Lake Flower hotel is still too big for the site

To the editor:

The developers have released a new design for the proposed hotel on Lake Flower and have even asked for input on the color of the building. Before we start debating the merits of the architecture, much less the color scheme, we should be addressing a more fundamental issue. Is a four-story, 92,700-square-foot building suitable for the modest 2-plus-acre site it would occupy? After all, if you were trying to shove an elephant into a space fit for a gazelle, it wouldn’t really matter what color the elephant was, would it?

When the planning board gave preliminary approval for the zoning change in December 2013, they identified three problem areas that needed to be addressed, and presumably satisfactorily resolved: the potential visual impacts of the massive, four-story building; traffic and pedestrian safety issues; and whether the project meets the open-space requirements of the planned unit development district law. To make any real improvements rather than just create an illusion of progress, the scope of the project would have had to be reduced. Instead, the developers seem to have chosen to ignore the concerns of the community and actually increased both the square footage and number of rooms in the hotel. Unless the developers have a magician for an architect, that has to mean there is even less open space than before, and green space was already minuscule compared to the size of the structure and parking lots.

The developers have shown one thing: They are persistent in the face of all the evidence that this hotel is the wrong project for this piece of lakefront. There are other ways for Saranac Lake to grow and prosper without abandoning the qualities that make Saranac Lake a wonderful place to live and visit – especially now, when a revitalized Hotel Saranac is about to become a reality and there are plans to develop the American Management Association property. Let’s not sacrifice quality of life on the altar of an expanded tax base, an outcome which may not materialize anyway given the tax-abatement loopholes that exist.

Those of us who love the charm of the village of Saranac Lake and the natural beauty of Lake Flower must be persistent, too. We need to take every opportunity to make sure that our elected representatives hear our objections and respond to the wishes of the community they represent before they set aside the zoning law to approve this project. After all, the purpose of a land-use code is not to encourage development, and it is not to discourage development. It is to allow development that is considered desirable by the residents of a community to take place.

Rosalie Fontana