Hotel project too big

I am a Saranac Lake village resident and own a home on Franklin Avenue. I am concerned about the scale of the proposed luxury hotel development on Lake Flower and the related vehicular and pedestrian traffic issues that I believe will arise if the hotel is built as proposed.

Problems with scale

I do not object to the redevelopment of the three motel properties that now occupy the site. None of the existing motel structures is more than two stories in height, however, and each motel is laid out to afford views of the lake from Lake Flower Avenue and the neighborhoods to the east. The proposed structure of 60 feet in height and 90 feet in length will cut off all views of the lake from Lake Flower Avenue and for many residents of the Pontiac Street and Santanoni Avenue neighborhoods.

Approval of the development is being sought under the planned unit development district statute, which requires that the village planning board (PUDD) consider “the location, height and bulk of the principal buildings on the site in relation to neighboring property” and that the proposal conforms to the Master Plan Update. None of the neighboring properties is 60 feet high and 90 feet long. Moreover, the Master Plan Update for this area includes a height restriction of three stories. It also requires that the maximum percentage of plot covered by major buildings should not exceed 40 percent in order to encourage “building design which does not destroy the quality or extent of the views of the lake.”

The Master Plan Update for the neighboring Pontiac Street and Santanoni Avenue area “encourage(s) land usage and building design that does not intrude on the scenic views of the lake from the neighborhoods.”

Problems with traffic and parking

Lake Flower Avenue is already congested, and a development of this size will only add to that congestion. The proposed development requires offsite parking across River Street. What is being done to address the safety and congestion issues that will inevitably arise from the pedestrian traffic generated by this offsite hotel parking?

What is being proposed to address the concentration of onsite parking along the length of the main building on Lake Flower Avenue? The PUDD statute requires that “buildings be arranged to avoid undue exposure to concentrated loading or parking facilities wherever possible.” The Master Plan Update requires that vehicular and pedestrian conflict must be avoided and that “vehicular movement on Lake Flower Avenue and River Street should be managed so as to reduce hazards, minimize congestion and reduce traffic conflicts.”

This development is simply too big for its site, particularly given its location on Lake Flower and adjacent to wetlands. The village should work with the developers to scale down the development to a height of three stories and a number of rooms that eliminates the need for any offsite parking.

I have more than 20 years of experience as an attorney working on complex transactions from Stockholm to Guangzhou, and I rarely encountered a transaction that could only be structured one way. The developers would win the goodwill of many more, if not most, of the residents of Saranac Lake by reducing the scale and density of this development to three stories. (For good reason, the Adirondack Park Agency’s jurisdiction kicks in for any project proposed to be 40 feet or higher.)

I would think the $2 million of state development funds allocated to this project would go a long way to making a more appropriate, scaled-down development financially viable.