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Saratoga Springs agrees to land swap

Deal paves way for new firehouse

Friday, December 20, 2013
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— The Saratoga Springs City Council has approved a land swap that will give the city a place to build a new fire station east of the Northway.

It will also mean the last parking lot on Broadway will be replaced, perhaps as soon as 2015, by a mixed-use commercial building.

The council approved the deal to buy land on Route 9P and at the same time sell the city parking lot at 500 Broadway by a 4-1 vote this week, with Mayor Scott Johnson dissenting.

Under the pro-

posal made by Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, the parking lot will be sold to Algonquin Building LLC for $775,000. The property, located next to the Algonquin building, is just over an acre, with 42 parking spots.

In turn, the city will pay $200,000 for a 14-acre lot on the north side of Route 9P, just west of Northway Exit 14. Both properties are controlled by businessman Joel Aranson, who Johnson said insisted on the swap before he would sell the Route 9P land.

Mathiesen said the acquisition of the Route 9P land is a first step toward building a fire station on the site. The goal is to bring fire and medical services closer to people who live on the city’s far east side, where a number subdivisions of expensive housing have been built in the last two decades.

“This is the ideal location,” Mathiesen told the council.

Most of the property is wetlands, but officials said there are two or three acres of buildable land.

Decisions about when to build a fire station, how much it will cost and how to staff it have yet to be made. Mathiesen has proposed staffing firetrucks with three firefighters instead of four to minimize new personnel costs, but the firefighters’ union opposes reducing the staff on each truck.

Aranson, however, wants to move forward with the new building on Broadway within the next 15 months, according to the council resolution.

The timetable for construction is tied to plans for the City Center, which borders the back of the Broadway lot, to build a new parking garage to increase downtown parking capacity. The garage would be on the site of the existing city lot between Maple and High Rock avenues.

Mathiesen said the City Center could be ready to start building as soon as this spring, though Johnson pointed out the City Council has seen no formal proposal for the garage. Council members said they don’t want to see the garage and the new building under construction at the same time, because of their proximity.

Johnson said he opposed the land transactions because not enough has been worked out about the plans for a third fire station.

Mathiesen said the number of calls — emergency medical calls in particular — has increased to the point that both existing stations are called out at the same time, raising the issue of what happens if there’s a third call.

The city’s main fire station is on Lake Avenue in the downtown area, and the second station is on West Avenue, on the west side.

The council also approved a non-binding letter of interest allowing Skidmore College to continue planning for a new building it would attach to the Wiebel Avenue ice rink. The building would include a locker room, weight room and media room for use by the Skidmore hockey teams, which use the rink.

As part of the deal, the college would give the city $500,000, and the building would become city property, though Skidmore would build it.

 
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