At a Lake George Town meeting Dec. 9, Peter Keating — who lives on Rose Point Lane near where the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation wants to relocate a boat launch — accuses the agency of improperly bypassing environmental review of their own project — as well as trying to keep the launch relocation under wraps to minimize public opposition to their plans. The DEC plans call for relocating the launch into shallow water on the west side of Million Dollar Beach near private residences and swimming areas — and the Lake George Town Board opposes the idea.
The Lake George town board agreed to notify the state it doesn’t want the state to locate a boat launch on the east side of Million Dollar Beach — but the panel declined to take the issue a step further, as angry citizens had insisted in a town meeting Dec. 9.
Citizens living near the planned boat launch at the southeast corner of the lake said the town should demand that the state submit its extensive redevelopment plans for Million Dollar Beach — and its reconstructed parking lot, planned boat washing station and boat launch concept — to local site plan review.
The multi-million-dollar redevelopment plans include building a new parking lot several feet higher so sewer pipes can be reconstructed underneath, setting up a boat washing station that could be used round-the-clock, and relocating a boat launch — now virtually defunct — on the east side of the beach.
This re-positioning of the boat launch — within several hundred feet of lakeshore residences — has prompted passionate objections from the nearby homeowners, who predicted unsafe boat traffic, compromised swimming safety, bothersome noise at all hours, and environmental degradation near their shoreline properties.
Local residents had noted that the area of the lake where the Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking to relocate its boat launch is habitat for various unusual wildlife species, is too shallow to safely launch a boat, and is so close to private beaches that swimmers would be at risk of death or dismemberment.
Lake George Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said that the state had determined its plans weren’t subject to either its own State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process, nor would it be submitting its plans to the town’s site plan review, which is required of all individuals, commercial enterprises and governmental entities, according to town law.
Dickinson said the state was acting on the advice of its own lawyers, but the town’s lawyers disagreed.
When some in the audience asked about the feasibility of a lawsuit, Dickinson said he sought to collaborate with the state, as they were investing heavily into the Million Dollar Beach project, which includes installing innovative porous pavement, curbing stormwater runoff, and boosting pedestrian safety through re-design of access roadways.
The project includes traffic pattern changes — including the construction of a roundabout and the conversion of a roadway beside the beach from one-way traffic to two-way. The changes are intended to abate traffic snarls, backups and boost safety. A new drop-off point for people headed to the beach’s bathhouse will replace a crosswalk that now poses a danger to the public, officials have said.
The citizens living near the proposed site of the boat launch, however, asked the town to pass a resolution telling the state they must submit their plans to the town board for their review.
Peter Keating of Rose Point Lane, spokesman for the group opposing the launch, erupted in anger when the board balked at making such a demand.
“You elected officials ought to back us,” he said.
Town Code Enforcement Officer Rob Hickey said the state had already set a legal precedent by initially refusing in 2006 to submit non-conforming local stormwater abatement plans to public review, then complying and subjecting them to review. The state’s new plans represent a radical change that needs such review, he said.
“Their plans trigger every criteria for town review,” Hickey said.
Town Baord member Marisa Muratori also said the DEC’s plans ought to be reviewed by local citizens.
“They’re not acting in good faith if they don’t come before the planning board and go through the review process,” she said.
Keating accused the state of moving forward on its plans at a time of year when most residents were gone, to minimize public opposition.
“The area property owners think the boat launch is getting shoved down their throats,” he said, noting that DEC regulations require a commercial boat launch to be further than 500 feet away from a designated swimming area, yet DEC officials are planning to locate the new one within 200 and 300 feet of local residents’ swimming areas. “We are nervous about trusting DEC,” he said.
Resident Vinnie Spitzer distributed a map showing that he had an approved boat-mooring point about 100 feet from where the launch is proposed.
“DEC is just pushing us around,” he said.
Dickinson said the town had contacted state Sen. Betty Little and state Assemblyman Dan Stec, expressing their opposition to the boat launch relocation.
The possibility the launch and an accompanying boat-washing station might be open 24 hours per day also sparked concern.
Dickinson said he opposed any launch at Million Dollar Beach, because of not only the problem of conflict with swimmers and congestion of boats and trailers, but because it would allow for the introduction of more invasive species, which the area municipalities are battling — an expensive fight that taxpayers are shouldering.
“There are enough public and private launches to launch everybody’s boat — we don’t need another,” he said. “The DEC ought to concentrate on the beach.”
Town Board member Vincent Crocitto said that collaboration and persuasion would accomplish more than legal confrontation.
“We’re going to move forward on this,” he pledged.