Tuesday, December 07, 2004

NY League of Conservation Voters - Environmental Action Agenda for Saratoga Springs

New York League of Conservation Voters
Capital District Chapter
An Environmental Action Agenda for Saratoga Springs, 2004-2005
---- On the City-in-the-Country, the city's overall growth concept in the adopted Comprehensive Plan is a good model for guiding Smart Growth, providing that the City Council and the Planning Board adhere strictly to the principles of the new Conservation Development District regulations for protecting the rural character of the outlying parts of the city. The conservation subdivision and mandatory cluster development provisions will help to save open space in accordance with the City's adopted open space plan. Implementation of the 2001 Community Land Preservation Bond Act will also help to achieve the City-in-the-Country vision of the city.
---- On the SEQRA process for a new source of drinking water, the City Council needs to re-consider its lead agency responsibilities under the State Environmental Quality Review Act for managing the review process for the Saratoga Lake alternative in a timely, fair, factual and apolitical manner. The Council should complete the SEQRA process for the Saratoga Lake alternative, gathering all the facts required for a decision about one of the several alternatives under consideration and responding substantively in the FEIS to all of the public's comments. The public should have time to consider the FEIS and make its final comments before the Council makes its decision.
---- With regard to a new major source of drinking water, the City Council, through the present SEQRA process, should proceed objectively towards making a sound apolitical decision based on facts, selecting the alternative that will be most economical for the city's ratepayers in terms of ongoing operational costs as well as immediate and future capital costs. The City should be in a position to control all costs, while providing a sufficient volume of safe drinking water for the long term. Since at least one alternative that meets all of these criteria is available right now, the City Council should not opt for a short term, band-aid solution, such as tapping some wells for a million or two million gallons. This would be an extra cost for the ratepayers because, in the end, a long term solution that meets all of the above criteria will have to be selected anyway and, meanwhile, its capital costs will keep going up.
---- On watershed protection, the City Council should aggressively seek the cooperation of Wilton and Greenfield in reviewing and modifying the present town and city zoning ordinances to maximize surface water and groundwater protection in the Loughberry Lake and Bog Meadow Brook watersheds. Working with these municipalities, the City also should develop and implement a joint project review system for certain types of land development projects having the potential for significant impacts on water quality in these watersheds. This review system also would serve as a demonstration project whose lessons will be applied in cooperation with other communities when the City's new source of drinking water is on line.
---- On the implementation of the new City Charter, the City Council should appoint the new Administrator of Parks, Open Land and Historic Preservation early in 2004. The person in this position will have a significant role in developing and overseeing the City's park and open land system, including making recommendations regarding acquisition of scenic, environmentally sensitive and recreational land under the 2002 Community Land Preservation Bond Act. Similarly, the Administrator of Human Resources and the Administrator of Planning and Economic Development positions should be filled as a first priority in 2004 as required by the Charter. The experience of this professional will be critical in strengthening the City's planning functions as required by the Charter.
---- On the plan for the Weibel Ave.-Gilbert Road study area, it is important that the City Council retain the rural character of this gateway area in the "country" part of the city by ensuring that only low density, low traffic-generating development occurs here. This also means that high traffic generating uses such as a large indoor recreation field house should not be located there. The "mix and match" plan submitted to the Council by the City-in-the-Country Land Protection Committee should be used as a guide for planning for this area in that it combines some of the better ideas of the Weibel-Gilbert Study Committee.
---- On proposals for parking garages in downtown, the Council should keep sight of the fact that "stand-alone" garages will be a magnet for drawing even more cars downtown, creating more traffic and a need for even more garages as well as creating a hostile environment for pedestrians and precluding commercial activity. The Council should consider other alternatives, including peripheral parking lots and shuttle buses. If garages are built, they should not be located on major commercial streets or avenues where their sterile facades will be the antithesis of a lively, pedestrian-friendly streetscape. A mixed-use design, with commercial shops along the street and a garage to their rear, can obviate this problem.
---- On making the City more pedestrian friendly, the City Council should consider closing some streets to create pedestrian malls, as has been done in many other cities. The present system of bike routes on city streets needs to be made safer and more useable by pavement marking and sign improvements. Cross-walk improvements for pedestrians should be made in downtown and at numerous locations throughout the city. A citywide sidewalk plan, recommended in the 1987 Master Plan, should be completed and fully implemented. Truck re-routing and ticketing should receive higher priority.
---- On a truck bypass, the City Council should seek a regional solution in cooperation with adjoining communities and should obtain DOT's involvement in the solution.