Triple D forges ahead with development plans

 


Access, availability, spot-zoning, and questions of protocol once again dominated discussion of Triple D Construction’s (“Triple D”) plan to develop a 6.7 acre lot on the western edge of Saratoga. In contrast to previous planning commission meetings, however, the developers emerged from the May 10 meeting with a solid way forward.

Perhaps one difference from previous meetings was the presence of additional stakeholders during the discussion. In addition to Chuck Bartlett, who has represented the firm at planning commission meetings in the past, owner of Triple D, Bryan Drake, was also present, as was Lori Forster, who was representing the interests of the Swanson Brothers. Swanson Brothers owns the vacant lot that Triple D wants to develop.

The proposed development would include 3.34 acres of medium density housing and contain condominiums. An additional 3.37 acres would be reserved for “garage condominiums,” or multipurpose sheds that can be leased as workshops or storage spaces.


One of the main sticking points in planning commission meetings past was how to incorporate the outside storage units and living spaces into the same area. Bartlett had suggested zoning the garage condominium acreage as a “light industrial” zone, an approach that many of the commission members seemed reluctant to embrace.

Area property owner Randy Raymer objected that this zone change would create the potential for a concrete plant or other eyesore to develop there in the future – a possibility Bartlett and Drake disputed.

Raymer also viewed as problematic Triple D’s “test the waters” approach of consulting the planning commission before purchasing the property. “I sit here all night tonight and last meeting watching this pre-approval process for variances and zone changes, and quite honestly, I don’t like it,” Raymer said. Commission member Karl Smith seemed of the same mind, saying, “we’re trying to give you pre-approval, put things in place before you own (the lot), and I don’t think we can do that comfortably. I think that’s all it comes down to.”

In reply to these concerns, Drake asked the commission, “Why would I buy a piece of property that I can’t use? That’s what happens when people put the cart before the horse.”

Despite these concerns, many commission members expressed their desire to see the project succeed. “If you look at Saratoga, we’re full of entrepreneurs who have no place to work but their backyard,” commission member Rusty Rogers opined. Forster, the real estate agent who represented Swanson Brothers at the meeting, agreed with Rogers, saying “I have people lined up that I can actually send to you because there is such a need for this.”

Another major obstacle Bartlett and Drake faced in getting the zoners on board with their plan was access to the residential units from town. In plans Triple D provided to the commission, the only roads which lead to the development branch off from County Road 385, which is outside of Saratoga town limits and often inaccessible Saratoga Police Chief and commission member Thomas Knickerbocker, concerned about reaching residents in emergencies said, “I still think if you want to be a part of the town of Saratoga, we need access to it from the town of Saratoga.” Several commission members echoed this sentiment, with Rogers saying “we’re trying to find a way to make it work, but I’m not even going to be interested in it unless it’s accessible from Elm and the Thirteenth Street area.”

In the end, access issues were shelved for another day, and the commission provided Triple D with a path forward. “Highway business fits best,” commission chair Rory Grubb told the representatives of Triple D, after much discussion of how to zone the garage condominiums. “With all this rigamarole, we finally came up with an idea,” Drake said happily.

According to Bartlett, Triple D has begun the process of collecting signatures from residents near the proposed development, the first step in the zone-change process. The firm hopes to have collected those in time to move forward with the change by the June 14 planning commission meeting.

Also discussed at the planning commission was a special use permit for Richard Beres and Christa Campbell to run a child-care facility at 418 North Veterans Street. Noting that the town was in need of such facilities, the planners granted the permit, after making sure the children would be dropped off out of the way of a nearby truck route to the sawmill.

The commission tabled a scheduled conversation about the commission being $7,000 over budget. The absence of commission member Will Faust, who also serves on the town council, contributed to this decision.

The next meeting of the planning commission will be held 5:30 p.m., June 14 at the Saratoga Town Hall.

 

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