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Residents to sue Saratoga Springs over homeless shelter plans

Residents to sue Saratoga Springs over homeless shelter plans

They take issue with definition of 'rooming house'
Residents to sue Saratoga Springs over homeless shelter plans
Homeless people gather at the Code Blue shelter in Saratoga Springs in December 2016.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A group of residents is taking legal action against the city over its approval of a Code Blue homeless shelter on Walworth Street.

The group of about 22 people will challenge the Planning Board’s approval of the project and the Zoning Board's dismissal of the group's appeal last month, said Claudia Braymer, the Glens Falls attorney who represents them. She expects to file the lawsuit in Saratoga County Court this week.

She expects to file the lawsuit, which will seek to overturn the Planning Board’s favorable vote, in Saratoga County Court this week.

Braymer said the residents are concerned about the "impact that Code Blue will have on their neighborhood." They also feel that the city expedited the project's approval without getting their input, she said. 

“My clients are wanting to help people who are homeless and understand that that is an issue in the city,” she said, "but it’s also an issue for the entire county, and we don’t think that this neighborhood location is an appropriate place to put it."

The neighbors also take issue with the city's definition of the project as a neighborhood rooming house, which Braymer said is "supposed to be a single-family home that you rent out on a room-by-room basis.” The rooming house designation is also an allowed use in the area’s urban/residential zoning. 

“This is not a single-family home; it’s basically some sort of institutional facility,” she said.

The shelter, most recently located at Soul Saving Station Church in the city, serves Saratoga, Washington and Warren counties. It opens when temperatures dip below 32 degrees, in accordance with state law.

Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) wants to build the Code Blue shelter next to its headquarters on Walworth Street by November. In announcing the plans in February, executive director Michael Finocchi said the new facility would make it easier for homeless people to get the services they need. 

He refused to comment Monday, instead referring a reporter to the organization’s attorney, Libby Coreno, of Saratoga Springs. Coreno also would not comment when reached Monday.

Robert Pringle, one of the residents filing the lawsuit, said the only people notified during the approval process for the Code Blue Shelter were people within 100 feet of the proposed location — the owners of Allerdice Hardware on Walworth Street and The Masie Center, a Washington Street think-tank.

“They’re not even people who live there 24 hours a day,” he said. “We subsequently found out about it, and we’ve been behind the eight ball all along.” 

He said the people who go to Code Blue “do not want any help. If they do, SOS is there already.” He said bringing them together with people who go to SOS for its services would be “toxic.” 

“They’re on drugs. They’re on alcohol and other substances, and in that regard, they are still using; they’re not clean,” he said, referring to Code Blue’s clientele. “It doesn’t belong in a residential neighborhood.”

Robert Pringle, one of the residents filing the lawsuit, said last month that putting the Code Blue shelter next to SOS would lead to increased crime in the area. 

“They’re going to compress the Shelters of Saratoga people with the negative influences of the fiercely independent folks,” said Pringle, who lives on Franklin Street. “It will be toxic.”

Mayor Joanne Yepsen contends the shelter is needed to help end homelessness in Saratoga Springs. The Code Blue program has had three temporary locations since starting in 2013. 

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.

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