The Saratoga Springs City Council last week released a final draft development ordinance for review, one of the final steps in a multi-year effort to update the city’s zoning, subdivision, and other rules governing development.
The council voted 4-1 to release the Unified Development Ordinance for review, which formally sends the 304-page document — now in its third draft — to the city Planning Board, Design Review Commission and Saratoga County Planning Board for the review and comments. Zoning, subdivision and other regulations are separate now, and part of the goal is to bring them into a single governing document.
Mayor Meg Kelly said it’s a “dead project” if not decided by the end of the year, an apparent reference to four of the five council members, including herself, not running for re-election. Some other council members said they have concerns, and at least one said they can’t envision making a final decision until in-person meetings resume again. For more than a year, the council has been meeting and taking public comment using remote technology due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The citizen group Sustainable Saratoga had urged the council not to start the formal review process, saying its members are concerned, among other things, that the revisions would allow additional development in the city’s “greenbelt” — the rural area around the core of the city. The group also thinks that the pandemic has kept residents from being as involved in the land-use discussion as they normally would be.
A primary goal is to bring the zoning and subdivision rules into compliance with the city’s comprehensive land use plan, which was adopted in 2015. City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis said the two planning boards’ roles will include determining if the changes are consistent with the comprehensive plan.
Once the other boards offer their opinions, the draft will come back to the City Council for a final review, including a required public hearing, before adoption.
Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton, who is running as an independent candidate for mayor in this year’s election, was the only council member to vote against starting the review process. She said she is concerned that some uses to be allowed in the greenbelt, such as country clubs and marinas, could potentially be high-intensity uses. “I don’t think slowing down the process is derailing the process at all,” she said. “I’d just like to have two weeks to the next City Council meeting.”
Others who voted for releasing the draft said they support protecting the greenbelt, and believe the document does that.
“Certainly the greenbelt is sacred and I don’t want to see anything harm it,” said Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco.
“Myself and this council have protected the greenbelt in everything we do,” Kelly said. “I have written back to people saying I take offense to it because I do. I don’t think you’ll find a council that has worked harder to protect the city in the country.”
The final draft UDO document is available for view at saratoga-springs.org.