Judge dismisses One Main Street complaint

LAKE PLACID – A state Supreme Court judge has dismissed a local real estate broker’s complaint against the village of Lake Placid for allegedly blocking vehicular access to the rear of his Main Street property.

In a May 9 decision, Judge Robert Muller ruled that the village’s decision to prevent vehicles from driving through a public park near One Main Street “was neither arbitrary nor capricious,” as was claimed by Peter Day, who owns the adjacent property.

Mayor Craig Randall said this week that the ruling was “favorable” to the village “and it seems to leave no question about the village’s position with respect to the pathway.”

“It’s a very welcome decision,” village Attorney Janet Bliss said. “It’s not a road. It never was. … We treated it consistently throughout the years as a park.”

A call to Day’s lawyer, John Wilkins, hadn’t been returned as of press time this morning. Day himself couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Bliss said she doesn’t know whether Day plans to appeal the decision, although she noted it’s “always a possibility.”

The case dates back to 2008, when Day filed a lawsuit against the village, demanding that it reopen a section of road leading to the back of his One Main Street property. At the time, Day claimed the village “illegally blocked access to his property along a small gravel road” that his lawyers said had been “recognized and maintained by the village for at least 78 years,” according to an August 2008 Enterprise article.

The village, which most recently placed boulders in front of the path’s entrance in 2006, has long contended that the roadblock is appropriate. Muller, in his decision, agreed.

“The village’s burden of proof to establish that the land has been dedicated for public use is entirely supported by this record,” the judge wrote. “One Main Street Park consists of land to be used for park purposes only. It is well settled that public parkland is impressed with a public trust and may not be alienated or diverted to private ownership or non-park use without a special act of the New York State Legislature.”

Muller also said the path was created as part of a plan to create a “lakeside drive” on Mirror Lake “which never occurred.

“No road or promenade was ever created,” he wrote. “The path within the park does not lead to anywhere other than towards the Plaintiff’s backyard and that of his neighbors at One Main Street.”

In the 1930s, multiple requests to open the path were made but never granted. Then, in the 1950s, it was reopened as a “courtesy” and described as a “privilege,” according to village board minutes from 1953, “although due to apparent and immediate abuses within the park discussions to again close the path ensued.”

Over the next several decades, fences, chains and boulders were used to block vehicular access to the path.

Muller’s decision also notes that the village never maintained the path like a municipal road. It was never paved, nor was it plowed in the winter, he said. Some maintenance work was performed, however, with the intent of ensuring pedestrian safety.

In conclusion, Muller wrote that “the weight of proof has not established that the path was used by the public as a pathway for vehicular traffic for 10 or more years and was constructed, maintained and repaired by the village for such purposes.”

Muller presided over a hearing on the One Main Street case last October and November. A number of current and former village and town officials provided testimony, including North Elba town Attorney Ron Briggs, former village Mayor Jamie Rogers, former village Clerk Kathryn “Kook” McKillip and former Highway Superintendent Richard Boyer.

Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or cmorris@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.