Cause to celebrate in Saranac Lake

It’s been an embarrassment of riches for Saranac Lakers recently. We’re thrilled, but we have to say, we’re not used to this kind of thing.

Two high-profile hotel projects that got millions of dollars in state grants Wednesday are likely to transform the village – mostly for good. Therefore it was right to celebrate, as Mayor Clyde Rabideau did by arranging for two spotlights – one from each hotel site – to shine into the snowy sky Wednesday night.

We admit we’re hesitant to comment on the amount of tax dollars New York state will give these private developers – a whopping $7 million – but then again, we’re conflicted about most gifts of tax dollars to private businesses in the name of economic development. Is it the best use of the people’s hard-earned money? Would these investors do this anyway if public funding wasn’t an option? How much does it encourage them toward the immoral motto of “privatize gains, socialize losses?” Maybe we’re just unsure about the trickle-down concept in general.

Nevertheless, we are glad Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration made the grant-making process more competitive, and we are thrilled to see our home team win big.

The Hotel Saranac revival – a purely joyful prospect – now looks like a sure thing. On Dec. 6, the Roedel family finally bought it from the Arora family, ending seven years of stagnation at downtown’s central landmark business. Then five days later in Albany, two generations of Fred Roedels were there in the Hart Theater to hear that the state will give them the $5 million they requested for the $13 million overhaul.

Meanwhile, the state gave $2 million to help build a high-end hotel on Lake Flower, making that project seem much more likely – even as concerns are being aired at village planning board meetings.

There might be some traffic and parking snarls beside the 90-room resort Chris LaBarge plans to build on Lake Flower, and some people don’t like the way the tall, wide hotel would block views of the lake. We’ve heard a surprisingly large number of locals voice these views lately.

Nevertheless, our latest weekly Web poll shows that a sizable majority of voters want this hotel to be built, along with the less controversial Hotel Saranac renovation.

We want it, too, even if major changes have to be made to make it the best it can be in that particular location.

The beautiful, island-dotted Lower Saranac Lake, just west of the village, is also becoming a hot spot for real estate. The Ampersand Bay Resort & Boat Club has a town-approved conceptual plan to add condos, cabins and a restaurant, and now a group of local business people plan to overhaul the Crescent Bay Marina with 285 covered boat slips at two locations (there are a combined 150 slips now) and a renovated restaurant and store.

Plus, Lower Saranac Lake is home to Trudeau Institute, the salvation of which was announced Nov. 20 by Gov. Cuomo. The biomedical research center, begun by village founding father Dr. E.L. Trudeau, had lost federal support and was burning through its endowment, but now the state will pay $35 million toward a commercial research partnership between Trudeau and Clarkson University.

It’s not all sunshine and daisies for Saranac Lake these days. There’s a fresh murder case, a worrisome drug problem, empty storefronts, a financially troubled hospital and a grueling rail-vs.-trail debate. Hey, it’s a real town in economically troubled upstate New York; these things are par for the course. But there’s also so much hope for a brighter economic future with more job prospects for today’s local children.