A downtown developer is suing the town of Malta, asserting it shouldn’t have to pay nearly $56,000 in recreation fees to the town for an apartment project.
Saratoga Boulevard Apartments Inc. said there are no legal grounds for the town charging the fee to its project, and also that it will be spending more than $1 million on a recreation center as part of its 214-unit project.
“There is no basis in the [form-based downtown zoning code] giving the town legal authority to assess such a recreation fee,” the company, whose principal is Robert Hayes of Saratoga Springs, asserts in court papers filed last week in state Supreme Court in Ballston Spa.
Work on the $30 million project off Saratoga Village Boulevard, called The Lofts at Saratoga Boulevard, began last fall. Just southwest of the routes 9 and 67 roundabout, it’s in an area where high-density projects that meet certain architectural standards — which this one did — can be approved entirely by town planning department staff, with no Town Board review and limited Planning Board review.
In court papers, the company said it purchased only five of a possible 18 building permits after being informed of the fee when a representative applied for the permits. It paid about half the fee — or $28,600 — as required to get the building permits, but did so under protest.
The town collects a variety of fees from developers, including a townwide environmental impact fee, an open space mitigation fee, a traffic mitigation fee and a commercial recreation mitigation fee. The town engineer estimated those fees — not including the disputed recreation fee — at $136,000, according to court papers.
The developer contends his project doesn’t owe the recreation fees because it is a residential project, not a commercial project, and also doesn’t owe them under subdivision regulations because land isn’t being subdivided.
In a Jan. 5 letter responding to Hayes’ objections, town code enforcement officer Wayne Hoffman said similar projects have been assessed recreation fees in the past and recommended the charge — 46 cents per square foot — for the new apartments.
“It is my opinion that recreation mitigation fees should be paid by the Lofts in the same manner as would be paid by a residential subdivision,” Hoffman wrote. “An apartment complex is a commercial project from the perspective of the building/owner, but a residential project with respect to its actual use.”
Hoffman also informed Hayes the town has no authority to give him credit for the $1 million he is investing in on-site recreational amenities, as he had also sought.
The town recreation fee is used for the development and capital improvement of town parks and open space.
The developer is asking a state Supreme Court judge to declare the recreation fee does not apply to the project and that the town must return the $28,600 paid in November.
Categories: Schenectady County