QUEENSBURY - Lake George Supervisor Frank McCoy unveiled plans Monday to extensively rehabilitate Cavalcade of Cars building's exterior with a new Adirondack-style architecture rather than patch up the aging facade that resembles a mock streetscape of row shops at the former Gaslight Village amusement park.
The initiative, announced Monday at a meeting of Warren County Supervisors, was met by skepticism from Lake George Village Mayor Robert Blais, who presented his own proposal to partially or totally demolish the Cavalcade structure. Others envision the building being reconstructed to host trade shows and community events.
Blais' latest initiative, also presented at the county meeting Monday, would replace the building with an open-sided pavilion, perhaps with convertible doors.
Monday evening, the Lake George Town Board voted unanimously to reject Blais' proposal, which would have decided the extent of demolition based on a professional engineering study of the building - the fourth to be conducted. The town board members said no more studies should be undertaken.
McCoy's plan showed several, two-story glassed-in towers for Cavalcade, capped off with Mansard green enameled metal roofs with Adirondack-style decorative trusses and a full wrap-around porch.
On the east side of the building, a large glass expanse would provide visitors views of the lake.
McCoy said he had casual estimates from builders indicating it would cost $250,000. Board member Vinnie Crocitto estimated it could be paid off in 10 years with $60,0000 annual payment from bed tax receipts.
Town Board member Fran Heinrich said McCoy's drawings, prepared last week by local designer Judd Brynes, were "absolutely gorgeous," but warned that she'd be withholding an affirmative vote on the plans until firm cost estimates were obtained. Councilman Scott Wood also said construction prices were needed.
Blais' primary suggestion was to demolish the existing steel-truss structure and build a brand-new pavilion on the same site with a mere $295,000 in state grant funds. Detractors said that environmental review was likely to kill new construction at the site, while rehabilitating the existing building would bypass such a process.
Several citizens with engineering or contracting experience said that demolishing a solid steel-truss building and then constructing a replacement structure was a waste of money.
The cost estimates for both Blais' pavilion proposal and McCoy's enclosed building proposal - each cited as less than $300,000 - came under fire from detractors as unrealistic.
Wood said Blais' pavilion proposal would limit the building's use in the off-season.
Luisa Sherman also expressed support of a fully-enclosed building, noting that Saratoga Springs and Lake Placid, competitors for trade shows and events, were now investing heavily into convention space.
"We need to put heads into beds, and that's what this proposal will do," she said of McCoy's plans. "We don't need to be left out any longer," she said, referring to other municipalities drawing away potential trade show bookings.
She said that prime-time for conventions was January through May, and that county convention marketer Michael Consuelo had lined up $300,000 in definite convention-related business linked to the facility, and had several million dollars of business in prospective revenue on the horizon.
Town Council member Caryl Clark noted that the state Fire Chiefs convention - which took its event elsewhere this year - had to spend $250,000 just to rent tents in the village for their trade show, and a permanent enclosed building, available at a far lower cost, would doubtlessly retain and attract such events.
Bob Flacke, owner of Fort William Henry Resort and Convention Center which is north of the Gaslight festival grounds and Cavalcade of Cars building, criticized the project. He said that additional trade show space wasn't needed, as existing venues weren't fully booked. He also predicted the proposed facility would be a burden on taxpayers.
Kathy Muncil, CFO of the resort, said municipal efforts should focus on summer business, which was declining in recent years.
But Ed Pagnotta of Barnsider Restaurant said that the summer season alone couldn't support local businesses, which needed healthy off-season business revenue to survive.
"I get offended that the county tries to tell us what to do with our assets," he said. "They should pass the decision on to us."
Various business owners said that the town should make its decision based on what was best for the entire business community, including boosting overnight stays, rather than listening to a few citizens who represent several major accommodations.
Village business owner Patty Kirkpatrick, a director of the Chamber, said she supported retaining McCoy's development plans, and that local citizens should be keeping focused on the town's future.
"Until we invest in Lake George and bring it to a competitive position, we'll be losing revenue and visitors to other destinations," she said.
Joanne Gavin, who has sought demolition of all structures on the festival grounds, said the controversy over the issue had been divisive, agreeing with former village board member Marisa Muratori. They called for demolition and leaving the property as open park space, if not pursuing Blais' plan.
Gavin said the Lake George Citizens' Group which she organized to monitor town expenditures and was favoring demolition, was now 300 members strong.
"We are now back to where we were 14 months ago, and we're tired with the game," she said. "How many times do we have to bat this around?"
Members of her group called for the town board to agree to Blais' proposal as a compromise.
McCoy said he was the one who proposed the true compromise, of tearing down the Opera House while rehabilitating Cavalcade.