A lawsuit challenging the City Council’s decision to lease land to the Saratoga Springs City Center Authority for the purpose of building a controversial, multi-story parking garage is moving forward, following a state Supreme Court judge’s ruling earlier this month.
Judge Robert Chauvin denied a request by the city and the City Center Authority to dismiss the suit, ruling that a supermajority vote of 4-1, in addition to the mayor’s support, was needed to approve the 20-year lease of city-owned land. Both are required by state law, the judge ruled, and neither was achieved when the council voted 3-2 on the proposal to lease the 2.62-acre surface parking lot to the City Center, which plans to build and operate a 480-spot parking garage on the parcel.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Accounts Commissioner John Franck opposed the lease, under which the city would be paid $50,000 per year by the City Center.
The lawsuit was brought in May by David and Diane Pedinotti, whose Mouzon House restaurant on York Street would be dwarfed by the parking garage. The suit claimed the garage would cast shade on solar panels installed on the restaurant’s roof and seal off the restaurant “from the rest of the vibrant and economically thriving downtown urban core of Saratoga Springs.”
The lawsuit was the restaurant owners’ second against the garage plan. The first, brought in October of 2015, targeted the City Council’s vote to amend the solar access ordinance to allow the garage to cast a shadow over the restaurant’s solar panels.
A motion by the city and City Center to dismiss that lawsuit is pending, said Jonathan Tingley, the attorney representing the Pedinottis. He would not comment on either case this week because they are pending.
City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis and Matthew Jones, counsel for the City Center Authority, could not be reached Friday for comment.
The parking garage plan has drawn many critics who favor using the prized downtown real estate for a mixed-use project. The city received two such proposals from private developers that would incorporate new parking, residential units and commercial space.
Parking garage opponents also point to a report prepared by the Michigan-based Carl Walker Inc. engineering firm that found the garage’s annual losses could exceed $300,000, when factoring in operating costs and debt service on $8 million in borrowing.
Outgoing City Center President Mark Baker has said the report’s revenue estimates were too conservative, and he presented revised numbers projecting a loss of $130,000 to $140,000 per year.
City Center officials say the garage is needed to meet the parking needs of the convention center and downtown.