There’s a lot of anti-development sentiment in Saratoga Springs these days.
Neighbors of the old “Pink Palace” Skidmore College dorm on Union Avenue are none to happy that it might be turned into apartments. That’s what the anti-Moore (as in anti-Moore Hall) lawn signs spread around the neighborhood are all about.
Clean over on the other side of town, neighbors aren’t thrilled, either, with Saratoga Hospital’s plans for a medical office building north of the hospital, bordering a residential zone — and a residential zone for the huddled masses, at that. Nobody is against doctors having offices, of course. They just wish it were somewhere else.
Those issues have arisen in recent weeks on top of the hot-button topics of last summer and fall — whether to allow a golf course resort on the outer East Side, and what to do about the massive downtown parking garage being sought by the City Center.
None of the issues has been resolved. Film at 11, as they say.
The latter issues have divided the City Council, with no immediate prospect of their being resolved, since next year’s council will be identical to this year’s with the same split feelings on development.
The whole council just got re-elected, despite a sometimes nasty tone in some of the races and big spending by pro-development interests. None of the elections was even close.
It was most likely the most expensive city election cycle in history, with Mayor Joanne Yepsen having spent $105,000 to get re-elected and her Republican opponent, John Safford, having gone through $70,000.
The controversial new Saratoga Political Action Committee, which might best be described as being nonpartisan as long as a candidate is pro-development, spent $52,620, most of it to attack the opponents of the candidates it favored.
And yet all the PAC-endorsed candidates lost.
Students in Skidmore’s “Real Democracy” class found (obviously, I guess, given the outcomes) that those who voted didn’t like the negative ads.
The class evaluated voting patterns and even did exit interviews with more than 400 voters, the kind of thorough research newshounds would do if we weren’t so overworked.
The students found that the pace of development, along with preservation of open space, were heavy on people’s minds as they cast their ballots.
Professor Bob Turner’s class found that the city, which like most of Saratoga County has historically leaned Republican, now has basically an equal number of Democratic and Republican voters. Newcomers tend to be Democrats.
The results also showed that the passion at the moment seems to be on the side of those who oppose development.
Voter turnout fell, though, from about 8,000 two years ago to 7,037 this year. Looking at the positive side of so many people being apathetic, the students found that those who bothered to vote were better educated and better informed than most people. Maybe we should leave the voting to them, they implied.
With the Democrats again controlling four of the five council seats, city Republicans are doing some soul-searching. For sure, they need some fresh candidates two years from now.
Good thing for the GOP that peace and harmony never seem to be the order of the day when Democrats are in power in Saratoga. There will be no shortage of development issues for them to argue about for the next two years.
Stephen Williams is a Gazette reporter. Opinions expressed in his column are his own, and not necessarily the newspaper’s. He can be reached at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.