Lake Flower hotel should be scaled down

To the editor:

We need to think long and hard about the hotel proposed for the shores of Lake Flower. The developer can’t be blamed for wanting to cash in on this desirable location. The problem is that his project, as proposed, will overwhelm the lake and the eastern approach to the village.

On driving into town, we will be greeted on the lakeside with a hulking monolith 60 feet high and 90 feet long. Its four massive stories will contain 80,000 square feet and 90 hotel rooms. The building will be flanked by a 90-space parking lot. Just ahead, on the other side of the road, we’ll be treated to two more parking lots accommodating up to 53 cars.

The developer claims his project will “make the approach to Saranac Lake more attractive and inviting.” This proves once again that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (In addition to this “enhancement,” we can look forward to a traffic nightmare at a road junction that is already problematic.)

There’s nothing wrong with replacing three old-time motels with a modern, upscale resort near the lake, as the developer proposes. But his project is supposed to conform to the village master plan, and it clearly fails to do so.

“The built environment is quintessentially small-town,” says the plan. “The village government will administer a local land use code that serves to guide community development while encouraging prudent and properly scaled growth.”

Prudent and properly scaled? Not by a long shot, not as currently proposed. Most of the site will be covered by the building and its parking lots. The blockbuster structure, as one critic has noted, will be the height of the towering 60-foot walls of the Dannemora prison. The tiny amount of open space on the site occurs mainly where the minimal, 50-foot shoreline setback is required.

The developer has escaped the village’s 40-foot height limit by applying as a planned unit development. This exemption is supposed to give a developer flexibility in providing public benefits, such as preserving open space and providing access to natural amenities. In this case, however, there will be few public benefits and substantial long-term degradation. And a terrible precedent has been set.

Despite the developer’s insistence, the project doesn’t have to be that way. At half its proposed height and size, it could be an attractively designed facility that fits comfortably on its site. It could capitalize on this prime Lake Flower setting without destroying it. It could truly enhance this main approach to the village rather than spoiling it. If the developer refuses to do this, the village should seek out someone who will.

What about the $2 million already allocated by the state toward this project? These public funds should be used to support an appropriately scaled hotel that provides real benefits to our village rather than an overstuffed project that only serves to maximize the developer’s profits.

Dick Beamish

Saranac Lake