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Owners Seek Expansion At Popular Saratoga Lake Restaurant

The Saratoga Springs Zoning Board of Appeals met on July 23rd, 2018
Screen capture of ZBA meeting
City of Saratoga Springs
The Saratoga Springs Zoning Board of Appeals met on July 23rd, 2018

The owners of a popular Saratoga Lake restaurant that closed earlier this year due to a fire are seeking an expansion before the business is reopened. But nearby residents are objecting to the size of the project.

The owners of the Lake Local restaurant, which caught fire in April, appeared before the Saratoga Springs Zoning Board of Appeals Monday night. They are seeking variance from the board to expand, with hopes to build a 298-seat restaurant. If approved, the project would also include a 25-room inn, an enlarged paddle board shop, a 10-room bed and breakfast, and additional parking and docking spaces.

Mike Phinney, Principal of the Phinney Design Group and a co-owner of the property, said the April fire was difficult for the business that at peak employs 150 people.

“We had planned to redevelop and improve the property for some time now, not just because of the fire. But because of the fire, it has required us to try to expedite as much as possible. We have real financial implications if we cannot be open for next season,” said Phinney.

After a presentation on the project, neighbors on the lake — increasingly of interest to developers — aired their concerns.

Mary Beth Winn complained of noise and the size of the project.

“I do not understand why a company that knows the legal limits on boundaries for new construction on a property deliberately designs buildings that exceed those limits rather than respecting them,” said Winn.

With an expanded paddle board shop and a potential increase in boat traffic, neighbor Mary Skevington has safety concerns. She recalled an accident at the site several years ago when a county sheriff’s marine patrol boat collided with a Saratoga Rowing Association racing boat, seriously injuring a teenager.

“And I truly worry about us seeing an accident. And if somebody hits a paddleboarder, it’s not going to be an injury. It’s going to be a death,” said Skevington.

Skevington said the fact that variances are being sought demonstrates the project is too big.

“If we had a home run here, I personally would say remove the inn, remove the paddle board shop. Maybe the bed and breakfast, you know, a 10-room, that could be… and have a restaurant that’s scaled to size. There will be more business from the community than anyone could possibly keep their hands full with,” said Skevington. 

Many at the microphone expressed how much they enjoy the restaurant, which opened in 2015. But the impact of the project remains a concern. Neighbor Sid Hellman directed his comments to Phinney.

“A big fan of the Local and Lake Local,  I take clients to both your establishments. We miss the Lake Local. But I have to say ditto. This is huge. You can come sit on my deck on any Saturday afternoon and just watch the sheriff pull over boat after boat after boat for boating irresponsibly. No one knows the rules of the water,” said Hellman.

The project will also be considered by the Saratoga Springs Planning Board. The Zoning Board of Appeals will meet again in September.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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