Litter, Lake Flower hotel — both ugly

One of my dogs is now too old to romp in the woods, so we’re gently wandering the streets of Saranac Lake instead. And it’s been delightful! I’m now able to pause and gaze in store and hotel front windows, stroll though and sit in our many pocket parks, meander along the River Walk, and marvel at the work and creative energy that went into all the banners and flower displays that line almost every street. We’ve heard it said many times before, but it bears repeating again: Saranac Lake is an amazing place! And we’re so lucky to live here.

Which brings me to two things: litter, and the proposed hotel development on Lake Flower. Both are ugly and unfortunate.

Lucy (the geriatric poodle) and I were walking along the River Walk this evening, and I was admiring the manicured grass and general air of caring pride. Then I began to notice all the bits of cardboard and bottles and pieces of paper and plastic that were littered everywhere. It was clear to see that these must have been recently dropped, and certainly, on that newly mown grass, the culprits couldn’t have missed seeing that they had left something behind!

For most of us who live here, these green spaces are our collective living room. We live in the Adirondacks because we love the outdoors and spend as much time outside as we possibly can; it’s where we live. So that makes all of it our living room. And you don’t dump garbage on the living room floor! So please, all you folks who can carry a can full of something, muscle up and carry that can when it’s empty, too. Ditto the paper, plastic wrappers, styrofoam boxes, coffee cups, cigarette packages and plastic bottles that you brought with you. I know they’re heavy when they’re empty, but show your strength and carry them to the nearest litter bin or back to your car. Please. You’re making a mess in my living room.

Now, the proposed hotel. It’s terrible! Or at least the current design is. As I walked around town this evening, I noted the balance in size and space of the buildings and the land that surrounds them. Not everything is the same, of course, but there’s no one building that takes over from all the rest, or that swallows up all the land that it sits on, or appears to loom too large in its surroundings. Unfortunately, the proposed hotel does all of these things. If the developer would like to try another design – perhaps some commercial version of the Adirondack great camps, where there are a number of individual buildings, often connected by covered walkways – he could accomplish his goal of providing future clientele with a singular, upscale experience (that I’m guessing they would be very happy to pay for) while keeping the project to a reasonable scale for its surroundings.

Many of us were horrified when we saw the first rendition (Dannemora wall). This one is no more attractive or welcoming. If I am a potential guest and I have the disposable income to treat myself to a destination hotel and spa, why would I come to something that looks like an industrial complex, squashed onto a postage-stamp lot that is squeezed between a busy thoroughfare and a narrow little bit of water? There are many, many resort hotels angling for my money, and in that price bracket most of them look a lot more appealing and will offer me a more luxurious experience for my discretionary dollar.

And as a taxpayer in Saranac Lake, why do I want to give over my tax-dollar-paid parking space at the North Elba Town House to a private, for-profit establishment? The answer is, I don’t. I want that space for either Saranac Lake citizens or for day visitors when they come to discover how wonderful we are!

I’m a strong proponent and an enthusiastic supporter of local enterprise and entrepreneurship, but only if it will benefit all, or at least most, of us. I’m not convinced that this new hotel proposal fits that description.

When North Country Community College was planning its Welcome Center, I witnessed its presentations to the planning board. Both the applicant and the planning board worked hard to arrive at a size and design that would meet both the needs of NCCC and those of the neighborhood in which they planned to build. Some of the core concerns of the planning board were that the building be designed and sited in a manner that fit the lot on which it would be built, that the project size and design would reasonably accommodate the neighbors, and that the building would be in a style that was harmonious with the “look” of Saranac Lake. The end result achieved all those goals.

I’m counting on the planning board to be once again as diligent, determined and clear sighted as they review the proposal for the Lake Flower hotel.

Franny Preston lives in Saranac Lake.