North Elba gives conceptual approval to Lake Flower hotel parking

SARANAC LAKE – Town of North Elba board members gave conceptual approval Tuesday to letting a hotel developer use its parking lot at the Saranac Lake Town House.

Malone-based developer Chris LaBarge, who wants to build a 90-room hotel across the street on Lake Flower, asked the town board Tuesday night to let him use the lot for overflow parking, mainly for the restaurants that will be included in the development. In return for use of the lot, he would pave, line and maintain it.

He plans to have some parking on site and is under contract to buy a blue house next to the Saranac Lake Town House, but he still needs more parking, he told the board. The 10-by-19-foot parking spaces would still be slightly smaller than allowed under the current zoning, which requires them to be 10 by 20, he said.

He asked the board for conceptual approval for the use so he can ask the village to include the lot in his application for planned unit development district consideration.

Since the restaurant parking would mainly be in evenings and on weekends, LaBarge said that part of his customer base could park there without interfering much with the regular activities at the Town House.

The Town House is used mainly as the visitor center for the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, but the town board meets there once in a while, as it did Tuesday night, and town Supervisor Roby Politi noted that it’s a busy location on election nights. He said the hotel probably wouldn’t be able to use it on the nights of elections.

Town Attorney Ron Briggs asked how LaBarge’s staff would ensure that people wouldn’t park there when they aren’t supposed to. LaBarge said the first step would be to install clear signs at the lot that show when it’s OK to park there. If there are still problems after that, he said he may need to send a staff member there to tell people they can’t park there.

Briggs said the idea sounds fine, but the lease will need to set out clearly how the use of the lot will be controlled.

“The devil is in the details,” Briggs said. “Always is.”

Politi said he likes the idea of the lot being used more.

“Right now, it’s just sitting there,” he said. “It’s not utilized. It’s not really improved to its fullest use. And this would get the parking lot paved and striped, and it also would probably help with drainage around the building.”

Politi said he wants LaBarge to know that the town will probably not endorse a payment in lieu of taxes if he requests one.

“It’s not something that the town of North Elba will likely endorse, or has endorsed in a long time, for a lot of reasons,” Politi said. “I would want you to know that’s something that is somewhat of a concern of ours.”

LaBarge said that is being considered. He noted that another big Saranac Lake hotel project underway, the Hotel Saranac sale and renovation, is in Franklin County and the town of Harrietstown, and he hopes the village will apply the same standards to his project as that one in order for the two to be competitive.

LaBarge said he wants a long-term lease since he would invest in the parking lot. He said he understands a 20-year lease would probably be too long, but he hopes for a 10-year lease with five-year renewals after that.

Board members said they aren’t sure how long they can give a lease for, since they are elected for two- or four-year terms. Briggs said he would look into the legality of the length of a lease.

Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or