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Saratoga Springs City Council waits on budget, moratorium

The Saratoga Springs City Council did not pass two contentious measures at its Tuesday, June 16, meeting, one by way of tabling and another by a failed vote.

In actuality, the issue of a proposed moratorium on demolition permits for structures within or listed as contributing to the National Register of Historic Places saw both moves. Mayor Scott Johnson tabled the item after concerns were raised about amendments suggested during a public hearing on the law, while Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim brought the law sans amendments to a 2-3 vote later in the meeting.

Samantha Bosshart of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation suggested that a potential loophole in the law be closed through an amendment. The proposed moratorium defines demolition as the "removal of more that 33 percent floor area" of a structure. Bosshart suggested an owner could demolish a portion of the structure out of "spite."

To eliminate this possibility, it was suggested that structures built before June 16, 1959, be excluded from the definition. Fifty years is the minimum age for acceptance onto the national register.

It was clear the amendment was supported by a majority of the council, but Johnson tabled the motion on advice of counsel because the change would be significant enough to require another public hearing on the law.

An administrative hold on demolition permits, passed by the council on June 2, protects a building at 23 Greenfield Ave. from demolition until July 7, when the council meets again. Ronald and Michelle Riggi, who live on the neighboring property, recently bought the 1865 home, and when it became clear they sought to demolish it, a public outcry was heard.

The structure is not within a city historic district and is therefore not protected from demolition. It is, however, listed as a "contributing structure" on the National Register of Historic Places.

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