Homeward Bound Adirondacks had hoped to use this house at 124 Glenwood Dr. for an office and small retreat center but recently dropped its plans for the project amid opposition from neighbors, who wanted to keep the current zoning for single-family dwellings.
After scrapping plans to set up an office and small retreat for veterans on Glenwood Drive, officials at Homeward Bound Adirondacks (HBA) say they are still looking for property in this village to use as a base of operations.
On Tuesday, June 26 — a day after Glenwood Drive neighbors voiced opposition to the project at a Saranac Lake Village Board meeting — Homeward Bound Board of Directors President Bob Ross issued a statement saying the organization was pulling the plug on its latest plans.
“As a consensus of support is not now available, HBA is, with great disappointment, withdrawing from pursuit of the 124 Glenwood project,” Ross said. “HBA especially regrets the lost opportunity for veteran and community volunteers to work together on restoring an historic house for use as HBA’s home base.”
Board member and Saranac Lake native Garry Trudeau, creator of the Doonesbury cartoon, said he would buy the property that had once been owned by his grandfather, Francis B. Trudeau Sr., and turn it over to Homeward Bound Adirondacks to be used as an office and small retreat to serve active members of the U.S. Armed Forces, veterans, their families and professionals interested in veteran reintegration services. Trudeau offered a grant of $125,000 for the purchase.
In order to change the use of the house, however, the property needed to be re-zoned. Currently it is zoned for single-family dwellings, and neighbors wanted to keep it that way. They were also opposed to any “spot zoning” in their neighborhood. A trip to the June 20 Saranac Lake Planning Board meeting to find a solution to the zoning dilemma proved fruitless.
“HBA sincerely hoped that following last Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting, the Glenwood community would embrace the Planning Board’s offer to work with the neighbors, village officials and HBA to find a mutually supportable zoning mechanism, since none such now exists in Saranac Lake zoning rules and regulations,” Ross said. “Unfortunately, such an offer has not been accepted by the Glenwood community members most actively involved in this issue.”
Even if the Glenwood property worked out, Homeward Bound Adirondacks would have needed additional space to provide its planned services for veterans, Ross said in a phone interview on June 29. There was only enough room for a small retreat center and office space but not for the cornerstone of the HBA program — the Veterans Reintegration Academy, which would have classroom space and possibly recreational facilities attached to it.
Working with Clarkson University, North Country Community College and Paul Smith’s College, the year-long Reintegration Academy would educate up to 25 veterans in courses designed to help them make the transition between active military service and home life. Homeward Bound has defined it as “an effective bridge from military service to college” and a “prep school to improve veterans’ educational experiences.”
HBA would provide student housing, board and class space, and Clarkson University would provide classroom technology. The core curriculum would include courses in English, math, history, science, exercise physiology and electives in both classroom settings and field study. At the end of the program, veterans would have 45 transferrable college credits.
While it still needs a physical location, HBA has found a home in Saranac Lake, using its educational resources, arts community and heritage as a health resort to help build a “resiliency-informed community.”
“It presents an opportunity to tap into and draw upon the healing community tradition that goes back to the 1880s with tuberculosis and Dr. (Edward Livingston) Trudeau, Garry Trudeau’s great-grandfather, in which the whole community, not just the medical community, was involved in providing support,” Ross said on the phone. “I think the ambitiousness of the project and the desire to be centered in Saranac Lake and then provide resources which can be utilized throughout the region has been welcomed, but I think there is also a sense that people are waiting for it to begin to be more consistently visible, and we are working very hard to do that.”
While HBA officials look for property in Saranac Lake for their home base, they will continue to develop and offer programs for veterans and their families, as they have since 2010.
The way it’s working out, Homeward Bound Adirondacks is in the same position as the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks (The Wild Center) was a decade ago. Founded in 1999, the Wild Center offered programs at various locations — such as the L.P. Quinn Elementary School and the Paul Smiths VIC — for years before opening its doors in Tupper Lake on July 4, 2006. Likewise, HBA will be offering programs at different locations before setting up its home base. For example, it set up a retreat for veterans’ spouses at Ampersand Bay Resort in May and is planning more programs for this summer.