LAKE GEORGE - A buyout of the town of Lake George's interest in the Gaslight Village project is under way. However, other government entities are calling for a payoff to the town of $210,000 to exit the partnership and turn over its 19 percent interest in both the West Brook Environmental Park and the 2.5 acre festival space it contains to the village of Lake George.
According to a draft contract approved Monday night by the Lake George Village Board, the village government will be bankrolling the payoff sum to go to the town, and the three local environmental groups involved in the project will be together refunding the village for half of it over three years, paying the village $35,000 in three annual installments. The county's stake in the project will remain the same, although they will be assuming sole responsibility for the maintenance of the environmental project once completed, according to the draft contract.
As of Tuesday, a meeting of the Warren County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to ratify the contract.
The 25-acre West Brook Park, once Gaslight Village, is to include constructed wetlands to purify migrating stormwater, as well as host bike and pedestrian trails, informational kiosks, nature trails, several gazebos and scenic overlooks.
The village government agreed to assume responsibility for managing parking operations and undertaking mowing and landscape work, subject to potential reimbursement through county occupancy tax receipts, and income from parking on the site.
The contract also calls for the demolition of the Cavalcade of Cars building on the festival site, a structure the town government had sought to rehabilitate and use for community events, trade shows and conferences.
After the county recently switched from longstanding support of the town's rehabilitation effort to calling for demolition of the building, the vote to tear it down occurred Sept. 17. It was only a matter of days before the town officials decided to exit the entire project, based on a belief the maintenance costs would drain taxpayer's pocketbooks without a venue they could rent to private entities.
"We are very wary that without a venue to generate revenue, this project is going to become very expensive to maintain in the future," Lake George Town Supervisor Frank McCoy said in a prepared statement Friday. "It is in the best interest for the town of Lake George to exit the project now before it becomes a financial burden to the taxpayers."
Warren County Board of Supervisor Chairman Fred Monroe offered his thoughts Friday on the pending contract.
"I am optimistic we have a workable solution," Monroe said, referring to the differing concepts for the future of the festival space amongst the village, county, town and environmental groups.
In light of the pending contract, the town signed off on the demolition of Charlie's Saloon on the Gaslight south parcel and the rest room building on the north plot - permission McCoy temporarily revoked on behalf of his board when the county supervisors voted Sept. 17 for demolishing the Cavalcade building.
Peter Bauer of the Lake George Fund said Wednesday this permission is crucial to get the park development project going forward.
The town invested $350,000 in 2008 as their part of the purchase price of the property, to be developed into an environmental park.
The three municipalities bought into the project after negotiating near total control over a 2.5-acre festival space, including the option to keep and restore buildings there as event venues. The county and town had planned to rehabilitate Cavalcade into an events center, but the village backed off after the adjacent Fort William Henry resort, which also has event and convention space, objected to the project.
Fort William Henry's objection was echoed by the Lake George Steamboat Co. and the Lake George Citizen's Group, although 50 or so other businesses signed petitions supporting it. The Lake George Chamber of Commerce had advocated the building's redevelopment, noting that it would boost commerce and create jobs.
McCoy had presented two sets of architect's drawings, the latest set Sept. 17, showing the building with an Adirondack Great Camp facade. He and others envisioned the building hosting drama productions, trade shows and special-interest expos - all drawing tourists to the area.
But, the county supervisors didn't even discuss the latest plans Sept. 17, they voted to demolish the steel-frame structure, one that an engineer said was worth about $750,000 and worthy of saving.
Monroe said Sept. 24 he is looking forward to putting the contentious Gaslight issues to rest.
"It's been a long road," he said. "People have had strongly held beliefs, and I'm happy we've made progress in bringing this to a conclusion."