QUEENSBURY - The public controversy over whether to save or demolish buildings on the municipal festival space on the former Gaslight Village property was expected to be settled this week, but following the county supervisor's decision Monday, it will undoubtedly rage on.
Warren County supervisors voted to demolish the former Opera House structure that the town of Lake George had started to renovate as an open air pavilion, but they decided to spare the Cavalcade of Cars building at least temporarily. The decision of the seven-member Gaslight Ad-Hoc Committee is subject to the endorsement Friday of the full county Board of Supervisors.
The vote delays any decision on the fate of Cavalcade, considered by many to be a viable venue for trade shows and events, until a county-wide tourism study commissioned by Warren County Economic Development Corp. is completed - which may be a few months.
The decision came after Town of Lake George Supervisor Frank McCoy offered a compromise.
McCoy and his predecessor Lou Tessier have been ardent supporters of saving both Cavalcade and the Opera House, envisioning them as facilities that groups would see as useful, boosting the area economy.
In the compromise offer, McCoy consented to have the Opera House be torn down, but said he and his board continued to support rehabilitation of Cavalcade. Stipulations to the compromise call for reimbursement to the town of costs associated with past maintenance and asbestos removal tasks. The town, in turn, has handed over $7,700 in parking receipts on the Gaslight festival grounds.
The county intended to make a final decision Monday on both buildings, as the county is facing a deadline of late summer to get demolition work accomplished in order to receive a state grant to reimburse the costs, expected to be $500,000 or so.
County Gaslight Committee Chairman Bill Kenny of Glens Falls, set the stage for the two-hour debate Monday by announcing his ardent support for keeping at least one of the buildings had changed to a firm belief that both should be demolished.
The decision was based on several factors, he said, including that adjacent commercial landowners wanted them removed, and the promoters of the three premier events in Lake George - Americade, Adirondack Nationals Car Show and the regional tow truck operators convention - also indicated they preferred them gone.
But the other supervisors on the Gaslight Committee argued that the Cavalcade building, with its hefty steel superstructure, concrete floor and sound roof, was worth saving and would cost far more to rebuild at a later date.
Rebuilding such a venue in the future on the site, as proposed by Lake George Mayor Bob Blais, would be at best dubious because of the stringent environmental review, supervisors Frank Thomas of Stony Creek and Bill VanNess of Queensbury said. County Attorney/Administrator Paul Dusek agreed.
The idea of removing Cavalcade's facade to convert it to an open-air pavilion was discussed. Americade Founder Bill Dutcher, present at the meeting, said that his event, which is likely to host its vast trade show on the festival grounds, might be able to put such a facility to use.
Americade's motorcycle accessory trade show, the largest of its kind nationally, had been sited for decades on the Million Dollar Beach parking lot. Through the years, a rental fee for the lot, levied by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, had grown from zero to $52,000. But this year, DEC demanded $165,000 for a week's rental, then reduced their demand soon afterwards to $90,000, Dutcher said.
"We're still negotiating, with DEC," he said.
Dutcher has said he's been considering options in moving the annual touring bike rally - which boosts the local economy by $43 million annually according to an independent study - to an out-of-state location if governmental costs and regulations continue to increase.
As for the buildings on the Gaslight festival grounds, Dutcher said he wasn't going to take a position one way or another. Indecision on the issue, however, would be the worst case scenario, he said, because convention planners need to have accommodation details planned at least a year in advance.