Saratoga Lake Development Draws Concern From Neighbors

May 19, 2017

Neighbors of a proposed development project on Saratoga Lake have environmental concerns. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports the local municipality is taking steps to prevent clear-cutting.

Saratoga Springs-based company Witt Development has proposed a 31-unit housing development on 111 acres on the eastern shore of Saratoga Lake. The wooded land overlooks the lake which is surrounded with homes and seasonal camps.

Developer John Witt says the parcel is split in two parts, with the western portion remaining forever wild.

“And there’ll be no cutting in that area. And the area that we would clear for the sites, it’s conservation subdivisions. So what we’re doing is we’re keeping half the developable land in perpetuity as open space, and then we’re recreating…there’s an old farm there. So we’re gonna recreate the old farmhouse and the land behind the farm,” said Witt.

Witt said land will be cleared for the home sites and selective clearing will be done for views.

But the project has been met with opposition from concerned neighbors. Many are worried about the environmental impacts of runoff from the property ending up in the lake, says David Wallingford, commissioner-at-large at the Saratoga Lake Protection and Improvement District.

“The clear-cutting, obviously, is a big concern because you’re going to denude that property of vegetation. What’s going to hold the soil back? You’re going to see a traffic increase also on that stretch of road,” said Wallingford.

Witt says the project will follow New York state environmental rules and that stormwater runoff will not be an issue.

“There’s no concern there,” said Witt.

The property is located on Route 9P in the Town of Saratoga.

The town had a moratorium on clear-cutting set to expire this month. Earlier this month, action was taken to establish a new local law to prevent it.

Town supervisor Tom Wood said about 25 residents made comments at a public hearing with concerns about the project. He said those concerns were considered in the new local law.

“We ultimately approved local law number four regarding the clear-cutting, but the caveat is, and we are in process now, that we are taking into consideration some of the suggestions that were made and we will be amending local law number four at our June meeting,” said Wood.

That meeting is scheduled for June 12th at 7 p.m.

Saratoga Lake Association Board President Alan Richer says he’s concerned about the fines related to clear-cutting in the local law and that future developers would just clear trees anyway.

“And we’ve seen examples of this in other parts of the lake, that sometimes the fines are very…are relatively insignificantly monetarily and that people just build that into the cost of their project,” said Richer.

Wood says he is looking to step up the penalty for clear-cutting. 

“We currently have in it a $1,000 fine immediately and up to one year imprisonment for violation of this law. And our attorney essentially set it up this way so it would have bigger teeth, if you will, then were it simply part of the zoning ordinance,” said Wood.

Witt said he did not have any comment on the ordinance and said he would not clear any trees until the project is approved. It must get approval from the town Planning Board.