Village won’t take Welcome Center road

SARANAC LAKE – The village Board of Trustees failed to muster enough votes Monday to approve a resolution saying it would accept a proposed public street that’s part of North Country Community College’s planned Welcome Center on Lake Flower Avenue.

The decision doesn’t halt the project, which is still under village planning board review, although one village trustee may have wished it did.

Allie Pelletieri said the project would take the two parcels of now-private land where the Welcome Center would be built, the Foster and Duffy parcels, off the tax rolls. Cedar Ridge Holdings, a real estate development company owned by village Mayor Clyde Rabideau, is under contract to buy the properties, build the two-story, 4,200-square-foot structure and sell it to the college, which is tax-exempt.

“I’m not in favor of the project because it’s taking taxable land off the tax rolls,” Pelletieri said. “We have way too much non-taxable land in the village.”

Last week, the planning board agreed to ask the village board if it would consider taking over the road that would cut through the parcels and connect Lake Flower Avenue to Santanoni Avenue. The input was sought in part because some planning board members are concerned about putting the Welcome Center at the back of the property with its parking lot in front of it. They’ve said the building would be more visible and more consistent with neighboring structures if it was closer to the road with parking behind or on the side of it.

Susan Rdzanek of Cedar Ridge has said the plan is limited by the site constraints on the properties, including setback requirements and the width of the proposed public road. If it was a private road, it wouldn’t have to be as wide, potentially creating more flexibility on where the building could be located.

College President Steve Tyrell has said the idea of making it a public road came from the village.

A draft resolution on the village board’s agenda Monday night said the proposed street would benefit the village by providing an alternate entrance to the NCCC campus, reducing the amount of traffic on other village streets that lead to the college. The resolution also said the new road would improve traffic circulation in the Santanoni Avenue neighborhood by eliminating a dead-end street and providing two-way access from Santanoni Avenue to Lake Flower Avenue. The current access into the neighborhood is through Colony Court, a one-way street where Santanoni dead-ends. The resolution would also have set certain guidelines for the village to accept the road, including that it be designed by a licensed engineer.

Pelletieri, however, said the village has a hard enough time maintaining its own roads; it doesn’t need another to take care of. He also raised safety concerns. Pelletieri said the Welcome Center, which would house the college’s admissions, bursar, financial aid and registration offices, would encourage students to come down the hill from the college along Santanoni, a steep, narrow road with no sidewalks.

“I don’t think it’s a safe way to have that road come out there, and it’s just going through a residential area that doesn’t need that impact,” he said.

Trustee Paul Van Cott said the village board wasn’t being asked to weigh in on whether it supports the project, just answer a “technical question” about whether it likes the idea of taking over the road, although he said the amount of tax-exempt property in the village is “well within the norm” compared to other municipalities.

“We’ve lost opportunities in the past by trotting out the rhetoric about not-for-profits,” Van Cott said. “I think it would be helpful if we could confine ourselves to the narrow question that was presented to us.”

When the resolution came up for a vote, it failed with Van Cott and Deputy Mayor Tom Catillaz in favor, Pelletieri opposed and Trustee Barbara Rice abstaining. Rice said she did so because her husband, Chad McCarthy, is on the board of the college’s foundation, which could be involved in the project. Rabideau left the meeting before the discussion even started.

The planning board is scheduled to continue its review of the proposed Welcome Center, including a public hearing, at its Aug. 21 meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. in the village offices on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall.