The state government has a bad habit of making exemptions for itself, often at the expense of the local communities where the impact of their decisions will be felt most.
One of those special situations allows projects that are under state control to be exempt from the authority of local planning and design review boards.
While these projects are subject to state environmental reviews, developers for the most part are only required to involve local governments on an advisory basis.
That means they're essentially free to ignore any potential negative impacts of a project that don't fall under strict state guidelines, even if the municipality that's home to the project has legitimate concerns. It's essentially up to the developer how much input and influence it wants to give local officials and their citizens.
Saratoga Springs has had a lot of experience being on the wrong side of that stick lately, first with the expansion at the Saratoga Gaming racino and now with planned and ongoing improvements at the Saratoga Race Course.
With the racino expansion, which includes a new hotel, city officials last year considered seeking lead agency status to give them more say in the project’s impacts. But they backed down when they realized they were unlikely to get it.
Now city officials are trying to get a bigger role in the multi-million-dollar improvements at the track, which include a new luxury clubhouse, a kitchen building, new stables and jockey housing.
Improvements have impacts. And city officials are concerned that the city's sewer infrastructure, already stressed by the track, won't be able to handle the extra load from the new buildings. They're also concerned about the impact additional delivery trucks accessing the track’s new kitchen will have on Wright Street neighborhood traffi c.
And while it's in the New York Racing Association's best interests to maintain the historic charm of the current facility, the association is not obligated to let the city's planners or historic architecture people make more than suggestions.