Saratoga Springs' comprehensive committee creates controversy

Posted at: 02/14/2013 5:51 PM
By: Mark Mulholland

SARATOGA SPRINGS - A walk around the Spa City reveals always-evolving growth. There are businesses coming and going and construction projects in various stages.

And none of the development happens without the consent of a Comprehensive Plan Committee. The charter mandates that every five years, the city must appoint a panel to chart all future development.  The board is tasked with deciding things like zoning, what construction is allowed, and where.

"Second to the charter, it's the most important thing that happens in the city," said John Franck, D - Accounts Commissioner.

But Commissioner Franck and the other two Democrats on the City Council say they weren't allowed to pick people to serve on the review committee. They say Mayor Scott Johnson acted on his own to pick the entire 13-member board, without asking the council for their selections.

The mayor says that's not true.

"The City Council Democrats refused to even give me a name for future consideration," argues Johnson.

A confidential memo obtained by NewsChannel 13 shows that the mayor sought the Council's input only after he'd selected 11 members. The mayor's memo urges commissioners to "use one of these individuals as your recommendation."

The Democrats say they have no problem with the ten men and three women the mayor picked, which include a banker, a developer, and a school superintendent, but they say they don't represent a diverse cross section of the city. In fact four of the 13 don't live in the city.

"It's taxation without representation. Great people. Advisory role, super. Vote, no," said Franck.

"I don't believe the council thinks they are bad picks. They're just mad they didn't get to make them themselves," said Johnson.

The mayor has asked for $65,000 to pay for a consultant that will guide the committee. The 3 Democrats on the council refuse to vote for the expenditure.

The mayor said Thursday that he will not rule out asking a consultant to volunteer to help the committee.