Hearing tonight on Ampersand Bay Resort

SARANAC LAKE – A public hearing will be held tonight on a more than one-year-old proposal to rezone the Ampersand Bay Resort and Boat Club property, part of a plan by resort owner Neil Hopkins to further develop the 28-acre property at the east end of Lower Saranac Lake.

The hearing, hosted by the Harrietstown town board, will be held at 6:50 p.m. in the board’s meeting room on the lower level of the Harrietstown Town Hall, 39 Main St.

Hopkins has asked the town to change the zoning on the waterfront property from “B3 resort business” to “planned resort development.” He said the change would let him cluster development and preserve open space on the property. It would also let him sell off some of the resort’s existing units to fund the building of new condominiums, cottages and other amenities for both resort guests and local residents.

“For years the town has asked me, ‘What are you going to do with the property?’ For years, I wasn’t really sure,” Hopkins told the Enterprise Wednesday. “This gives a predictability of what’s going to happen in the future. I can tell that to the town now and show them a plan we will follow closely.”

The resort currently has about two dozen units, including both cabins and condos, some on the waterfront and others set back from the lake. Hopkins said the long-term plan is to increase that to 40 units.

“Going forward, we would add some individual cabins, some triplexes, twins perhaps,” he said. “One of our plans is to put in some small, I call them honeymoon cottages, with views of the lake.”

The plan, which Hopkins developed with local architect and planner Jim Hotaling, also includes nature trails, a recreation and community center, a small store for the resort’s guests, and a restaurant – something Hopkins said he tried to build before but was “basically shot down” by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“DEC regulations prevented us from putting it where we wanted it, over the water where the old restaurant used to be called the Red Door,” he said. “They just wouldn’t approve it over the water, even though it was there before. Our new plan will be to put one near the water, with views of the water. It’s going to be a year-round restaurant for local people.”

Hopkins said any new development on the property hinges on the prospect of selling off some of the resort’s existing units. He noted that any units that are sold would still be controlled by a homeowners association.

“This is not going to be sold off and people can do what they want,” Hopkins said. “If people buy units, they have to maintain them as they are: the colors, the architecture, the whole bit. It is strictly controlled with homeowners association.”

Harrietstown Code Enforcement Officer and Zoning Administrator Ed Randig said even if the town board approves the zoning change to planned resort development, any new developments on the property would still require site plan approval by the town planning board.

“The nice thing about it is, it’s one of the last resort-type uses, and it’s a gateway to the community,” Randig said. “The potential for expansion is great, only because you have the waterfront. There’s not a lot of places on the water that you can have that much development occurring in a controlled way.”

The rezoning was first proposed in January of last year. It’s already been approved by the town planning board.