Saratoga Springs officials are asking the city’s Planning Board to oversee the environmental review of a proposed five-story paid parking deck on High Rock Avenue, a move that would supplant the City Center Authority’s status as lead agency in the project.
Members of the City Council narrowly approved a measure requesting the Planning Board declare itself lead agency during the state Environmental Quality Review — the process to identify and mitigate significant impacts of a major project. Members of the Planning Board are expected to take up the issue next week, but city officials said Tuesday there appears to be support for the panel taking lead agency status.
The authority declared itself lead agency last month, much as it did during the review of its massive expansion project in 2011. But this time, city officials contend the project is different, since the new 511-space parking deck extending over Maple Avenue and joining with the City Center will create a new building footprint that will drastically change the landscape.
The massive $10.6 million deck will rise up to 65 feet in places and extend 120 feet down High Rock Avenue. The structure will be built into the natural contour of the slope leading from Maple Avenue down to High Rock, meaning the deck will vary between four and five stories high.
The city owns the 2.5 acres site and would lease land to the authority.
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen — who joined Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco in voting against the measure — wanted the city to take the lead in the review. He believes the city should have more authority in the matter because it will ultimately decide whether to approve the lease agreement.
But Mayor Joanne Yepsen argued the Planning Board would be better able to take up the matter given its expertise. Even after the review process is concluded later this summer, the parking deck’s design will still need approval from the city’s land-use boards before it can advance.
Authority President Mark Baker doubts there would be any will on the City Center’s board to contest a swap in lead agencies. He said the authority now is more concerned about advancing the project quickly, so the structure can be completed before more parking in the area vanishes.