New Lake Placid comprehensive plan has some big ideas

LAKE PLACID – People of the town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid are invited to a public hearing to discuss an updated comprehensive plan, which will be used to guide the future of the two municipalities.

The hearing is set for 4 p.m. Tuesday in the North Elba Town Hall, 2693 Main St.

The last comprehensive plan was finished in 1997.

The new plan was developed by the Lake Placid-North Elba Community Development Board, made up of seven volunteers appointed by both governments. The body is chaired by Dean Dietrich, and the other members are Julie Ball, Jean Brennan, Pat Gallagher, Georgia Jones, Kelly Kennedy and Tim Robinson. Other volunteers were involved on the board early on.

“I’m not anticipating any difficulties (with the vote),” Dietrich said. “The village and town have both been in the loop.”

And so has the community, with about 80 people helping in the drafting process, according to Dietrich.

“I really enjoyed the process,” he said. “A lot of people talking about the community.”

The plan was broken into different issues with each volunteer focusing on one of those areas, including government structure and function, economy and tourism, community facilities and services, mobility, environment, land use and design.

Village Mayor Craig Randall said the comprehensive plan serves as a guideline for the future.

“A comprehensive plan is designed to be a long-range look to see what people want to see happen in the community,” Randall said.

Randall said more services for an aging population is one element of the plan he thinks is important.

“One of the big changes in there is, over the last 17 years there is certainly a change in demographics of our communities,” Randall said.

North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said there should be an effort to maintain the comprehensive plan moving forward.

“I think the most important thing is the general thing that you have to continue to upgrade your comprehensive plan,” Politi said. “They will be constantly tweaking it and making it better, to address the needs of a growing community.”

Politi added that he thought the development board did well.

“We have a very dedicated group led by Dean that have done a wonderful job,” Politi said.

The town had almost 9,000 people in the 2010 census. It includes the entire village of Lake Placid and part of the village of Saranac Lake, and its unincorporated area includes the hamlet of Ray Brook.

Big ideas

Dietrich said the plan has some low-hanging fruit that are quick fixes and some that are long-term proposals.

“Some of them have already been implemented,” Dietrich said.

Other proposals will require time and effort.

“When things become a problem, there are two reasons: political will and resources,” he said. “Some things are going to have difficulties in both of those areas.”

Some proposals that fall into the difficult category are the expansion of the Lake Placid Police Department to include parts of the town’s territory and the creation of a vacation rental permit system.

The expansion of the police department’s jurisdiction would spread the department’s cost to town residents.

“It makes some sense,” Dietrich said.

Politi said that would be a discussion topic, but he doesn’t believe town residents would want to pay for it.

Another idea is a parking garage in Lake Placid.

“This is a passion of people on Main Street,” Randall said. “It’s a large project that’s been worked off and on for the past five years.”

Dietrich said it would require the cooperation of a number of groups, including the state Olympic Regional Development Authority.

“Everybody talks about it, but you might just need a champion to push it forward,” Dietrich said.

A full-time municipal manager position was another potential future change in the plan. Dietrich said that would need time to implement, phased in with the retirement of government workers.

“The idea there is, if you are serious about that, it’s not something you bring in overnight,” he said.

Dietrich said the position would be an automatic sharing of services between the town and village.

“In time, I think that’s a practical thing,” Randall said. “The mayor’s position would become more typical of a politician, dealing with policy.”

Politi, however, said a municipal manager is unnecessary.

“I don’t necessarily agree with the manager position,” Politi said. “I think we don’t need it. We have good department managers.”

Sharing services

A theme throughout the comprehensive plan is the cooperation between the town and village of Lake Placid.

“One thing we have recognized is the village boundaries are blurred,” Dietrich said. “It is hard to tell where the village begins and the town starts.”

Randall said shared services and collaboration is a real focus moving forward.

“One of the primary issues out there is more collaboration between the town and the village, more cost sharing, to make the local government more efficient,” Randall said.

He thought the idea of a shared part-time grant writer is a good idea.

“A shared position between the village, town and school district is a theory that has been practiced in the past,” Randall said.

Politi said that has been something the two governments have done well for years.

“We’re one of the best examples of shared service between municipalities that exist (in the state),” Politi said.