The newly renovated Explorer Post 38 cabin at 651 Saratoga Road looks abandoned again.
It’s socked in with snow and there’s a sandwich board out front that reads: “Here sits a little old cabin, all fixed up but can’t be used.”
Last summer, that same board advertised the quaint, rustic property as a free place for nonprofit organizations to meet, but unmet building code requirements have stopped that from happening.
Clifton Park resident Fred Ogle purchased the cabin for $25,000 in the fall of 2012. It had sat unused for at least 15 years prior and had fallen into disrepair.
Measuring approximately 25 by 30 feet, the structure was built by Explorer post members and adult supervisors on a piece of town-owned land that was deeded to the post in 1949. It opened as Post 38’s headquarters in October 1951.
The post disbanded sometime after 1978 and the cabin sat vacant until it was eventually declared abandoned by the town.
The property changed hands twice before Ogle purchased it, but renovations appeared to have been minimal.
Ogle, who also owns Creekside Cafe and Coffee House at 658 Saratoga Road, completed extensive renovations on the dilapidated cabin. He replaced floorboards, had new windows installed, painted and stained the logs, had the electrical system updated and added a composting toilet, because the structure has no running water.
The total cost for renovations and furnishings for the property came to around $15,000, Ogle estimated in June.
An article featuring the property and Ogle’s offer to share it with nonprofit groups appeared in the July 1, 2013, edition of The Daily Gazette. That same morning, Ogle got a call from the town of Glenville.
“I came into my office and 10 minutes after eight, the building inspector was on the phone telling me I could not use the cabin for that purpose,” Ogle recounted.
Building Inspector Paul Borisenko told Ogle the building did not meet the minimum building code requirements for a place of assembly. It needed upgrades, include running water, two bathrooms, a septic system and more parking spots.
Ogle said the requirements were a big surprise, but admitted he had not contacted town planners before beginning renovations on the property.
“I just didn’t expect to have any trouble,” he said. “I thought because I was doing something good and not going to benefit financially from it, and it was a little cabin. It never dawned on me that I should ask them.”
Borisenko said minimum building code standards need to be met for any building in which the public gathers. The building code is regulated by the Department of State and enforced by the town.
“I don’t have any problem with what he wants to do, but he needs to follow the rules,” Borisenko said.
The cabin, situated on the bank of the Alplaus Creek, sits on about an acre of land zoned in part for general business and in part for land conservation.
Ogle said he was told that as things stand, he can’t even legally hold his own family picnic on the property.
“Nothing is permitted by right in our commercial zoning [areas]. That means everything needs some sort of approval,” Borisenko explained.
Because the property sat vacant for so many years, any approvals it may have been granted have long since expired, he said.
“Nothing is grandfathered at this point, so he would have to come before the board for an approval for a use,” he said.
Land conservation zoning, the most restrictive zoning in the town, permits land to be used for parks, preserves, wildlife refuges and bike and pedestrian trails. That zoning is determined by flood plain maps, which Borisenko said were updated Jan. 8. Before the update, much of the cabin’s property was in the flood plain and thus zoned as land conservation property, but Borisenko said he believes the new maps place less of that property in the flood plain. That will, in turn, change the zoning and give Ogle more usable land.
There still might not be enough suitable space for a septic system, and the parking lot will also need to be enlarged, Borisenko noted.
Ogle proposed allowing cabin visitors to park at his coffee shop across the street, but off-site parking is not allowed if visitors have to cross a road with a speed limit of 40 miles per hour or more, Borisenko said. He suggested that Ogle approach neighbors on the same side of the street as the cabin to see if an alternative parking arrangement can be worked out.
Ogle said he contacted the Department of State approximately two months ago about getting a code variance for the property and was asked to send a diagram of the cabin. He said he has not heard back since he sent the diagram, despite several follow-up calls and emails.
The state did not respond to The Daily Gazette’s inquiry about Ogle’s variance request before Monday’s print deadline.
Ogle said he has heard from many people who are interested in using the cabin.
“I have had people who wanted to do anniversaries in there and family reunions and I said, ‘No, that’s not really my intent.’ My intent is to support groups and things like that.”
He said he will continue to work to find a way to share the cabin with the public.
“I don’t want to make it a commercial spot and try to rent it to an office or something like that, but I don’t want it just to sit there and rot either,” he said.