SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Franklin Street residents who oppose the Shelters of Saratoga’s proposed Code Blue shelter have filed another legal action.
The group of 22 neighbors filed an Article 78 challenging the April 19 decision by the City of Saratoga Springs Planning Board, which allowed Shelters of Saratoga to build a Code Blue shelter next to its Walworth Street headquarters.
The walk-in, emergency homeless shelter, which operates in accordance with state law when temperatures in the city dip below 32 degrees, was originally scheduled to open in December.
However, the neighbors filed an Article 78 filed in July to challenge the Planning Board’s previous approval of the project and the Zoning Board’s June dismissal of the neighbors’ lawsuit.
The Planning Board granted Shelters of Saratoga a special use permit on April 19 on 11 conditions, which include that all activities at the Code Blue shelter must cease by 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.
Joe Bonilla, managing partner at Albany-based Relentless Awareness public relations firm and spokesman for the neighbors who filed the lawsuit, said in a prepared statement that the city erred in its failure to speak with neighbors about the project before granting approval.
“The Planning Board, in their decision, relied heavily upon the Neighborhood Advisory Council concept, yet Shelters and the Board never asked nor solicited neighbors to be members of the so-called council,” Bonilla said in the prepared statement. “Further, the neighbors would never comprise a majority of the council, with four out of 10 proposed seats.”
The Code Blue shelter was formerly housed at St. Peter’s Parish Center and the Salvation Army building before relocating to the Soul Saving Station Church on Henry Street in downtown Saratoga Springs. The shelter serves residents of Saratoga, Washington and Warren counties.
The residents are represented by attorneys Claudia K. Braymer and John J. Henry.
They also want the city to consider Bethesda Episcopal Church as an option for the permanent home of the Code Blue shelter.
On April 2, the church publicly invited Shelters of Saratoga, Saratoga County and the city to explore using the Washington Street church’s proposed new parish house and community center as a permanent site for Code Blue.
“As reported, an alternative, shovel-ready Code Blue site by Bethesda Episcopal Church in a truly mixed-use zoned location in a more central portion of our city exists,” states the press release issued on behalf of the residents.
On Jan. 8, the Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously voted that the Code Blue shelter would qualify as a neighborhood rooming house, meaning the shelter can be built on Walworth Street.
Ed and Lisa Mitzen, who own Fingerpaint Marketing on Broadway, have agreed to fund the new shelter, and Sonny Bonacio, of Bonacio Construction Inc., has promised to build it while forgoing any profits.
Shelters of Saratoga Executive Director Michael Finocchi and Libby Coreno, attorney from Saratoga Springs-based Carter Conboy, who is representing Shelters of Saratoga, did not return calls for comment on Monday.