SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city Planning Board unanimously granted Shelters of Saratoga a special use permit and approved the site plan for its Code Blue shelter on Thursday.
The special use permit was granted on 11 conditions by the board, which included that the walk-in, emergency homeless shelter only operate in accordance with state law when temperatures in the city dip below 32 degrees, and that all activities must cease at 10 p.m.
Other conditions were that a permanent neighborhood advisory council be formed and that it be made up of at least four residents who live in the immediate area of the Code Blue shelter. The shelter will be built next to Shelters of Saratoga’s Walworth Street headquarters.
“Part of what we’re trying to do is give the neighbors a voice,” board member Janet Casey told people at the meeting.
The new, permanent shelter was originally scheduled to open in December. However, legal action by 22 neighbors surrounding the proposed site filed a lawsuit in July to challenge the Planning Board’s previous approval of the project and the Zoning Board’s June dismissal of the neighbors’ appeal.
Casey said while she understands the neighbors objections to the site being built in a residential neighborhood, there are inconveniences to living in a city.
“I live near the track and during track season I’m picking up beer bottles from my front lawn,” she said to the crowd. “People have stolen my porch furniture, urinated on my lawn and I’ve stopped letting my daughter play in the front yard.
“My point is not to get into a fruitless comparison, but we live in a city and we all share the positives and negatives.”
After Thursday’s meeting, Joe Bonilla, managing partner at Albany-based Relentless Awareness public relations firm and acting spokesman for the neighbors who filed the lawsuit, said the board’s approval was “deeply disappointing.”
“This is not the right development for this neighborhood,” he said. “In the coming days, we’ll be evaluating our next steps.”
Bonilla added that he’s not sure when a judge would rule on the lawsuit.
“It could be tomorrow or months from now,” he said.
Shelters of Saratoga cleared the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals in January. The board unanimously voted that the organization’s proposed Code Blue shelter qualifies as a neighborhood rooming house, meaning the shelter can be built on Walworth Street.
It is located at Soul Saving Station Church on Henry Street in downtown Saratoga Springs and serves residents of Saratoga, Washington and Warren counties.
After voting on the Code Blue shelter, the Planning Board decided to seek a recommendation from the City Council regarding the documents they drafted.
“I have no experience in this field and I feel we’re in an awkward position to make a definitive report and final decision,” Chairman Mark Torpey told the crowd. “This is a big decision for the community and I feel we’re doing the best we can.”