Saranac Lake seeks funds for Lake Flower sidewalks

SARANAC LAKE – The village is pursuing nearly $1 million in federal funding to replace the sidewalks on Lake Flower Avenue.

The village Board of Trustees agreed Monday to submit an application through the state Transportation Enhancement Program to rebuild the sidewalks along the road from Winona Avenue to Carcuzzi Car Care Center. The village is seeking $975,000.

Village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans said the idea of applying for these funds came out of a recent meeting with the state Department of Transportation about its plans to rebuild the road. DOT administers the Transportation Enhancement Program in New York.

DOT officials have continually pushed back the reconstruction of Lake Flower Avenue; the $14 million to $15 million project is currently not on DOT’s timetable until at least 2020. At last month’s meeting, village officials and DOT representatives came up with a short-term plan to repair some of the road’s sidewalks, curbs and drainage while awaiting the long-term fix.

“As we’ve heard, DOT is working on the design and the engineering, and if we get that funding, it would be a great boost to that project,” Evans said.

The application requires a 20 percent match. The deadline for the village to apply is Aug. 16, Evans said.

Earlier in the meeting, Pontiac Street resident and village planning board member Scott Stoddard said he had concerns about the proposed interim repair plan for Lake Flower Avenue. While he said he supports the rebuild of the road, he said he’s concerned that the interim fix would “lock in” the sidewalk on the side of the road it’s currently on.

“By locking in, what I mean is that becomes permanent, and you’d lose ground in the road to do other things that have been talked about in past plans,” he said. “My concern is there won’t be enough (room) for two travel lanes, the current sidewalk, two bicycle lanes and most importantly, which has been outlined in a number of plans is a possible Lake Flower trail or shoreline sidewalk. By doing something to currently help the situation, it may hamstring us for later as to what we could do with that stretch along there.”

The idea of a shoreline trail or sidewalk was outlined in the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, finalized in 2004. It was one of the plan’s most controversial elements as it could involve taking private shoreline property by eminent domain.

Trustee Allie Pelletieri said there was a lot of discussion about the proposed shoreline trail during the village’s recent comprehensive planning process.

“Most of the committee was not in favor of eminent domain by any means and taking people’s property from them,” he said.

Pelletieri said the committee wanted to amend the waterfront plan to address the shoreline trail but “got a lot of heat” from a Department of State official, whom Pelletieri chastised for never coming to a meeting and “probably doesn’t know where Lake Flower Avenue is.

“But he’s a bureaucrat, so he’s just hammering away, ‘Take the land from the people,'” Pelletieri said.

Trustee Paul Van Cott said the Department of State has been supportive of the village’s planning efforts, “and I don’t think we should lose sight of that or cast them a certain way without having met them.”

Earlier, Van Cott said the consensus of the comprehensive planning committee was to work within the existing right of way to reconstruct Lake Flower Avenue “and that we weren’t talking about eminent domain and that sort of thing,” although he shared Stoddard’s concern about not losing the opportunity to do things differently whenever the full rebuild of the road happens.

“I hope we keep that in mind, but I think it’s urgent to get something done now, with the safety issues and little kids riding their bikes,” Van Cott said. “We want to have a safe sidewalk, but I don’t want to prejudice our future in terms of different options for that stretch of the road.”