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Lake Placid mayor discusses village issues

Lake Placid Mayor Art Devlin
Pat Bradley
Lake Placid Mayor Art Devlin

Republican Art Devlin was elected mayor of the village of Lake Placid in March 2021 after serving as a village trustee for 12 years. Devlin spoke Wednesday with WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley about a number of issues facing the Olympic village, beginning with the completion of the Main Street redesign, paving and infrastructure upgrade project:

It's been working out really great. One of the things that really fell into place, not by accident but by luck, was the granite sidewalks. And when you do a main street over, you tear it all up. You inconvenience everyone for two to three years. You replace everything under the ground. You put it all back together and everyone looks and goes what was this all about? But because of the nice granite sidewalks and the nice touches with the trees and the gardens, everyone feels that it's different and really appreciates it. And it really does have a nice look to it. It all started way before me. I just came in at the end to connect the dots. But it's a great project.


The parking was being rearranged too. Has that worked out? Has there been any problems with people getting confused with parking or anything like that?


A lot of people had to relearn how to parallel park! That's been the biggest problem. And you know, parking, it's the old saying we're lucky we have a problem with parking. But it is always going to be a problem on Main Street. We're just also lucky that we have three big hotels on either end of Main Street that bring a, provide a lot of people.


In Plattsburgh they did redo of their downtown main street and the businesses are still recovering from that. How are the businesses doing in the aftermath of the Main Street construction in Lake Placid?


I would say our businesses are doing very well. Even during the construction, we had weekly newsletters going out keeping everyone informed what day what was going to happen and then when you couldn't hit that deadline, now it's going to be the next day or the next and really stayed on top of things. And you know, we had days when excavators showed up and put a pile of dirt in front of someone's door. There's the old saying that the shortest amount of time is when you're sitting at a red light and it goes from red to green before a horn blows. The second shortest time is when you pile dirt in front of a business's business. But you know, everyone was really good. The store owners were really good. The locals were really good. The tourists were really good. And that made it work. And a lot of people brought their children up because they just wanted to watch the heavy equipment work. So there actually was a plus to it.


Mayor, short term rentals is an ongoing issue for many communities. It's been an issue in Lake Placid. What's the situation with short term rentals right now for Lake Placid and the town of North Elba?


As you said, it's something that's exploded in the last 10 - 15, years. We're lucky that we got in when we did and we put the vacation rental in. We've actually been through our second revision of it. It's an ongoing process. We're in the process of reviewing things again. You know, we came to the point where we said, we actually had worked on it for three months and we stopped and we said if we got rid of every vacation rental would it solve all our problems? And the answer was no. So we started from scratch, started over again, and just tried to make a compromise between having them in some areas, protecting other neighborhoods, and so far that's been working really well. And to be honest with you, I've heard very little complaints. We're not hearing about cars parking up neighborhoods and noise and all that. So we seem to be going in a good direction.


Did you look at other communities or is this something where you said, no we've just got to totally start from scratch?


To be honest with you, we didn't realize it, but towards the end our lawyers started telling us that the world was watching us, or at least the United States for sure, and this would probably be the invention of the wheel and people would pattern off us. And we do have, periodically, people calling us and asking questions. And I did do a presentation at the National Conference of Mayors on what we have done and what's coming. Of course, we were in an ideal position, I mean, or ideal set of circumstances where we have a beautiful area, a lot of tourism and it just made sense for a lot of people financially to build their homes here.


Well, one of the things that is hoped to bring more people to the area is the state investments into ORDA (Olympic Regional Development Authority). Have you seen a trickle down from that to businesses and to people coming into Lake Placid?


Yes, definitely. And I think you have to go back to Jim McKenna (recently retired CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and now CEO and Vice Chair of the Uihlein Foundation) and his connections that he brought the children's games. He brought the World University Games which got the governor at the time to appropriate the money. And without all that, it wouldn't have worked. And the World University Games was very big. It may not have been. You'd never hold the World University Games for the business it provides for the two weeks it's here. It's more for the long term. And already, even when I go, like I mentioned, my National Conference of Mayors, all of a sudden I'm a celebrity, where I was a no one before. But it's all the advertising worldwide. The president at the time of FISU (Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire) said that the world just got a different view of New York state and they're very impressed. So something like that going back with all the delegates, all the national media and of course we had great weather for the events and it's all worked out great. We are seeing the benefits. And it comes down to too when you have conventions, you know, if there's someplace no one wants to be that's who shows up but if it's somewhere like here the families come and it all helps.


Well, speaking of families, I know North Elba is working on a Restore New York grant application. I guess there's some commercial space that they want to make rental units out of. And I'm not sure if that is in the village or actually in the town.


It's in the town. Yeah.


It's in the town. Would it help Lake Placid because Lake Placid also has affordability issues with housing and things like that if they get that Restore New York grant?


Oh, okay, I'm familiar with what you're talking about now. Yes, parts of that are in the village. Yes, that'll be very helpful. There will be some more housing. You know that that's, that's the big battle is housing. And even if you give someone the land and by time you build a building it's almost out of people's reach, it's just so expensive here. But that's an ongoing battle.


How optimistic are you that you'll get that Restore, well the town, will get the Restore New York grant?


That's a good question. I can't answer that one. We're just going to have to wait and see. You know, we've had so much done for us here that you feel a little bit guilty. But you've got to ask the questions and see if you can get the grants.


It was recently announced that the contract for Ironman Lake Placid was extended and I remember a year or so ago some of the residents were not real thrilled to have Ironman Lake Placid in the village. What was done to rectify the concerns that the residents had that allowed you to be able to extend the contract and not have people be upset about it because I didn't hear any negative comments about extending it this time around?


A year ago, if you asked people what they thought of the Ironman, for every one person that was thrilled with it there was someone that didn't like it. And our goal at the time was to try to push that needle so there were more for it than against. And the event council has worked hard on that to answer the concerns, help people that are landlocked during the event to get out, work with the training camps that come here to try to ride single file. Because, you know, a lot of our problem is, is that people can't live in Lake Placid because it's so expensive. So they move to the outside communities. Then they have to commute in every day and for two to three months in the spring, when Iron people are here training they're tying up the roads, and it can add 20 minutes to commute. So people going single file, giving cars a chance to get by them is very important. Because let's face it at some point if the locals don't want it, I'm here at this, I serve for the public. And if they don't want it, then that event will go away. But we felt confident that enough had been done that we could sign a three-year contract and keep working things out. But that's what it is a three-year contract and when it's over we'll evaluate again.


One sad item that was in the New York Times actually, Terry Robards who had, has, a wine shop in Lake Placid. He passed away. Did you know him well? What was he like and what does this mean for Lake Placid?


I didn't know him well but I knew the name. I knew of him, one of our Lake Placid characters. I'm a beer drinker, that's probably why I didn't know him well. But yes, no, he'll be missed. But he was, he was a great asset to the community.


And the other thing, when you go to the link on the town and village website for the water treatment plant upgrades, nothing's there. So I'm curious what's happening with that.


It's actually village. That's a hard, even people on our board don't know the, it's hard to know the lines between village and town. But it is a village entity. It just finished restoration. It just got repainted and there will be a tour. I think it's July 9. It's a great facility. It's state of the art now which it needed to be. There are a lot of niceties that came with this. You know, before if an alarm went off, he didn't know what it was. Now it tells them what it is, so they know what they're going in to fix. They know who to call to go in to fix it. Before, if we wanted to backwash all these big backwash filters had to go at once. Now you can do just one. Things can be turned on and off with variable speed. So it's a big upgrade.



Lake Placid Mayor Art Devlin is serving his first four-year term.  The village of Lake Placid is part of the Town of North Elba.



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