Albany Times Union
Vows blocked at farm venue
Plan that would again let S & S hold weddings tabled
SARATOGA — Even though a judge ruled against them, town officials proposed a workaround that would allow a controversial venue to again host weddings.
On Monday night, the Saratoga Town Board held a public hearing that would amend a local zoning law to allow large commercial events in rural, conservation and rural-residential areas, as long as the venue sits on a 5-acre lot. S & S Saratoga Farm, the controversial venue that a judge ruled in January could not legally operate, is situated on a 5-acre lot.
After several residents spoke out against the plan, saying it was clearly written to accommodate S & S farm, the proposed law was tabled.
Jennifer Clayton, who lives about a half-mile away from S & S Saratoga Farm, was among those who spoke out.
“Route 29 is a very busy state road,” Clayton said on Tuesday. “It’s busy all the time. Obviously, the traffic is compounded when there is an event there. Cars are all over the place. And the noise reaches me a half-mile away. Last year, I was working in my garden and all I could hear was a thumping sound. It was loud. So I thought I would drive to see where the noise was coming from and it was at the venue.”
After she discovered the source of the noise, she stopped to talk to a neighbor, who lives behind the venue and brought the winning suit against the town. She said they had to shout to talk.
“It’s insanity,” Clayton said. “The common factor for all of us is we moved here for quality of life. We moved away from the very thing that is being pushed into
our communities now. I’m strongly opposed to it. They want to amend the zoning laws in order to favor a business over the people who live here.”
Louis Farone was cautiously optimistic when he and his wife won the suit in January, in which Judge Richard Kupferman said the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals “misinterpreted the special use permit and irrationally concluded that it provided the legal authority for the use at issue.” Now he is disappointed the town isn’t honoring the ruling.
“Our way of life has been affected for six years,” he said. “It kind of hurts that they were doing something illegal all this time and the town knew about it. They don’t seem to care. No one ever asked us anything like how we are doing. Is there any kind of compassion?”
Supervisor Tom Wood did not immediately respond to a Times Union request for comment.
Corey Dempsey, the co-owner of the venue, told the Times Union last month that when he bought the property in October 2020, he was promised by the town he could host weddings there as long as he complied with limits: 80 people and 40 cars with an ending time of 10 p.m. He showed up to the Town Board meeting to remind officials of that promise.
A house on the property is also a short-term rental that is now listed on Airbnb at $176 a night. In February, Dempsey said he will continue to rent out the house.
John Cashin, who has been trying to stop the town from changing another law regarding felling trees on steep slopes above Saratoga Lake, co-wrote a letter with Leslie Maeby to the board voicing opposition to the new amendment.
“While we understand the potential economic benefits that may come from allowing wedding venues in these areas, we believe that such a change would have detrimental effects on the character and quality of life in our community,” the letter stated. Their letter cites noise pollution and environmental impacts, as well as the cars that park along the 55 mph stretch on Route 29 during events, which they said is a safety issue.
Paul Murphy, another resident, wrote in an email that the law, like the change to stop protecting trees on steep slopes, is “another effort to subvert existing town zoning laws in order to favor developer/out of town business interests by removing protections for current residents.”
He noted that the agenda for the meeting was never posted on the town’s website and that the town “makes every effort to avoid public scrutiny and jam this law past us with no discussion.”s & S Saratoga Farm, formerly known as Schuyler Pond, has been operating as a wedding venue since it was purchased in 2016 by Mary Maranville and Kevin Dott. At the time, the couple told the Planning Board that they wanted to create an agricultural education center for children. However, the couple said their Demaranville Farm & Gardens would only be financially viable if they could host an occasional wedding. At the time, Maranville told the Planning Board that events “will be very limited.”
The Planning Board at the time granted them a special use permit for events to support the center.