Saranac Lake Resort LLC project manager Jacob Wright provided a brief overview of changes made to the proposed resort on Lake Flower in Saranac Lake. His comments preceded comments from about 24 people as part of an information session hosted by the Adirondack Park Agency last week. APA commissioners will likely discuss the project at their February session on Feb. 9 and 10. The resort plan was approved by Saranac Lake’s Village Planning Board last summer, but the need for height and waterfront setback variances triggered APA review.
Photo by Kim Dedam
SARANAC LAKE — Next steps for proposed resort hotel construction on Lake Flower hinge on both pending Essex County Supreme Court action and variance approval from Adirondack Park Agency commissioners.
The former “Lake Flower Resort” project moved to new investors’ hands last year and divested of an offsite parking plan approved by the Village Board of Trustees as part of rezoning a Planned Unit Development District.
A minimum of three acres is required for village planned unit development, and the parking lot was included in the acreage tally.
New hotel ownership interests at Saranac Lake Resort LLC, along with Saranac Lake’s Planning Board and the Village Board of Trustees have been sued by the project’s former developer Chris LaBarge and by competing hotelier Fred Roedel, of Roedel Corp., which is restoring the nearby Hotel Saranac.
The legal claim launched last August by Malone Real Estate LLC in Essex County Supreme Court contends permitting decisions were made in violation of Saranac Lake’s land-use zoning procedure.
Roedel announced in a statement in August that it was he who purchased the property at 203 River St., the site originally meant to be used for offsite parking.
Essentially, competing hoteliers now own different pieces of what was zoned as the project’s Planned Unit Development District (PUDD).
The court matter is still pending, according to town officials.
But no formal mention of the legal issue was made at APA’s public information session last week even though many residents brought it up in public comments for APA’s record.
Last July, a month before the lawsuit was filed, the Village Planning Board approved Saranac Lake Resort’s project design.
It had already begun to move through APA’s review process, which was triggered from the start more than three years ago by building heights proposed above 40 feet and wetlands impact at Lake Flower.
Parts of the building will sit within the 50-foot waterfront setback requirement.
Resort project manager Jacob Wright stepped to the microphone at APA’s public information session at the Harrietstown Town Hall last Friday.
He described several changes made through the course of APA review.
Developers have engineered elements of the design, Wright said, to significantly reduce stormwater runoff into Lake Flower.
Additional landscaping, a rain garden and permeable parking surface materials would improve runoff management by 40 percent, the manager said.
“Existing pipes now funnel water into the lake,” he said of infrastructure at the existing three motels built in the 1950s.
Ponding and puddling in heavy rain events are commonplace on the roadway beside the resort site.
“So water that pools there (on Lake Flower Ave.) today ... in the future won’t exist.”
Wright’s brief presentation sought to address repeated concerns raised by residents over the past three years. Many have said that the 64-foot tall hotel is too big for the curved stretch of Lake Flower Ave. it sits on and the narrow lip of land it would occupy on Pontiac Bay.
Wright said they have revisited plans and reworked the 90,000-square-foot building. Pages of oversized drawings took up much of the display space at the back of the Harrietstown auditorium. The gabled roofline reaches 64-feet, 6-inches at it peak.
Architects removed inches between floors in the project design to reduce the height, Wright said.
He defended the overall square footage as in keeping with what is in place now.
“The footprint of the new hotel is very similar to the footprint of three motels that exist today,” he said.
Part of the project redesign is four storeys, he said of the changing roofline.
“Part is three storeys.”
Walkway elements, a 1,700-square-foot semi-public dock and decking were removed from the waterfront landscape and replaced with lawn, according to paperwork set out for public review.
One notice sent from the project engineers at North Woods Engineering to APA last September, itemized seven changes, most of which bring walkways, patio areas and other outdoor elements in compliance with the 50-foot waterfront setback, reducing the need for variance.
The resort’s proposed one driveway in and out would replace six driveways that deliver traffic onto the busy roadway now, Wright said, responding to an enduring concern about ingress and egress near a sharp turn as traffic approaches the village.
“We’ve worked really hard to build a sustainable and responsible development in the (Adirondack) Park,” Wright said, noting, as infill development, their plan reuses existing motel space inside Hamlet boundaries.
The new 93-room resort would replace 48 lodging rooms in the three motels.
Of approximately 25 comments made at the informational hearing, about six people urged APA to approve the variance requests and grant permits for the resort.
The initial project proposed for Lake Flower won $2 million in Empire State Development grant monies as part of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council awards in December of 2013.
Wright has said publicly that they hope the funding would move with the new project ownership and design.
Roedel Corp. won a $5 million grant in the same economic funding round and is working to reopen the Hotel Saranac this year.
The funding is dispersed when a project is built and economic drivers, including job creation, are in place.
Saranac Lake Resort LLC estimates their property on Lake Flower would cost $18 million to build, a figure up $3 million from the initial plan put forth by LaBarge more than three years ago.