QUEENSBURY - A building which was once touted as the future site of festivals and outdoor entertainment events in Lake George may now be doomed.
The former Gaslight Village Opera House is now more likely to be demolished this spring, as supervisors voted Feb. 5 to add the cost of its destruction to a $1.2 million state grant that Lake George Association has been promised for developing the surrounding 12-acre site, which once hosted Gaslight Village, into a stormwater-purifying marshland and park.
Although county and Lake George town officials had expressed staunch support of rehabilitating both the Opera House and the adjacent Cavalcade of Cars building into headquarters for festivals, county supervisors' support for the Opera House receded Thursday as they reviewed an engineering report that estimated renovations to the structure would cost $900,000.
Although festivals, expos and rallies are a keystone of the county's economy and event headquarters were hailed as a way to attract more such enterprises, the $900,000 figure prompted several supervisors to say Thursday they could no longer support fixing up the building.
According to a report prepared by local engineer Clark Patterson, bringing the 50-year-old Opera House and Cavalcade of Cars buildings up to code and making them functional would cost nearly $1.5 million total. Retaining the buildings would be at odds with the aims of the three environmental groups - the Lake George Association, the Fund for Lake George and the Lake George Land Conservancy - which hold a conservation easement for the all but 2.5 acres of the 12 acre parcel. The 2.5 acre section has been designated by the municipalities as a festival space.
The former Cavalcade of Cars building, which has massive steel trusses and a concrete floor, was nearly included Friday in the resolution to seek funds for demolition, but a last minute plea by Lake George Supervisor Lou Tessier spared it for now.
"To up and destroy a 14,000 square foot building would be disgusting," Tessier said, referring to the Cavalcade building.
Monday night, the Lake George Village Board, which to date has supported demolition, took a U-turn on the issue. They voted to support renovation of the Cavalcade of Cars building - if the work was accomplished at no cost to the village.
Village Mayor Robert Blais, however, blasted the engineering study which cost $15,000. He said it was cursory and hadn't presented a summary recommendation, and that the engineers didn't meet in advance with the municipal leaders as was expected.
County budget officer Kevin Geraghty said the county needed to make a decision and move forward.
"We need to make a plan and stick to it," county Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty said in apparent frustration. "Spending this kind of money on renovations will never get the support of the board and you know it - from what I am hearing from people we need to tear these buildings down."
Lake George Association Executive Director Walt Lender said that demolition of the buildings could easily be added to the grant.
The idea looked attractive to county Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe.
"We have a chance to get rid of these buildings at no cost to the county," he said. "I am not prepared to spend $400,000 or $500,000 on rehabbing either of these buildings."
Tessier, who has argued for saving the buildings with an aim of boosting the local economy, vented his frustration.
"Why does everything have to turn into a federal case?" he asked.
Tessier contended the buildings could be renovated quickly and cheaply if town and county labor was used. If renovated, Tessier said, the buildings would bring attract large-scale events and thousands of tourists annually.
"The engineer has a roof for the Cavalcade of Cars listed in this report as costing $121,000 to fix," Tessier said. "I already did it for $9,200 in materials - where the hell did these numbers come from?"
The 12-acre West Brook parcel is owned by Warren County, the Town of Lake George and the Village of Lake George through an inter-municipal agreement. In early 2008, Warren County contributed approximately $1.3 million toward the purchase.
The purpose of the conservation initiative is to filter impurities from stormwater flowing off roadways and parking lots down West Brook before they spill into Lake George.
Journal Editor Thom Randall contributed to this report.