Photo/Saranac Lake Resort LLC
A holiday rendering of the Saranac Lake Resort LLC hotel to be built on Lake Flower.
RAY BROOK — Adirondack Park Agency Commissioners voted 9 to 1 to approve a permit and variance for Saranac Lake Resort LLC’s new hotel on Lake Flower.
The dissenting vote was cast by Dr. Chad Dawson, former chairman of the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management at SUNY - Environmental Science and Forest in Syracuse.
Dawson raised questions during APA review Thursday and Friday about parking space available for the hotel, the proposed permeable pavement surface, its proper maintenance and the economy of the project’s size.
Review, discussion and the Regulatory Affairs Committee vote encompassed most of the APA Thursday morning session.
The full board approved the permit on Friday, providing state-level approval for height and waterfront setbacks needed on the project, which will place a 93-room resort hotel on 4.17-acres of land currently occupied by three 1950s-era motels.
The hotel will encompass 37,000 square feet of space with adjoining parking for 100 cars.
APA did not move to take the project through further adjudicatory hearing procedures as had been urged in public comments at an informational meeting and public hearing last month.
And their approval follows steps taken by the Village of Saranac Lake and its Planning Board through the past three years.
A Planned Unit Development District was created for the new hotel and approved by the Village Board in March 2015. The Planning Board approved the developer’s site plan last July.
Rick Weber, APA’s deputy director of Regulatory Programs addressed Commissioner Dawson’s question on Friday about the size of the building, saying APA staff had asked repeatedly about the size requirements.
Developers at Saranac Lake Resort LLC had redesigned the project with new ownership about two years ago, replacing a four-story project with a variable roofline that steps from three to four stories.
Questions about size of the project were brought up throughout review, Weber said.
“The question basically had been asked and answered.”
The new hotel is planned in an area zoned Hamlet within the village’s designated development district. It replaces aging lodging structures, APA had said.
As to concern Dawson raised about the slight profitability difference found in feasibility studies between this and a smaller hotel design, APA lead attorney James Townsend was clear.
Historically APA does not consider an applicant’s profitability when reviewing a project, Townsend said.
“They have justified their economic analysis for the village,” the attorney said.
APA’s draft permit says: “...site acquisition costs to be approximately $3.7 million. The projected construction costs for site access, construction of buildings and associated accessory structures, parking areas and other site development will be approximately $20 million.”
In addition, the resort anticipates annual operating sales of around $10 million.
The first incarnation with different financial partners, originally called Lake Flower Hotel, was awarded $2 million in Regional Economic Development Council grant monies. But the funding has not formally been transferred to the updated plan.
About 32 full-time jobs and 20 part-time jobs are expected during the 40 week construction period, the APA staff said.
APA’s draft permit indicates the new resort would add 70 full-time jobs, 30 part-time jobs and five seasonal positions.
Project developers at Saranac Lake Resort LLC still face litigation brought by competitors Fred Roedel, of Roedel Corp., which is restoring the Hotel Saranac. Litigation initially conjoined efforts by former Lake Flower Hotel project partner Chris LaBarge.
The lawsuit challenges alleged issues with the village planning process.
Asked about the status of that case, Lake Placid Attorney Matthew Norfolk, who represent the Saranac Lake Resort LLC developers, said he filed a motion to dismiss the petition and the Village of Saranac Lake joined in.
“I am confident that the motion to dismiss will be granted,” Norfolk told the Sun in an interview on Friday.
“My client, Saranac Lake Resort LLC has been advised of the legal remedies available to it as it pertains to Malone Real Estate (plaintiff) and its members and affiliates.”
The Article 78 proceeding is being review in Essex County by Justice Glen T. Bruening.
Norfolk said they expect a decision soon.
Part of the lawsuit looked to changes in the Planned Unit Development District, which required three acres for zoning compliance.
Roedel and Malone Real Estate LLC had purchased property at 203 River Street that was initially been part of the Lake Flower Hotel version of the project and meant to be used for offsite parking.
Saranac Lake Resort developers noted, in response, that the properties on Lake Flower include shoreline land below the waters, which, when counted, fulfill the zoning requirement.
Asked about APA permit approvals, Norfolk said his client and all members of the project team are pleased with the permit and variance.
“My client would like to begin the project as soon as possible,” Norfolk said.
The start date awaits disposition of the Article 78 claim.
“But Saranac Lake Resort wants nothing more than to see the Hotel Saranac to be successful,” Norfolk said in the interview.
Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau called the APA approval great news for the village.
“This new resort will help position our village as a tourism destination, create area jobs and keep our community’s forward momentum,” he said.
“We acknowledge a vocal and passionate minority against this resort and give them due respect. In our great nation, people of goodwill can disagree agreeably and advance in peace. That is who we are. I ardently hope we all will now come together and make our village all it can be with passion and positivity.”