Saranac Lake skatepark, comprehensive plans approved
SARANAC LAKE – It’s not often the village Board of Trustees gets a round of applause for making a decision. It happened twice Tuesday night.
Two initiatives that have been years in the making were approved in unanimous votes just minutes apart.
A new comprehensive plan, which has been on the table for seven years, was finally adopted by the board.
In a separate decision, trustees also agreed on a site for a permanent village skateboard park, ending an exhaustive effort that dates back more than 15 years.
“It felt like something got accomplished,” Trustee Allie Pelletieri told the Enterprise after the meeting.
The effort to revise the comprehensive plan began in 2006, when a committee of village and Harrietstown residents was appointed to create a joint town-village plan. It sent a draft plan to the village board in late 2009, but many of the recommendations, including guidelines for the size of retail stores, proved controversial, and the village board scrapped some sections of the plan.
The town board subsequently backed out of the joint plan, and a new group of citizens and village board members was formed to blend what was left of it with an update to the village’s 1988 comprehensive plan. Working with the LA Group of Saratoga Springs, the committee created a 172-page plan that was released last fall.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans saluted those who sat on the most recent advisory committee, many of whom were in the audience. Trustees also thanked the local residents who participated in the process.
“I’d just like to thank everybody, even if they came down once or emailed us, for giving us their opinion, so we know what the community wants,” Pelletieri said.
The comprehensive plan is designed to guide future growth and development in the community. Some of its goals include establishing a business incubator to nurture startup companies, creating a program to rehabilitate cure cottages, developing a marketing strategy and improving and expanding recreation and arts facilities. It doesn’t include any kind of retail size cap.
“I think, at the end of the day, what we see is consensus,” said Trustee Paul Van Cott, “how people working together who all care about the village can come up with what I think is a spectacular plan that will guide our village into the future.”
Board members and the audience applauded after the plan was adopted.
The village land-use code will now be revised based on the recommendations in the comprehensive plan. Van Cott said he expects that process will take much less time, roughly a year.
The board picked the village parking lot behind Community Bank as the site for a 5,200-square-foot concrete skatepark, surrounded by 3,000 square feet of green space. The decision drew an even larger round of applause and cheers from the crowd.
“It feels great. It’s been a long time coming,” Peggy Wiltberger of the Saranac Lake SkatePark Committee told the Enterprise. “We worked really hard with the trustees to find the site that was going to work the best for everybody. There’s no going back from here.”
Wiltberger has led the campaign to build a skateboard park in the village since 2004; others pushed for one before that. Over the last few years, more than 20 different locations around the community were considered and ruled out for various reasons before the committee settled on what they call the “midtown” site.
At a public forum last week, a trio of people raised concerns over the location, including potential noise impacts, safety concerns, worries about litter and crime, and fears that the site was too secluded and therefore wouldn’t have enough passive supervision by passersby.
Trustee Barbara Rice told the Enterprise after Tuesday’s meeting that she believes those are all issues that can be dealt with. Removing a hedge row behind the bank, if it’s owned by the village, could improve the visibility of the site, which would boost passive supervision and help curb crime or vandalism issues, Rice said. Police supervision of the area could also be increased, she added.
“As far as noise, I really don’t think it’s going to be that noisy,” Pelletieri said. “I think the traffic on the main road will be louder.”
Holding up the project because of concerns about vandalism would amount to “punishing the good kids because there’s a couple bad ones,” Pelletieri added.
Trustee Tom Catillaz said last year that skateboarding is a fad that’s come and gone, and that the project “ought to be just forgotten about.” He said after Tuesday’s meeting that he still doesn’t think there’s much demand for a skatepark.
“I honestly hope it’s a success; I just don’t think it’s going to be,” Catillaz said. “I’ve been wrong before. I didn’t think the (Adirondack) Carousel would ever go, but that’s proven to be a great place.”
Wiltberger said the committee has a skatepark designer lined up and plans to call a surveyor today. The group still hopes to get the park built this year, but that will depend on fundraising and construction timetables.
“Since we thought it was going to be decided in November, we’re seven months behind in our fundraising,” she said. “Without a picture and a plan, it’s hard to get the big donors and the grants. That being said, yes we’re close.”
“We’re probably going to run out of calendar time (this year),” said committee member Rich Shapiro. “We may break ground, do partial construction and finish it in the spring.”
The group has raised $75,000 so far. The skatepark is expected to cost $120,000 in cash and $50,000 to $60,000 in in-kind services.
Following Tuesday’s meeting, Wiltberger and Shapiro stopped by the midtown site to take a few pictures. Nearby, a couple of Saranac Lake teenagers were riding their longboards (longer skateboards). Paige Hart, 15 and Cody Woodard, 19, said they had been skateboarding since they were 8 or 9 years old. They were excited to hear that there would be a permanent skatepark in the village.
“That’s awesome,” Woodard said. “I think it’s a great idea. It’s been a long time, and I’m glad it finally got done.”
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.