The owners of the Mouzon House restaurant and others have sued the City Council over its approval last month of a long-term lease of land to the Saratoga Springs City Center Authority, which plans to build a controversial multi-story parking garage on the site. The site is located next to the restaurant.
The lawsuit, filed last Thursday in state Supreme Court in Ballston Spa, seeks to have a judge annul the lease approval on the grounds that the council’s narrow 3-2 approval of the measure makes it invalid, in part because it lacked the support of Mayor Joanne Yepsen.
The new lawsuit is the second over the garage plan brought by the Mouzon House, which last October sued over the city’s amending of its solar access ordinance so that the garage could cast a shadow during certain times of year on the solar panels installed on the Mouzon House.
The 2.62-acre city property, which is now a surface parking lot, is next door to the Mouzon House property on York Street. On the west, it is across Maple Avenue from the City Center, which wants to built a 480-spot parking garage to meet what its says is a need for additional parking for its convention business. The added parking would also be available to other downtown patrons.
In the lawsuit, restaurant owners David and Dianne Pedinotti note the solar access issue, but go on to say that construction of a parking garage “further will damage the Mouzon House restaurant business by effectively sealing off the Mouzon House restaurant from the rest of the vibrant and economically thriving downtown urban core of Saratoga Springs.”
The council’s vote on the 20-year lease came after the city solicited proposals from private developers for a parking garage that would also have included mixed-use development — a proposal the Pedinottis said they could support because it would bring people other than those seeking parking into the area. Two developers responded last September with proposals that city officials reviewed.
The City Council majority concluded that the two proposals were vague and probably didn’t provide as much parking as needed, given that some of the parking would be set aside for tenants.
At a public hearing before the vote, the Mouzon House’s lawyer argued that the lease of public land required a three-fourths majority of the council for approval — a standard not met by the 3-2 vote.
At the time, City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis said he was unaware of any such requirement.
Yepsen and Accounts Commissioner John Franck opposed the lease, under which the city will be paid $50,000 per year by the City Center. The lawsuit also argues that Yepsen’s opposition made the lease approval invalid, because it argues that state law “confers upon the office of mayor the power to approve or disapprove a proposed lease of city real property.”
Several people identified as city taxpayers are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit along with the Pedinottis.
The previous lawsuit over the solar access law remains pending before state Supreme Court Judge Thomas D. Nolan Jr. in Ballston Spa.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.