Saratoga Democrats

Our Saratoga Community

Building Our Town of Saratoga Community

We are running for our respective Saratoga elected offices to build a healthy, thriving Community. To make this happen, we must build a stronger sense of 'Community' throughout the Town of Saratoga.

You Have A Bond With Your Town and You Feel Connected. A Saratogian...

We do not have a Community at the Town level. We have a collection of individual communities mostly defined by close borders:

—the Schuylerville Village Community

—the Victory Village Community

—the Quaker Springs Community

--the Grangerville Community

--And micro-communities of individual streets and neighbors

  • It is a challenge to build a Community in our Town because we have so few Town-level institutions to connect us.

—We have no Saratoga Post Office. In fact we have no Saratoga home addresses. Our home addresses range from Schuylerville, Victory to Stillwater and Saratoga Springs. Some of our residents are not aware they live in the Town of Saratoga!

—We have no Saratoga (named) Fire Department (we love our Quaker Springs FD!!)

—We have no Saratoga Central School System. The Stillwater and Saratoga Springs School Districts serve many of our children. Schuylerville is our “Home-Town District”…but it is not our Town name-sake District and does not encompass all of our Town’s kids.

We need to make the Community of our Saratoga Town Vibrant and Strong despite that we are "far-flung" with different needs in the west vs.the needs in the east. We recognize that the Town of Saratoga does have a "Center of Gravity"...it is our Village of Schuylerville. Let's take action to make the Capital of The Town of Saratoga Shine!

Healthy Communities exhibit these qualities:

  • Cohesiveness—We have a sense of community that unites us and makes us feel that we are a part of something greater than ourselves. We share emotional connections that make us proud to be Saratogians

  • Safe—Your race, sexual orientation, beliefs and political leanings are not judged. We look out for each other.

  • Communication—Great communities communicate a lot. Communication highways are built to keep us all connected. We are all committed to a pinnacle level of Transparency at all times.

  • Services—A place where services that aid daily quality of life are within reach

  • Happy Place—Strong social connections that create a sense of belonging. A Quality of Life environment where security, well-being and friendship all come together.

When elected, we will take the lead in creating and fostering a Saratoga Town-wide Community. We promise to be a strong source of Leadership, Vision, Communication, and Action.

Our Platform of Ideas, Promised Actions and Service has been created to serve this vision for a Healthy, Vibrant and Beautiful Town of Saratoga for everyone. WE ARE ALL SARATOGIANS!




Here Is My Rebuttal To The "ian letter" I Received on October 29, 2021.


As It Is:

Hello Everyone. Paul Murphy here, a candidate for Supervisor for The Town of Saratoga writing to rebut Ian’s letter which I received last evening, October 29, 2021.

First, I want to recognize and thank Ian for his 25+ years of Service to Our Town. That is a very long time.

I am disappointed that Ian has sent this missive out to so many voters. He has marginalized and mischaracterized our Campaign. He is simply wrong on many points and I will endeavor to call out these mistruths as we are committed to transparent communication and effective government.

“I wish I had The Opportunity to Debate Them.”

Ian kicks off with the above sentiment. You did have that opportunity, Ian. We would have been delighted to have a public conversation about the issues you have raised in your letter. Instead, you crafted your “Hit” letter and distributed it with one business day remaining until the election. Clearly, you have no wish to debate us. In fact, the entire republican team does not wish to debate us.

The republican candidates were “No Shows”

The traditional League of Women Voters’ debates were set and scheduled earlier this month between the Supervisor candidates and between the Town Council candidates:

• I showed up for the Supervisor virtual debate—Tom Wood did not.

• Russell and Maxine showed up for the Council virtual debate—Mike McLoughlin did not.

Our Platform vs. the republican platform

I am delighted that Ian read our platform of ideas and programs to lead our Town into this new century. Our platform was informed by the suggestions, thoughts, complaints, and ideas of the many, many citizens we have visited and spoken with over the course of the last six months. It is an ever evolving blueprint for action and change.

There is no republican platform.

“…the only reason we are running…is because of a proposed subdivision”

Wow. It is audacious of ian to confer on our 4 Team Members on “Row A" the reasons why we are running for Public Service. Each of us has our own reasons, but our common ground includes a love for our Town, a desire to offer our varied, rich experiences to help serve our Town residents, and we are in a place where we can now serve as our children have just left home and our Professional lives have quieted (with the exception of Russell and Bryan who have robust careers).

“…they’re greatly opposed…and all live within a quarter of a mile of the subdivision…”

Not true. It’s a minor point but Russell and I live in the neighborhood that is threatened by the John Witt development. Maxine lives in the west but farther south and Bryan lives in Schuylerville. Facts matter…even the little ones.

“…they have been vocal in their opposition…”

Yes, we have. What Ian leaves out about this project, is that Witt and his development allies are proposing the destruction of our cul de sac neighborhood by insisting on making Hill Road a through road. You bet we are fighting hard to protect our neighborhood, our kid’s safety, our quiet and slow road, our property values, and the quality of life in our cul de sac neighborhood. We have been to the Planning Board and clearly communicated our position that just because an out-of-town developer wants to save some bucks, he has no right to destroy our adjacent neighborhood. He does not own our properties. A shift from a cul de sac to a through road will result in a 20% decline in our individual property values. Wouldn’t You, fellow citizen, work To Protect Your Home In A Similar Situation? The answer is YES…you have told us so.

We have been to the Town Board and clearly communicated that our #1 concern with this John Witt project is the protection of our cul de sac neighborhood. The Town Board members are sympathetic, but refuse to take the responsibility as our Elected Representatives to take action on this matter. They have been bullied by their own appointed administrators to stay out of this decision. We believe these high impact development/environmental decisions must be taken by our elected representatives: The Town Board.

This issue is all about the Property Rights & Quality of Life of resident citizens who have been paying taxes over the 30+ year life of our neighborhood. If Elected, we will stand with all of our Citizens against these types of intrusions, over-reach, and over-development by out-of-town developers.

“…they want to take away your private property rights…”

This is nonsense. We are committing strongly in writing throughout our platform to protect our Citizens’ Property Rights. When Ian and the repubs talk about property rights…they only focus on the developer’s rights. Not your rights. This is not in our imagination. We have heard it over and over again from our citizens over the last 6 months.

It is within the law for the Town Board to declare itself the agency of record for high impact, major developments within the Town. This is a step to ensure our current Town Residents can count on their elected representatives to be accountable for their decisions.

“They also outright lie…you will lose property value…when land is illegally clear cut by you.”

Huh? I have no idea what this means. It certainly is not in our platform. So how are we lying? We endeavor to be transparent and completely honest with you, our Town Residents. We have put our ideas and programs out there for you to see.

The 40 acres of beautiful forest was not “illegally clear cut.”

It certainly was illegally clear cut. See below for the correspondence from the law firm representing the Saratoga Lake Association and three residents (including me) which describes the Town and State regulations that were violated.

“…they complain how it (the clear cut) affects their quality of life”

Actually, most people decry the loss of 25,000 trees, the owls, the song birds, the fox, and all the wild creatures who made a home in this forest. The clearcutting of this last stand of forest along the west shore of the lake also aggravates our mandate to help nurture Saratoga Lake back to health. Out on NY 9P and environs: Lake Water Quality=Property Value & Quality of Life.

“One of the shining stars in the Town is Schuyler Park”

We applaud Schuyler Park.

“The other lie I would like to address (that the Town Board approved a resolution that denied). . .SLIPID authority to regulate lands across the Lake. That is not correct.”

The Town Board most certainly did pass this resolution. The Saratoga Lake Protection and Improvement District (SLIPD) asked the 4 Town municipalities (Saratoga Springs, Malta, Stillwater, and Saratoga) to regulate activity all around the Lake in order to focus on nurturing our Lake back to health. Saratoga Springs, Malta, and Stillwater all approved this request. In order for this change to take effect, all 4 municipalities had to agree to the change. The only municipality to reject this plan was The Town of Saratoga. From the official minutes…

"At the Town Board Meeting on March 12, 2018, the Town Board responded to an overture from SLPID for greater engagement in the approvals of developments that could affect Saratoga Lake with the following resolution:

On a motion made by Councilman Charles Hanehan and seconded by Councilman Michael McLoughlin, the following Resolution #18-46 - Opposition to any Expansion of Power to SLPID (Saratoga Lake Protection Improvement District), was adopted by vote: Supervisor Thomas Wood - aye, Councilman Michael McLoughlin, aye, Councilman Charles Hanehan, aye, Councilman James Jennings, aye, Councilman Gary Squires, aye. Carried 5-0.

RESOLVED, that the Town Board of the Town of Saratoga is adamantly opposed to any expansion of power to SLPID (Saratoga Lake Protection Improvement District).”

No one is making this up; the link to the meeting minutes is here (https://townofsaratoga.com/contactinformation/March%2012%202018%20Town%20Board%20Meeting%20Minutes.htm)

“Where have Murphy, Kirkwood, and Lautenberg been…”

We’ve been here living our lives. Prior to my recent retirement earlier this year, I was infrequently home due to my heavy business travel schedule. As noted above, we have now all committed to be as deeply involved in our Town as you can possibly be…by standing for election. For the last 6 months all of our free time has been dedicated to knocking on doors and meeting fellow Town of Saratoga Citizens.

We have learned from all of our Town neighbors that it is time for CHANGE in Saratoga.

Our Town is a gem waiting to be polished.

Our Villages of Schuylerville and Victory are our most important assets for long term economic development. Our Town needs to increase our support and partnership with our Villages, our business community, our Arts community, and our children.

WE STAND BY OUR PLATFORM OF IDEAS AND PROGRAMS.

Check out our Platform at saratogademocrats.com.

Thank you for your attention to this important clarification of the facts of our campaign and our platform.

Please VOTE in this critical election. We ask you to…

Make CHANGE HAPPEN—

Vote For Our Row A Team: Paul Murphy, Russell Kirkwood, Maxine Lautenberg & Bryan Drew

Election Day is November 2, 2021

For A Better Tomorrow,

Paul Murphy

Candidate for Supervisor

Town of Saratoga, NY


P.S. They claim: "We want to change the name of our Fire Department"? Absurd. For the record, we do not, it never occurred to us, it is not stated anywhere in our Platform. We did say we love QSFD.


Letter From Satratoga Lake Association Legal Firm To Town Of Saratoga Describing Violations of Law Associated With 40 Acre Clear=cutting on Cedar Bluff:

Charles W. Malcomb

Partner

Direct Dial: 716.848.1261

Direct Facsimile: 716.819.4737

cmalcomb@hodgsonruss.com


May 4, 2021

Via FedEx Overnight Delivery


Town of Saratoga Town Board

Town of Saratoga Planning Board

Gilman Albert, Code Enforcement Officer

12 Spring Street

Schuylerville, NY 12871


Dear Members of the Town Board, Members of the Planning Board, and Mr. Albert:

Re: Issuance of a Logging Permit in Violation of State and Local Law


As you know, my office represents the Saratoga Lake Association (“SLA”) as well as John R. Cashin, Joanne Santangelo, and Paul F. Murphy, three taxpayers of the Town of Saratoga (the “Town”). On their behalf, I wrote to the Town, the Town of Saratoga Planning Board (the “Planning Board”), and the Zoning Officer, Gilman Albert, on March 31, 2021 to demand enforcement of the Town of Saratoga Zoning Regulations (the “Zoning Regulations”) against Witt Construction (the “Developer”), pursuant to Town Law § 268(2). At the time of my previous letter, the Developer’s purported lessee had begun land-clearing activities at its proposed Cedar Bluff Subdivision site (the “Project”). At present, all the trees in this area are gone. This land-clearing activity was conducted in direct violation of the Town’s zoning and subdivision laws, as well as state-required environmental review procedures.


For reasons we do not yet understand, the Developer—in a transparent attempt to avoid applicable laws and environmental review—somehow convinced the Town that all that was necessary to engage in this activity was a logging permit. Incredibly, the Town, without conducting any due diligence, allowed the Developer to move forward with a wink and a nod and issued an illegal permit to ANW Holdings Inc. on March 15, 2021. This permit violated the Town’s own Zoning Regulations, Section II of the Subdivision Regulations and Design and Construction Standards of the Planning Board of the Town of Saratoga, New York (the “Subdivision Law”), and the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”). Worse still, when informed by SLA of the violations, the Town dug in and refused to correct the situation, ensuring that the damage would be done and completed before the Developer could be stopped.


Before any construction can begin on a proposed subdivision project in the Town, the subdivision must be submitted to the Planning Board for review. Subdivision Law, Section II, p. 11. Further, only after a pre-application conference, preliminary review by the Planning Board, a properly noticed public hearing, and then final review of a subdivision plan may an applicant for subdivision approval obtain a building permit and commence construction. Id. at 11-14. This approval process was nowhere near completion when the Town issued the logging permit. Land-clearing is obviously a construction activity on the part of the Developer’s lessee, who intends to develop a vineyard on its leased part of the Project. As such, it was wholly impermissible to allow this activity to go forward before completion of the full subdivision approval process.


Additionally, the Developer, in a further attempt to deceive the Town, argued it was exempt from the clearcutting permit requirements pursuant to Chapter 273 of the Zoning Regulations, as well as the erosion and sediment control procedures in Section 400-8.12 of the Zoning Regulations, which Chapter 273 supplements. Zoning Regulation § 273-1. However, the clearcutting done by the Developer’s lessee is in no way part of an ongoing bona fide farm operation, which is a clear requirement of the statute. Id. at § 273-4(A). The intention to create a vineyard is just that, an intention. There are absolutely no farm operations currently on the Project site where the clearcutting took place and thus this provision was completely inapplicable to the Developer. This was a transparent attempt to abuse the agricultural exemption, and the Town was unwilling to do anything about it. Additionally, the logging permit states the land-clearing would be done pursuant to a lease/contract, yet no lease or contract was attached to the application nor reviewed by the Town prior to approval. Further, the second exemption is similarly inapplicable to the Developer given that the clearcutting was not done at a subdivision “previously approved by the Planning Board.” Id. at § 273-4(B). As stated, there have been no approvals whatsoever on the Developer’s subdivision application. The Town’s failure was a flagrant violation of the Town’s stated intentions: “to properly preserve forested land in the Town of Saratoga” as an “important natural resource and an integral part of the scenic beauty and healthy ecosystem of the Town … [providing] soil erosion controls and surface water flow barriers.” Id. at § 273-1.


The Town’s indifference toward these important community protections stands in stark contrast with the requirements of the statute and the penalties for non-compliance. The Town Board, when it adopted Chapter 273, noted the importance of preserving and protecting trees from this type of clear-cutting, without appropriate review. In addition, it set significant penalties for violations, including a potential civil penalty of $2,000 for each tree removed.


Moreover, the Town allowed clearcutting of a significant expanse of land without any environmental review in blatant violation of SEQRA. Because the Developer, through its lessee, began construction at the Project in the form of land-clearing without prior approval, the environmental review procedures embedded in the subdivision approval process were not followed. The Developer had only submitted a Full Environmental Assessment Form (“EAF”) with its subdivision application at the time the illegal logging permit was issued. The Board had not even reviewed the Full EAF at that point. Regardless, it allowed the land-clearing to take place even though the Project site is located in an area with steep slopes, wetlands, and important plant and animal species. Even worse, the Town willingly allowed the Developer to segment the review process of the subdivision plan in stark contrast to the intent of SEQRA: that the entirety of a proposed action, rather than the individual steps or phases that comprise it, be reviewed by the agency conducting the environmental review. See 6 NYCRR § 617.3(g). It is without doubt that the Town allowed the Developer to intentionally and wrongfully avoid having to answer for the environmental impact of this land-clearing activity by granting the logging permit as a run-around to the full subdivision review process which would have triggered a thorough environmental review.


Lastly, the Town, in allowing this clearcutting activity to go forward, has ratified violations of other provisions of its own Zoning Regulations as well. For instance, Section 400-14(H)(1) of the Zoning Regulations only permits a homeowners’ association, the Town, or a developer to own and maintain the open space land in a conservation subdivision without approval by the Town Board. Here, the Developer unlawfully transferred ownership and maintenance responsibility over the area that was cleared to its lessee without prior Town approval. This unquestionably violates Section 400-14(H)(1) given that this area was intended to be part of the open space land at the Project.


The Town and its officials have the duty and obligation to enforce applicable laws. Your failure here is significant. Please be advised that my clients have engaged this firm to review all aspects of the Town’s review and consideration of the Project going forward.


Very truly yours,

Charles W. Malcomb



cc: Linda A. McCabe, Town Clerk

William F. Reynolds, Esq., Town Attorney







Here Is My Rebuttal To The "ian letter" I Received on October 29, 2021.


As It Is:

Hello Everyone. Paul Murphy here, a candidate for Supervisor for The Town of Saratoga writing to rebut Ian’s letter which I received last evening, October 29, 2021.

First, I want to recognize and thank Ian for his 25+ years of Service to Our Town. That is a very long time.

I am disappointed that Ian has sent this missive out to so many voters. He has marginalized and mischaracterized our Campaign. He is simply wrong on many points and I will endeavor to call out these mistruths as we are committed to transparent communication and effective government.

“I wish I had The Opportunity to Debate Them.”

Ian kicks off with the above sentiment. You did have that opportunity, Ian. We would have been delighted to have a public conversation about the issues you have raised in your letter. Instead, you crafted your “Hit” letter and distributed it with one business day remaining until the election. Clearly, you have no wish to debate us. In fact, the entire republican team does not wish to debate us.

The republican candidates were “No Shows”

The traditional League of Women Voters’ debates were set and scheduled earlier this month between the Supervisor candidates and between the Town Council candidates:

• I showed up for the Supervisor virtual debate—Tom Wood did not.

• Russell and Maxine showed up for the Council virtual debate—Mike McLoughlin did not.

Our Platform vs. the republican platform

I am delighted that Ian read our platform of ideas and programs to lead our Town into this new century. Our platform was informed by the suggestions, thoughts, complaints, and ideas of the many, many citizens we have visited and spoken with over the course of the last six months. It is an ever evolving blueprint for action and change.

There is no republican platform.

“…the only reason we are running…is because of a proposed subdivision”

Wow. It is audacious of ian to confer on our 4 Team Members on “Row A" the reasons why we are running for Public Service. Each of us has our own reasons, but our common ground includes a love for our Town, a desire to offer our varied, rich experiences to help serve our Town residents, and we are in a place where we can now serve as our children have just left home and our Professional lives have quieted (with the exception of Russell and Bryan who have robust careers).

“…they’re greatly opposed…and all live within a quarter of a mile of the subdivision…”

Not true. It’s a minor point but Russell and I live in the neighborhood that is threatened by the John Witt development. Maxine lives in the west but farther south and Bryan lives in Schuylerville. Facts matter…even the little ones.

“…they have been vocal in their opposition…”

Yes, we have. What Ian leaves out about this project, is that Witt and his development allies are proposing the destruction of our cul de sac neighborhood by insisting on making Hill Road a through road. You bet we are fighting hard to protect our neighborhood, our kid’s safety, our quiet and slow road, our property values, and the quality of life in our cul de sac neighborhood. We have been to the Planning Board and clearly communicated our position that just because an out-of-town developer wants to save some bucks, he has no right to destroy our adjacent neighborhood. He does not own our properties. A shift from a cul de sac to a through road will result in a 20% decline in our individual property values. Wouldn’t You, fellow citizen, work To Protect Your Home In A Similar Situation? The answer is YES…you have told us so.

We have been to the Town Board and clearly communicated that our #1 concern with this John Witt project is the protection of our cul de sac neighborhood. The Town Board members are sympathetic, but refuse to take the responsibility as our Elected Representatives to take action on this matter. They have been bullied by their own appointed administrators to stay out of this decision. We believe these high impact development/environmental decisions must be taken by our elected representatives: The Town Board.

This issue is all about the Property Rights & Quality of Life of resident citizens who have been paying taxes over the 30+ year life of our neighborhood. If Elected, we will stand with all of our Citizens against these types of intrusions, over-reach, and over-development by out-of-town developers.

“…they want to take away your private property rights…”

This is nonsense. We are committing strongly in writing throughout our platform to protect our Citizens’ Property Rights. When Ian and the repubs talk about property rights…they only focus on the developer’s rights. Not your rights. This is not in our imagination. We have heard it over and over again from our citizens over the last 6 months.

It is within the law for the Town Board to declare itself the agency of record for high impact, major developments within the Town. This is a step to ensure our current Town Residents can count on their elected representatives to be accountable for their decisions.

“They also outright lie…you will lose property value…when land is illegally clear cut by you.”

Huh? I have no idea what this means. It certainly is not in our platform. So how are we lying? We endeavor to be transparent and completely honest with you, our Town Residents. We have put our ideas and programs out there for you to see.

The 40 acres of beautiful forest was not “illegally clear cut.”

It certainly was illegally clear cut. See below for the correspondence from the law firm representing the Saratoga Lake Association and three residents (including me) which describes the Town and State regulations that were violated.

“…they complain how it (the clear cut) affects their quality of life”

Actually, most people decry the loss of 25,000 trees, the owls, the song birds, the fox, and all the wild creatures who made a home in this forest. The clearcutting of this last stand of forest along the west shore of the lake also aggravates our mandate to help nurture Saratoga Lake back to health. Out on NY 9P and environs: Lake Water Quality=Property Value & Quality of Life.

“One of the shining stars in the Town is Schuyler Park”

We applaud Schuyler Park.

“The other lie I would like to address (that the Town Board approved a resolution that denied). . .SLIPID authority to regulate lands across the Lake. That is not correct.”

The Town Board most certainly did pass this resolution. The Saratoga Lake Protection and Improvement District (SLIPD) asked the 4 Town municipalities (Saratoga Springs, Malta, Stillwater, and Saratoga) to regulate activity all around the Lake in order to focus on nurturing our Lake back to health. Saratoga Springs, Malta, and Stillwater all approved this request. In order for this change to take effect, all 4 municipalities had to agree to the change. The only municipality to reject this plan was The Town of Saratoga. From the official minutes…

"At the Town Board Meeting on March 12, 2018, the Town Board responded to an overture from SLPID for greater engagement in the approvals of developments that could affect Saratoga Lake with the following resolution:

On a motion made by Councilman Charles Hanehan and seconded by Councilman Michael McLoughlin, the following Resolution #18-46 - Opposition to any Expansion of Power to SLPID (Saratoga Lake Protection Improvement District), was adopted by vote: Supervisor Thomas Wood - aye, Councilman Michael McLoughlin, aye, Councilman Charles Hanehan, aye, Councilman James Jennings, aye, Councilman Gary Squires, aye. Carried 5-0.

RESOLVED, that the Town Board of the Town of Saratoga is adamantly opposed to any expansion of power to SLPID (Saratoga Lake Protection Improvement District).”

No one is making this up; the link to the meeting minutes is here (https://townofsaratoga.com/contactinformation/March%2012%202018%20Town%20Board%20Meeting%20Minutes.htm)

“Where have Murphy, Kirkwood, and Lautenberg been…”

We’ve been here living our lives. Prior to my recent retirement earlier this year, I was infrequently home due to my heavy business travel schedule. As noted above, we have now all committed to be as deeply involved in our Town as you can possibly be…by standing for election. For the last 6 months all of our free time has been dedicated to knocking on doors and meeting fellow Town of Saratoga Citizens.

We have learned from all of our Town neighbors that it is time for CHANGE in Saratoga.

Our Town is a gem waiting to be polished.

Our Villages of Schuylerville and Victory are our most important assets for long term economic development. Our Town needs to increase our support and partnership with our Villages, our business community, our Arts community, and our children.

WE STAND BY OUR PLATFORM OF IDEAS AND PROGRAMS.

Check out our Platform at saratogademocrats.com.

Thank you for your attention to this important clarification of the facts of our campaign and our platform.

Please VOTE in this critical election. We ask you to…

Make CHANGE HAPPEN—

Vote For Our Row A Team: Paul Murphy, Russell Kirkwood, Maxine Lautenberg & Bryan Drew

Election Day is November 2, 2021

For A Better Tomorrow,

Paul Murphy

Candidate for Supervisor

Town of Saratoga, NY


P.S. They claim: "We want to change the name of our Fire Department"? Absurd. For the record, we do not, it never occurred to us, it is not stated anywhere in our Platform. We did say we love QSFD.


Letter From Satratoga Lake Association Legal Firm To Town Of Saratoga Describing Violations of Law Associated With 40 Acre Clear=cutting on Cedar Bluff:

Charles W. Malcomb

Partner

Direct Dial: 716.848.1261

Direct Facsimile: 716.819.4737

cmalcomb@hodgsonruss.com


May 4, 2021

Via FedEx Overnight Delivery


Town of Saratoga Town Board

Town of Saratoga Planning Board

Gilman Albert, Code Enforcement Officer

12 Spring Street

Schuylerville, NY 12871


Dear Members of the Town Board, Members of the Planning Board, and Mr. Albert:

Re: Issuance of a Logging Permit in Violation of State and Local Law


As you know, my office represents the Saratoga Lake Association (“SLA”) as well as John R. Cashin, Joanne Santangelo, and Paul F. Murphy, three taxpayers of the Town of Saratoga (the “Town”). On their behalf, I wrote to the Town, the Town of Saratoga Planning Board (the “Planning Board”), and the Zoning Officer, Gilman Albert, on March 31, 2021 to demand enforcement of the Town of Saratoga Zoning Regulations (the “Zoning Regulations”) against Witt Construction (the “Developer”), pursuant to Town Law § 268(2). At the time of my previous letter, the Developer’s purported lessee had begun land-clearing activities at its proposed Cedar Bluff Subdivision site (the “Project”). At present, all the trees in this area are gone. This land-clearing activity was conducted in direct violation of the Town’s zoning and subdivision laws, as well as state-required environmental review procedures.


For reasons we do not yet understand, the Developer—in a transparent attempt to avoid applicable laws and environmental review—somehow convinced the Town that all that was necessary to engage in this activity was a logging permit. Incredibly, the Town, without conducting any due diligence, allowed the Developer to move forward with a wink and a nod and issued an illegal permit to ANW Holdings Inc. on March 15, 2021. This permit violated the Town’s own Zoning Regulations, Section II of the Subdivision Regulations and Design and Construction Standards of the Planning Board of the Town of Saratoga, New York (the “Subdivision Law”), and the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”). Worse still, when informed by SLA of the violations, the Town dug in and refused to correct the situation, ensuring that the damage would be done and completed before the Developer could be stopped.


Before any construction can begin on a proposed subdivision project in the Town, the subdivision must be submitted to the Planning Board for review. Subdivision Law, Section II, p. 11. Further, only after a pre-application conference, preliminary review by the Planning Board, a properly noticed public hearing, and then final review of a subdivision plan may an applicant for subdivision approval obtain a building permit and commence construction. Id. at 11-14. This approval process was nowhere near completion when the Town issued the logging permit. Land-clearing is obviously a construction activity on the part of the Developer’s lessee, who intends to develop a vineyard on its leased part of the Project. As such, it was wholly impermissible to allow this activity to go forward before completion of the full subdivision approval process.


Additionally, the Developer, in a further attempt to deceive the Town, argued it was exempt from the clearcutting permit requirements pursuant to Chapter 273 of the Zoning Regulations, as well as the erosion and sediment control procedures in Section 400-8.12 of the Zoning Regulations, which Chapter 273 supplements. Zoning Regulation § 273-1. However, the clearcutting done by the Developer’s lessee is in no way part of an ongoing bona fide farm operation, which is a clear requirement of the statute. Id. at § 273-4(A). The intention to create a vineyard is just that, an intention. There are absolutely no farm operations currently on the Project site where the clearcutting took place and thus this provision was completely inapplicable to the Developer. This was a transparent attempt to abuse the agricultural exemption, and the Town was unwilling to do anything about it. Additionally, the logging permit states the land-clearing would be done pursuant to a lease/contract, yet no lease or contract was attached to the application nor reviewed by the Town prior to approval. Further, the second exemption is similarly inapplicable to the Developer given that the clearcutting was not done at a subdivision “previously approved by the Planning Board.” Id. at § 273-4(B). As stated, there have been no approvals whatsoever on the Developer’s subdivision application. The Town’s failure was a flagrant violation of the Town’s stated intentions: “to properly preserve forested land in the Town of Saratoga” as an “important natural resource and an integral part of the scenic beauty and healthy ecosystem of the Town … [providing] soil erosion controls and surface water flow barriers.” Id. at § 273-1.


The Town’s indifference toward these important community protections stands in stark contrast with the requirements of the statute and the penalties for non-compliance. The Town Board, when it adopted Chapter 273, noted the importance of preserving and protecting trees from this type of clear-cutting, without appropriate review. In addition, it set significant penalties for violations, including a potential civil penalty of $2,000 for each tree removed.


Moreover, the Town allowed clearcutting of a significant expanse of land without any environmental review in blatant violation of SEQRA. Because the Developer, through its lessee, began construction at the Project in the form of land-clearing without prior approval, the environmental review procedures embedded in the subdivision approval process were not followed. The Developer had only submitted a Full Environmental Assessment Form (“EAF”) with its subdivision application at the time the illegal logging permit was issued. The Board had not even reviewed the Full EAF at that point. Regardless, it allowed the land-clearing to take place even though the Project site is located in an area with steep slopes, wetlands, and important plant and animal species. Even worse, the Town willingly allowed the Developer to segment the review process of the subdivision plan in stark contrast to the intent of SEQRA: that the entirety of a proposed action, rather than the individual steps or phases that comprise it, be reviewed by the agency conducting the environmental review. See 6 NYCRR § 617.3(g). It is without doubt that the Town allowed the Developer to intentionally and wrongfully avoid having to answer for the environmental impact of this land-clearing activity by granting the logging permit as a run-around to the full subdivision review process which would have triggered a thorough environmental review.


Lastly, the Town, in allowing this clearcutting activity to go forward, has ratified violations of other provisions of its own Zoning Regulations as well. For instance, Section 400-14(H)(1) of the Zoning Regulations only permits a homeowners’ association, the Town, or a developer to own and maintain the open space land in a conservation subdivision without approval by the Town Board. Here, the Developer unlawfully transferred ownership and maintenance responsibility over the area that was cleared to its lessee without prior Town approval. This unquestionably violates Section 400-14(H)(1) given that this area was intended to be part of the open space land at the Project.


The Town and its officials have the duty and obligation to enforce applicable laws. Your failure here is significant. Please be advised that my clients have engaged this firm to review all aspects of the Town’s review and consideration of the Project going forward.


Very truly yours,

Charles W. Malcomb



cc: Linda A. McCabe, Town Clerk

William F. Reynolds, Esq., Town Attorney