Double trouble for Spa City rec center

Two challenges are threatening to put a stop to the City of Saratoga Springs's plans to build an indoor recreation center at the Southside Recreation Fields, near Vanderbilt and Lincoln avenues.

On Thursday, Feb. 26, State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Nolan issued a temporary injunction on the project in relation to a lawsuit filed against the city by a group of residents calling themselves Friends of South Side. Nolan will hear arguments from both sides on March 13.

The injunction does not damn the project, but simply keeps the city from putting shovels in the ground, said Mayor Scott Johnson, who has long been a supporter of the controversial project.

The temporary restraining order was not based on the merits of their claim, said Johnson. "Their obtaining an injunction would be much more difficult."

The lawsuit challenges the city's environmental review, argues that the budgeting of the project violates the city charter and argues that variances must be obtained for the building's setbacks from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

That last argument might be addressed soon, as the City Council voted to send the project to the Zoning Board at its Tuesday March 3, meeting. Though Johnson has long maintained the step is not necessary, he said he would take the extra time to strengthen the city's case.

"It's not as a concession to the argument of the lawsuit, but to eliminate an element of the lawsuit," he said.

At the same time a judge has stopped the program, the state Department of Labor has issued a stop bid order against the city arguing that it had violated Wicks Law by failing to bid the project in pieces. The Council voted on Feb. 17 to award a nearly $5 million contract for the entire project to Halfmoon-based Bast-Hatfield, in a 3-2 vote.

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