Attorney argues against building of fire/EMS station near race track, says it will disturb horses

Saratoga Springs officials are seeking to build the $6.6 million facility in a location that will improve response times to newly developed parts of the city


Wendy Liberatore
Times Union, Albany, N.Y.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — On the eve of the city entering into a lease agreement with the state in a meeting that the public cannot attend, an attorney has written a letter to Mayor Meg Kelly and members of the City Council arguing that they table the agreement to build a fire/EMS station on the grounds of the Saratoga Race Course.

Attorney Claudia Braymer, who is representing residents, argues the plan on Henning Road violates zoning and will disturb the horses living in the barns and training on the Oklahoma Track, both of which border the proposed $6.6 million facility. She wants the mayor and council to set aside plans at Tuesday's City Council meeting “for further consideration or issue a SEQRA positive declaration so that the negative impacts can be fully considered.”

Race fans watch horses break from the starting gate during the first race on opening day of the season at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Friday, July 22, 2016. An attorney representing residents has argued against building a $6.6 million fire/EMS station near the track due to zoning issues and concerns it will disturb the horses. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
Race fans watch horses break from the starting gate during the first race on opening day of the season at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Friday, July 22, 2016. An attorney representing residents has argued against building a $6.6 million fire/EMS station near the track due to zoning issues and concerns it will disturb the horses. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Braymer is especially concerned about the approval because the public is barred from Tuesday’s meeting, a move that is part of the city’s declared state of emergency to stave off the spread of COVID-19.

“My clients are very concerned about the impact of the proposed lease agreement and construction of the fire/EMS facility,” Braymer wrote to the City Council. “This is an important action and should not be discussed and decided upon without live public input.  We understand the need to protect the public from the impacts of coronavirus and the need to move forward with critical city operations.  However, the decision about the lease agreement for the fire/EMS facility is not a decision that must be made immediately. ...  Therefore, we ask that you table any action on this matter until the public can attend the meeting in person and after the public has all of the documents in advance for proper review and comment.”

On Monday, the mayor nor Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton responded to a Times Union request for comment.

For decades, residents on the eastern ridge or plateau, the newly developed end of the city near and around Saratoga Lake, have clamored for a fire and EMS station. They have argued that response times from the city’s two stations – on Lake Avenue, which is in the center of the city and on West Avenue on the west side – are too long. Residents say they wait seven to 10 minutes for emergency responders and that a closer fire and EMS station would significantly reduce the wait.

Every election cycle, city candidates have made promises and some, like former Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen, tried to fulfill the promise by entering into a land deal to purchase 14.48 acres on Route 9P. But after questions were raised over the legality of the deal, that involved the city’s Collamer parking lot, the plan was halted by the state.

Kelly, days before her re-election, vowed to build a station on 2.36 acres of state land occupied the New York Racing Association, alongside the training track. The city is hoping to build a facility that is between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet, supports an ambulance and fire truck, is staffed around the clock and would serve as a command center for first responders during race season. The city planned to borrow the money this year to build the facility.

In addition to the noise and zoning, Braymer also said her ability to review documents that she requested on the proposed fire/EMS station has been limited and that many questions – on noise, traffic, aesthetics, ground water, trees and plants – have gone unanswered.

Finally, she said if the purpose is to serve the eastern plateau, a track site on the west side of the Northway is not ideal.

“The fire/EMS facility … was supposed to be for the protection/response for the area of the city to the east of the Northway,” she wrote. “Therefore, this site is not the best location for the intended area of service.”

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©2020 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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