Mathiesen pulls proposal to sell parking lot by Algonquin building

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
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— The Saratoga Springs City Council won’t be selling the final public parking lot on Broadway anytime soon.

There was no vote Tuesday night on a proposal by Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen to sell the Collamer lot, located next to the Algonquin building, for $775,000 and buy a $200,000 property on the East Side of the city to use for a third fire station. He pulled the item when it became clear that it wouldn’t pass.

“I need three votes, but I don’t have them so far,” he said before the meeting.

Mathiesen was disappointed by the council’s failure to act on the land swap and said the city was potentially missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. During the meeting, he indicated that the owner of the East Side property, who also owns the Algonquin building and wants to develop the Collamer lot, set a limited timetable for the proposal.

“I’m convinced this is the best deal we’re ever going to find after looking and looking,” Mathiesen said.

The city received only one response to its request for potential properties to purchase on the East Side, and that came from Joel Aranson, owner of the Algonquin building, who initially proposed the idea of the land swap. Mathiesen said there were no plans to extend the deadline for proposals or to solicit proposals from potentially interested parties. He said the city was getting a fair deal with his proposal.

Public Works Commissioner Skip Scirocco said the deal felt like the city was being held hostage.

During the public comment section of the meeting, multiple community business leaders called on the city to proceed slowly with any plans that might remove the Collamer lot as a spot for parking.

Saratoga Springs City Center Authority President Mark Baker it would be catastrophic for the city if parking wasn’t available at the same time in the Collamer lot and behind the City Center, where a parking garage is in the works.

In response to this, Mathiesen argued that there is always a place to park but added that parking also wasn’t as important as public safety.

Scirocco suggested the development of the Collamer lot should be delayed until the City Center garage is completed, if the land swap is approved in the future.

Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said the city needs a third fire station but noted that she still has more questions about the plans. “I still see this project as a way out,” she said.

Mayor Scott Johnson, an opponent of a third fire station, has questioned why the city can only buy land for a fire station as part of a trade.

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