by R.J. DeLuke
A proposed major development at Saratoga National Golf Club on the east side of Saratoga Springs was outlined on March 16, including plans for a “boutique hotel,” residential units and cottages for out-of-town visitors to use for extended golfing excursions.
Officials presenting the plan, including the owner and architect, said that while the plan would turn the site into a five-star destination golf resort–something they say is needed in the city–it will also be “green space” friendly and will ensure that 97 percent of the 550 acres could not be developed in the future and would remain green open, recreational space.
The golf project is also tied to the creation of the Saratoga Springs Green Belt Trail, a recreational trail for bicycles and others that would make many of the key attractions of the city accessible through one connected trail for walkers, cross-country skiers, runners and bicycle riders.
The plan was presented at a forum at the Gideon Putnam Resort & Spa. Its developers and proposers were joined by representatives of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau.
The plan has a controversial side, as some, like a group named Sustainable Saratoga, feel the development would be improper. Representatives of that group were invited, but turned down the opportunity to attend and speak.
Eventually, the plan needs City Council approval. The council is soon to embark on talks to develop a comprehensive development plan. Proponents of the golf project hope the city will approve the “resort overlay district” proviso that would allow the project to move forward.
Mike Toohey, an attorney for the project, said under current zoning, the course owners could go ahead and build residential homes on the property, with little regard to whether they might be close to the road or unsightly in some people’s eyes.
That is not what the owners want, he said. That would be the urban sprawl that the owners and designer want to avoid. The proposal calls for the development to take place on only 10 acres that are not currently developed, and the buildings would be some 3,000 feet from a roadway.
Toohey said that the proposed arrangement is a solution to green-space concerns, that also allows the golf course to improve.
That improvement, officials said, will benefit the entire city, including the downtown business district, by bringing in more tourists.
Tourism Bureau President Todd Garofano said the city lost out on a potential $7 million in extra business last year because it does not have a five-star golf course. He said 20 large groups were searching for a four- or five-star golf resort destination and wound up going elsewhere.
Tom Newkirk, Saratoga National CEO, said the project is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and would make the golf course and its amenities a major economic driver for the city.
Michael Phinney of the Phinney Design Group in Saratoga Springs, said they would like “to take what is a jewel of a landscape and use it to benefit Saratoga Springs and make it truly a destination” for worldwide tourism.
It’s designed in four phases. The first is a practice facility and golf academy. The second is expansion of the clubhouse to include an event pavilion and meeting space. The third would be the 100-room , five-star hotel, with a wellness center and spa, along with cottages for small groups. The fourth phase is 100 residential units and connecting the Green Belt Trail.
Toohey said the expansion would generate nearly $1.5 million in new property taxes, about $420,000 in hotel occupancy taxes annually. Employment numbers would be hiked by 260 jobs. It currently employs 432 people.
Proponents are hoping for open discussion of the project at the city level. Several people in the audience lauded the project during a question and answer session.