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Trustees Approve Development District For Hotel Project

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A controversial hotel development project can take the next step forward after Saranac Lake officials approved a new zoning law.

A Malone, NY-based developer wants to construct a four-story, 93-room hotel, resort and conference center on the shore of Lake Flower in Saranac Lake. Three existing motels would be razed and replaced with the Lake Flower Lodging project.

On Monday, Saranac Lake village trustees approved a Planned Unit Development District — PUDD — for the site, which includes the zoning changes necessary for the project to move forward.
Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau says the village desperately needs a “critical mass” of tourist lodging.   “To have this hotel in conjunction with the Hotel Saranac will put us on a great foothold to becoming a tourist destination.  It’s going to be a net gain of 53 rooms in Saranac Lake and we can well cover that. Plus we can become even more competitive because those two together will give us that critical mass of rooms that we need to attract small conferences, smaller conventions, groups.”

In a letter to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, area resident Curt Stiles lists numerous downsides to the hotel development and the PUDD’s approval, including a questionable economic analysis. Stiles, a former chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency, says he’s not opposed to development. He’s concerned that rather than the PUDD being used appropriately as part of a long-range plan, trustees were reacting to an individual developer’s proposal.   “This particular project  really contradicts the village’s comprehensive plan and the long-range shorefront revitalization plan that they’ve had in place for a long, long time. It’s clearly not a destination resort by the standards that we would look at. But the PUDD process itself I don’t think really comprehended the opportunity versus the risk. You could build three new hotels for the ones that they’re going to tear down and not have to change any of the zoning law at all. You could put one hotel on those three lots and not have to change the zoning law at all. So it’s a question of how big does it have to be and how much do you have to do out of the normal?”

The Lake Flower Lodging project, which will cost an estimated $15 to 18 million, must be approved by the local planning board and then go before the Adirondack Park Agency. Mayor Rabideau is cautiously excited about future approvals.   “This development is in a hamlet zone.  Development and growth is supposed to happen in a hamlet zone in the Adirondack Park. And we need it. We desperately need it.”

Stiles cautions that the current project design falls under APA review.   “The Park Agency has jurisdiction over that project because the height of it is over 40 feet. And the shorefront setbacks are out of context with what state law says. So there would have to be a variance from the Park Agency in that regard as well.  Now the Park Agency tends not to review as much of the detail in a project that’s been approved by local government in a hamlet.  But there are things that they are clearly responsible for,  as is the DEC.  And so those two approvals would have to made before this project could move forward.”

Calls to the developer and to the village trustees were not returned in time for broadcast.

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