SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Republican Timothy Holmes formally announced his candidacy for mayor on Friday, saying his concerns include the city's pace of growth in recent decades.
Holmes began campaigning too late to receive the city Republican Committee's endorsement, but nevertheless petitioned his way onto the GOP ballot line to run against Mayor Meg Kelly, a Democrat who will be seeking her second two-year term in the Nov. 5 election.
Holmes works on restoring real estate properties and in developing technologies. He said he has worked on economic development in Hudson River communities for 20 years.
“Saratoga Springs is a world-class community and truly a gift to every person who lives here or visits. I would like to work on behalf of our people to protect it, preserve it and strengthen it for our children and grandchildren,” Holmes said in a prepared statement.
While living in New Jersey in the 1980s, Holmes served as a commissioner and president of the municipal council of Rutherford -- a position he said was similar to mayor -- and served in positions on its planning and zoning boards. He moved to Saratoga Springs in 1996, although he said he has had family ties to the community much longer.
If elected, Holmes said he will focus on careful use of taxpayer dollars, preserving the community's quality of life, including preserving neighborhoods, historic character and open space, and supporting business, arts and higher education.
Holmes lives in the neighborhood where Saratoga Hospital wants to build a medical office building, and he has spoken out against that project.
He said the city's rate of growth is a concern to residents. “Our city’s population doubled since 1950 and will substantially increase in coming years," he said. "We need to plan for the next 30 years, anticipating levels of change we’ve not seen."
"I welcome growth in the city, but I question what type of growth we want," Holmes said on Friday. "I think more can be done in the planning process to get citizen input."
Holmes said he also wants to prioritize finding a location for a new fire and emergency services facility on the east side of the city -- something city officials have been trying to accomplish for 20 years or more.
He's been serving on local community boards for many years, and is currently on the city’s Open Space Advisory Committee and the Smart City Broadband Commission.
He and his wife, Libby Smith-Holmes, are the authors of three books of local history: “Saratoga Springs: A Historical Portrait," “Saratoga Springs: A Brief History," and “Saratoga: America’s Battlefield."
Kelly said Friday that she is running for re-election based on her record, including ending litigation over long-planned projects such as the City Center parking garage and the Geyser Road multi-use trail.
If re-elected, she said her priorities will include finding a permanent home for the Code Blue winter homeless shelter, and finding a site for a new fire and ambulance station on the east side.
Kelly said she's hopeful about siting an east side emergency services building. "I'm working with a couple of landowners and hope to have something to announce in the next couple of months," she said.
She said she also believes a permanent solution for the Code Blue shelter can be found, on either city- or county-owned land. "It's really hard to find a place and as a city it is our obligation to work with the county and come up with a permanent solution for Code Blue," she said.
Her accomplishments, she said, also include bringing civility back to City Council meetings and the workings of City Hall. "I work with everybody. I work with community members, I work with the business community. I do this job full-time," Kelly said. "I have reduced the waiting time for building permits from 16 to 20 weeks to four weeks. We have increased efficiency."
Kelly said the council's role in the Saratoga Hospital proposal is only to make sure that the city's zoning matches the 2015 comprehensive land use plan, which recommended the 16-acre site, now vacant but zoned for residential development, be zoned to allow commercial uses.
"My job is to match the zoning map to the comprehensive plan map," Kelly said. "Now if they want to build something over there, Meg Kelly has no preference what they do. That's up to the Planning Board."
She also questioned whether growth in the city should be slowed. "You know we have growth, and we have growth because we are a wonderful city that people want to move to," she said.
While there's little dispute about the hours involved, the mayor's job is considered part-time, with an annual salary of $14,500.