Parking crunch for proposed Lake Flower hotel

SARANAC LAKE – Chris LaBarge asked the village planning board Wednesday if it would be comfortable with smaller parking spots than currently allowed under village code, which would allow him to increase the amount of parking for the 90-room hotel he’s proposed for the shore of Lake Flower.

The Malone developer also asked the board to weigh in on his plan to provide up to 48 off-site parking spaces in two locations on River Street.

In July, LaBarge announced plans to build an upscale, five-story hotel on the site of three existing Lake Flower Avenue motels he is under contract to buy: the Lake Flower Inn, the Adirondack Motel and the Lake Side Motel. They would be demolished to make room for the new hotel, which would have a 200-person banquet and meeting room, a spa, a restaurant, indoor and outdoor pools, docks along the lake, and a separate lakefront building with a restaurant and bar that would be open to the public.

LaBarge seeks a rezoning of the motel properties to a planned unit development district, which would require review by the planning board and the village Board of Trustees. The first step in that process is for LaBarge to submit a sketch plan to the planning board. He said Wednesday that he hopes to do so by November.

Wednesday’s discussion focused almost entirely on parking. LaBarge said the village code requires parking spaces that are 10 feet wide by 20 feet long. He said that’s bigger than the minimum parking space size allowed by most municipalities, 9 feet by 18 feet.

If he can use the smaller size, LaBarge said he could put 102 parking spaces around the hotel. Otherwise, he could only have 86 spaces. The change would also allow for the addition of 1,500 square feet of green space between the parking lot and the road, LaBarge said.

Based on village code, LaBarge said he would need, at most, 145 parking spaces for the hotel and the detached restaurant. That means he’ll need off-site parking.

LaBarge said he’s under contract to buy a blue house on River Street, between the North Elba Town House and North Country Community College’s River Street Hall. He said he would demolish the building, which tax records show is owned by Eric and Kristina Isachsen of Brant Lake, and make it into a 24-space parking lot.

LaBarge said he’s also talked with town of North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi about using the dirt parking lot at the town house, which is currently home to the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and its visitor center. That lot would be paved and used for staff and overflow parking during hours when the visitor center is not in operation, LaBarge said. If the planning board would consider it, LaBarge said he’d approach the North Elba town board to try and work out an agreement.

Planning board members and village officials had no issues with the request to use smaller size parking spaces.

“Nine-by-18 is standard across the country,” said village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans. “Ten-by-20 probably made sense in the 1970s, when cars were three times bigger than they are now.”

But board members raised several concerns about the proposed off-site parking.

“I have some reservations about turning (the lot next to River Street Hall) into a parking lot,” said Molly Hann. “Perhaps there’s buffering or things that could be done or ways to make it look less like a parking lot.”

Planning Board Chairwoman Leslie Karasin said knocking the building down “would detract from the character of the street. It’s hard for me to imagine what would replace it that would screen a parking lot.”

Karasin also said she was concerned about bringing additional traffic into the intersection where Lake Flower Avenue meets River Street and Brandy Brook Avenue.

“I do have some real concerns about the safety of that intersection from a pedestrian standpoint in its current configuration,” she said. “I think there would be major changes needed to be negotiated with the (state) Department of Transportation about that intersection to make it safe in order for me to feel comfortable that it was a plausible decision by this board to put off-site parking over there.”

“That intersection’s a mess,” Evans added, “and this could be an opportunity to force the issue and get a solution, because it’s broken today.”

LaBarge said he doesn’t want to “get caught up in a DOT issue.” He said he’s looked around for other off-site parking, but the other options proved to be too costly.

“Without this, I come up significantly short in meeting the parking requirements,” LaBarge said. “This is a critical component to my plan right now, and I do not have an alternative option to this.”

LaBarge said he’d consider the board’s feedback as he moves forward with his plans. He said he’s still finalizing details of the project, including the height of the proposed hotel, and would have more information to present in the next two months.

Karasin said the board may schedule a special meeting to gather public input on the project.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or