Variance for new docks?
SARANAC LAKE – The former Crescent Bay Marina will open next week under new ownership, but the company that’s now running the operation still has a long way to go before its plan to redevelop the property can win approval.
After fighting with the state Adirondack Park Agency over whether a plan to nearly double the number of covered docks on the marina properties needs a variance, LS Marina LLC has now applied for one.
Meanwhile, an outside engineer brought in by the town of Harrietstown to review the company’s plans has cited a long list of deficiencies in their application to the town planning board.
LS Marina purchased the two marina properties – the main marina in Crescent Bay, and an annex site at the end of Lake Street in Ampersand Bay – from Crescent Bay Holdings LLC in March, according to a deed that was filed with the company’s APA variance application. It paid $1.7 million, well below the original $3.9 million asking price when Crescent Bay, the only commercial marina on Lower Saranac Lake, went on the market in 2011.
The business has since been renamed Saranac Lake Marina, has a new website, www.saranaclakemarina.com and is set to open May 15.
“We’re starting fresh and new,” Mike Damp of Lake Placid, who’s leading the project, said Monday.
The new owners
Damp is listed as Saranac Lake Marina’s manager on the company’s website, which describes the new owners as a “group of investors proposing a state-of-the-art green-built eco-tourism marina and adventure center.” Documents included in the company’s variance application say LS Marina is a Delaware-based limited liability company.
Damp wouldn’t reveal who his investors are, saying it’s not needed.
“I’m doing everything right now,” he said. “It’s all me. I have private investors, and the key thing there is they’re private investors. It’s a good project, and we’re spending a lot of dollars on it.”
LS Marina wants to replace the roughly 160 existing boat slips at the two sites with a total of 300 covered, 11-foot-wide slips. The restaurant and operations center at the former Crescent Bay site would be renovated and refurbished, along with most of the existing homes and cabins that would be used as rentals. Boat washing stations would be added at each marina site.
Since it was proposed last year, the project has seen a mix of both support and concern. Supporters say the additional boat slips and revitalization of the marina are needed improvements that could provide an economic boost to the town. But some lakefront property owners have raised concerns about the scale of the project, namely the increase in the boat slips, which they’ve said could lead to more congestion on the lake and more spreading of invasive species.
When preliminary plans were filed last fall, APA officials said the covered docks would, under its definitions, be shoreline structures that would be too large to be built without a variance.
Damp and his attorney on the project, Thomas Ulasewicz, argued against that and sought a ruling from the agency’s executive director and general counsel. But the agency held its ground, and LS Marina grudgingly filed a variance application last month.
“It has been, and continues to be, the position of the applicant that this proposal involves a pre-existing commercial marina (circa. 1924) in a hamlet area under the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map, therefore obviating the need for a variance,” Ulasewicz wrote to the agency.
The justification for the variance is outlined a 12-page document that the Enterprise obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request. It says the previous owners of the property went bankrupt in 2012 and the 300 slips are necessary “in order to generate the revenues needed to rehabilitate and maintain the existing marinas and accompanying amenities.”
LS Marina says the docks need to be covered to protect the boats from weather, so customers don’t have to cover or uncover them when arriving or leaving, and to compete with the four nearby marinas (Lake Placid Marina, Paradox Landing Marina, Swiss Marine and Fogarty’s Lake Flower Marina), that have covered dock slips.
The company also said covered docks are more structurally sound and present “less visual disarray from the wide variety of colors of boats and boat covers.”
The application says granting the variance “will have no detrimental effect on adjoining and nearby properties, most of which enjoy recreational amenities very similar, and complimentary to this facility.”
LS Marina acknowledges that the proposed project will lead to more motor boats being operated on Lower Saranac Lake, but it says the increase “will not significantly affect water quality when considered in the context of the historical use of these marina facilities, and overall boat use on the lake.”
“If the variance is not granted, it would be the end of the Crescent Bay marina complex and 90 years of recreation/boating service to the public on Lower Saranac Lake,” the document states.
The variance application also includes site plans, photos of the existing facilities at the two marina sites and a visual analysis of what the new covered dock systems would look like.
On Friday, the APA responded to the application with a request for more information. The agency also said a review of the plans indicates the existing boat storage facility in Ampersand Bay was built too close to the shoreline without the necessary APA approval. Wetlands on the site will also need to be evaluated, the agency said.
Around the same time LS Marina filed its variance application, the town of Harrietstown received a report from Sean Doty of Chazen Companies, whom the town asked to review the company’s application. LS Marina paid $10,000 for the third-party review.
The 13-page report, which the Enterprise obtained via a FOIL request, lists 45 different issues the town should seek more information on.
LS Marina had said the project would have no significant impact to traffic on local roadways, but Doty says the increased number of boat slips the marina would offer calls out for a “more detailed examination” of vehicle traffic generated by the project. He suggests the town require a traffic study.
The report also found shortcomings with LS Marina’s assessment of the amount of additional boat traffic the project would create. LS Marina’s boat traffic assessment for Lower Saranac Lake uses a 2010 analysis performed by a watershed protection group on Canandaigua Lake, but Doty found the company’s assessment didn’t accurately follow the Canandaigua Lake study. The engineer also noted that in determining carrying capacity, the Canandaigua study takes an average from 11 sources, including lakes “very dissimilar to Lower Saranac Lake such as the Upper Great Lakes.
“The Boat Traffic Assessment should be redone using the corrected factors discussed above and employing one or more carrying capacity assessments suited for Lower Saranac Lake,” the report reads.
Damp said he wasn’t prepared to respond to all the questions in the engineer’s report, but he said his consultants, the LA Group, will do so in time for the planning board’s next meeting in June.
“There’s nothing in their report that’s earth shattering at all,” Damp said.
Saranac Lake Marina is charging $1,500 to lease a boat slip from mid May through October. That’s more than what was charged by the prior owners, but Damp said it’s competitive with the other Saranac Lake marinas.- Demand is strong, he said.
“I don’t see a problem filling up the slips we’re proposing in our application,” he said. “There’s deep waiting lists on the falling-down structures that I can’t rent out right now.”
Damp said he would have liked to have the new docks ready for this season, but that’s not going to happen.
“We’re trying, but the process is going to take its time, and realistically 2015 is when we hope to get permitted and have our new slips,” Damp said.