At a hearing July 22 in Lake George on zoning changes, Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky reads a statement asking the village board to hold off on allowing buildings up to six stories tall until sewer plant upgrades are completed. The board approved the zoning change unanimously, after most of those speaking out at the hearing expressing support of the changes.
Changes to local zoning laws that allow buildings along particular stretches of Canada St. to be as tall as 70 feet high — and set strict design standards for new commercial buildings —was unanimously approved Monday July 22 by the village board.
The changes were approved by the board following a public hearing during which only a few of the dozen or so speakers expressed reservations on the proposal, and the rest voiced solid support. The prevailing positivism over the zoning changes was in sharp contrast to earlier public meetings on the issue.
The approval of the zoning changes sets the stage for a six-story Marriott hotel & conference center to be built on the northern end of Canada St. by local developer Dave Kenny, pending approval by the village Planning Board and the Adirondack Park Agency.
“This will generate a tremendous value to the village,” Mayor Blais said of the revisions to the zoning laws, which presently allow buildings of three stories. “The changes this will bring to Lake George are enormous, high quality, and something we can live with for years to come.”
Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky had asked the board to postpone such changes until “low-impact” development standards were in place and planned upgrades at the village sewer treatment plant were completed. These upgrades are intended to reduce the pollutants in the plant’s effluent and boost the plant’s capacity. Responding to the plea to hold off the changes from both Navitsky and local resident Michey Onofrietto, Blais responded that a $3.2 million sewer plant improvement project was underway, and ongoing efforts to curb inflows of groundwater into sewer mains meant that more and more sewer plant capacity was being freed up for new development.
Both Blais and Lake George Forum owner Ralph Macchio said that the commercial development spurred by the zoning changes would help fund the upgrades to the sewer plant, as well as other public infrastructure.
“These zoning changes are one of the most significant in Lake George in the last 100 years,” Macchio said.
Patricia Kirkpatrick, owner of buildings on Canada Street, had urged the board to vote in favor of the zoning changes.
“If Lake George doesn’t take action to lengthen their season, the village will become old and stagnant,” she said.
Lynn-Aire Motel owner John Kim, an in-law of Dave Kenny’s, offered a similar thought. He noted that vacationers were increasingly drawn to upscale, modern hotels rather than independent cottages and motels.
“If we don’t have change, everything is going to go under — like a mudslide,” he said, noting that climate change was also a factor threatening year-round commerce by curbing winter recreation.
Lake George Town Board member Vinny Crocitto, owner of a local motel also expressed support.
“This is exactly the project envisioned in the comprehensive plan adopted by the town in 2002,” he said of the Marriott project, adding that Kenny had a track record of following through on his plans in a responsible manner. “This zoning change will stimulate a lot of tax dollars, and the time is now to make the change.”
Sue Millington, who owns a building just north of the Marriott site, said the recent sale of three Canada St. parcels to Kenny for $2.8 million provided proof that new development in the village would spur prosperity by boosting property values. She said she was “totally in favor” of allowing taller buildings, but she asked the board to hold off on the architectural standards, which promote design standards with a historic ambiance. She held up a rendering of a boxy reflective glass-panel building showing her design preference.
“Why can’t we slow this down a couple of months,” she said of the pending decision.
The design standards approved Monday include prohibiting certain lower-grade building materials, specifying building orientation on properties, The architectural requirements include allowing only earth-tone and historic colors, mandating that doorways be recessed, and that windows be appropriately spaced and sized, and that story heights are compatible with neighboring buildings. Long, flat, blank walls and rooflines are prohibited. The ordinance also calls for the use of dormers, parapets, stepped roofs, balconies, cornices, plus wall offsets and recesses to create visual appeal.
These mandates would apply only to new construction or substantial renovations.
Developer John Carr, owner of Adirondack Pub & Brewery, said that allowing taller buildings and calling for them to be situated right on the sidewalks created a streetscape that encouraged walking, showing, viewing of window displays — an experience that visitors desire.
“Keeping pedestrian traffic along Canada Street and keeping them comfortable is a key, key thing,” he said.