LAKE GEORGE - Frustrated with ongoing disagreements over developing festival space and beset with budget problems, Warren County supervisors are now talking about the possibility of abandoning their partnership with other municipalities and environmental groups in the Gaslight Village property.
Oct. 31, the county leaders discussed selling their share of the former Gaslight Village plot, which is to be developed into a wetlands to treat stormwater, with a portion reserved for the county and local municipalities to host festivals.
The county has already spent $1.3 million on the project, and has sought - along with the Town and Village of Lake George - to save two buildings on the 2.5 acres reserved for their use for festivals.
While Lake George town and county officials have seen the buildings as useful in attracting festivals to boost the local economy, the three environmental groups involved in the Gaslight-West Brook project have opposed retaining the structures.
The Gaslight property was purchased last winter by Warren County, the Village of Lake George and the Town of Lake George.
The primary goal was to preserve lake health by reducing the amount of stormwater pollution running from West Brook into Lake George. The idea of reserving 2.5 acres for staging festivals secured the cooperation of the municipalities in the project. Although owned by the three municipalities, all but the festival portion of the 12-acre parcel is under land-use control of three environmental groups, The Fund for Lake George, Lake George Association and Lake George Land Conservancy.
County officials had hoped to use the expansive Cavalcade of Cars and Opera House buildings on the festival plot to attract conventions and events to the area.
But continued disagreements with the environmental groups has prompted supervisors to consider dumping their role in the project.
Two weeks ago, the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs decided to abandon Lake George as a festival site for 2009 and move their event to Turningstone Casino. This will be a $4 million loss to the local economy, officials have estimated. The group cited the indecision over the development of the festival plot as their reason for relocating.
Johnsburg Supervisor said Monday the ongoing disagreements over the festival space and the county's financial squeeze might prompt the county to exit the project.
"We may have to think about walking away from Gaslight," Goodspeed said.
Lake Luzerne Town Supervisor Eugene Merlino agreed.
√"If we continue to lose conventions, there is absolutely nothing being gained by the taxpayer," Merlino said. "My feeling is let the Three-Es have it," Merlino said, referring to the environmental groups.
Merlino said he still believed in the project, but now his doubts were overshadowing the potential benefits of a collaboration that had fallen apart.
"I will never give another yes vote in regards to West Brook," Merlino said. We are getting no cooperation whatsoever from the Three Es."
Merlino said that the Gaslight-West Brook project probably wouldn't benefit Lake Luzerne taxpayers much anyway.
"I call it the syndrome of the Three-Es and the Three-Ms," Merlino said. "They forget about the Ts, the taxpayers whose money we are spending."
The sentiments of Goodspeed and Merlino were echoed by several other supervisors during meetings and interviews.
"If we don't see some progress in the next three months, I would be in favor of the county getting out of the project," county Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty said Monday. "Is the project a 'good fit' considering the county's present finances?....Probably not."
Monday, Fund for Lake George Executive Director Peter Bauer said that a shared vision must be developed between the partners before any more progress can be accomplished.
"If the Three Ms want to move in a different direction, we would certainly accept that," Bauer said. "Originally the Ms asked to be part of the project - all partnerships are tough."