Concern over marina project

SARANAC LAKE – Plans to redevelop and expand Crescent Bay Marina sparked concern and questions from neighboring property owners and other Lower Saranac Lake residents Wednesday night.

About 40 people attended the Harrietstown Planning Board’s pre-application conference on LS Marina LLC’s plans, held in the auditorium of the Harrietstown Town Hall.

Board Chairman Jack Drury opened the meeting by stressing that the company’s proposal is “very preliminary” and that no application has been submitted yet.

Mike Damp of Lake Placid outlined the project, describing himself as the applicant, the project’s sponsor and the one who’d be operating the marina.

“It will be a local family operation, not an outside developer that’s been rumored around,” he said. “This is not going to be a private boat club that’s also been rumored. This will be open to the public. We’ll rent our slips to the public. The public will be able to come to our restaurant if we get it up and running, and we’re looking to retain any of the current slip owners or renters that are there.”

The project involves two properties: the marina site off state Route 3 that’s been run by the Duso family since the early 1920s, and an annex site at the end of Lake Street in Ampersand Bay. The properties have been up for sale for several years. Many of the boathouses are in a state of disrepair.

Damp said the properties could be “a prime, high-end residential subdivision with very large boathouses.

“We have a different plan,” he said. “We’re going to try to create a state-of-the-art, green-built, eco-tourism marina and recreational center that can be enjoyed by locals, second home owners and tourists.”

Mark Taber of The LA Group described the specifics of the project. He said the existing 70 slips and 12 moorings on the Crescent Bay property would be replaced with a 175-slip floating dock system, covered with a green metal roof.

The existing restaurant and operations center at the marina would be renovated and refurbished in the Adirondack great-camp style, Taber said. Most of the existing homes and cabins would also be renovated and used as rentals. The three buildings along Route 3, including a boat repair shop and boat storage building, would be kept and reused, he said.

A boat washing station would be installed on the site to protect the lake from the spread of invasive species. The marina would offer kayaking, canoeing, sailing and eco-boat tours of the lake with a resident naturalist, Taber said.

At the annex parcel in Ampersand Bay, the existing 80 boat slips would be replaced with 110 covered slips. Access and parking improvements, another boat washing station and vegetation buffers along the shoreline and a property line are also planned, Taber explained.

Damp said the marina could employ 25 to 30 people. It currently has one full-time employee and three seasonal workers.

“I believe the marina, restaurant and recreational center would be a town and regional amenity, benefitting local businesses, hotels, restaurants, boat dealers, local mechanics,” Damp said. “It will be a real economic boost for the local people.”

Before opening the meeting up to the public, planning board members asked a series of questions about the project’s lighting and parking. Ed Grant said the increase in the amount of boatslips, from 150 to 285, could be a concern to people who live on the lake.

“I’m very much in favor of what you’re doing with the marina,” Grant said, “but it seems like it’s quite a bit bigger than what was there before.”

“I share Ed’s concern,” Drury said. “I’m really concerned about the increase in traffic at Ampersand Bay, in particular. I know there’s a lot of milfoil there, and I’m concerned about the increased traffic coming down and chopping up all that and spreading it.”

Damp said he tried to find a balance with the two properties and wants to lead the charge in protecting the lake from invasives. He said the expansion of slips on the annex parcel is not that large, and that the market will support the additional slips at the main marina site.

“To make economic sense for that parcel, we felt we needed to expand the boat slip count,” Damp said. “We also think there’s a demand for it in Saranac Lake. There’s waiting lists to get into those marinas.”

Damp noted that his marina planners initially wanted to put in as many as 400 slips, but he scaled it back to a more workable number.

Nevertheless, the scale of the project was the biggest concern among those who spoke Tuesday night. Charlie Wilson said the expanded marina would block his views. He also raised concerns about noise associated with the steel-framed dock system.

“We’re going to have 10,000 to 20,000 pieces of steel on those two docks,” he said. “With a little wind, it’s going to sound like a medieval battle. It’s going to be terrible.”

Mary Gach read a letter from Bob and Louise Hammond, who said rehabilitation of the marina is long overdue, but said the increase in boat slips, combined with the ongoing expansion of the state’s Route 3 public boat launch, “creates the potential for boat traffic well in excess of the amount appropriate for a lake this size.”

Neil Hopkins, the owner of Ampersand Bay Resort, said he was happy to hear someone wants to replace the dilapidated boathouses at the annex property. However, he said the number of slips proposed “far exceeds the spirit of reasonable expansion” and “doesn’t respect the neighbors or the lake itself.” He said the new annex dock system would stick out too far into the lake, intruding on the views of the lake from his beach and nature trails.

Damp said he hopes to submit a formal application to the planning board in January. In addition to the town, the project would also require a variance from the state Adirondack Park Agency, and approvals from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or