently located on New Street in Saratoga Springs, wants to move to the Hayner House building on Bath Street, at the western edge of the downtown area. The building has been used most recently as offices for the Ballston Spa National Bank, but is currently empty.
EOC’s request was opposed by Mayor John Romano and some retail business owners, who said the Hayner House could be used for retail sales, as zoning requires.
In court papers, EOC attorney Mark Schachner of Glens Falls said EOC demonstrated during the July 25 hearing “that its services clearly fall within the definition” of “vital human services.”
The village zoning code defines “vital human services” as “any health-related services such as doctors, dentists, physical therapists, hair and skin care and other necessary human services.”
EOC provides government-funded social benefit programs, including the Women, Infant and Child feeding program, the Head Start preschool program, home weatherization programs, Wheels for Work, and the Latino Community Advocacy Program. EOC officials want to use the Hayner House for some program services and also for administrative offices.
“EOC’s documentation made clear that EOC provides health-related services and services that meet basic human needs,” Schachner wrote in court papers.
Village Attorney James Fauci did not respond to a request for comment.
EOC officials said they’ve outgrown their current Saratoga Springs location, and for the last two years they’ve been looking elsewhere.
In 2010, EOC took an option on the Manna’s restaurant building on Low Street, though it later withdrew due to business opposition. However, Schachner noted that the village code officer at that time initially found that EOC qualified as providing “vital human services.”
Code Enforcement Officer Randy Lloyd reversed that decision when EOC applied to use the Hayner House, and EOC then appealed to the ZBA, which supported Lloyd.
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