Lake George Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson (left) and Lake George Village Mayor Robert Blais (right) discuss a document during a recent joint meeting of the two municipalities' boards. Blais, Dickinson and several Warren County supervisors have reached an agreement, yet to be endorsed by all entities involved, to reallocate ownership of the Charles R. Wood Park — the former Gaslight Village property - by thirds between Warren County and the Village and Town of Lake George, ending an ownership dispute.
Signaling what may be a conclusion to a lingering haggle over ownership of the environmental park once known as Gaslight Village, a committee of Warren County supervisors overseeing park development have reached a tentative agreement — the municipalities now governing the project should divvy up the ownership evenly.
The supervisors voted 4-1 on June 5 for the three municipalities each to own a one-third stake in the property, an about-face from statements made just two weeks ago by some of the politicians involved. This decision is subject to a vote of the full county board of supervisors later this month as well as the Lake George Village Board and the Lake George Town Board.
The earlier discord over ownership has roots in the Town of Lake George’s action to sell its 19 percent portion, under a previous administration, to the village for $210,000, after a dispute erupted about what buildings in the park’s festival space should be demolished.
Warren County has owned 62 percent of the project, with the town and village each starting out with 19 percent. The village ‘s share doubled to 38 percent with the sale.
When the new town board, under the leadership of new town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson, sought to reclaim its former share, the village balked, citing that it wanted more clout. Village trustees also said they were wary of the town’s shifting positions on ownership. Village officials insisted thy wanted to hang on to their 38 percent, and suggested the county ought to relinquish part of its ownership.
Then at last month’s county board meeting, a straw poll showed the prevailing opinion was for the county to dump its entire stake.
Those involved in the project, however, said such a move could stymie the project and dry up state and federal grant funding, by showing a lack of solid local support.
June 5, the standoff was all but resolved as the decision was reached for all entities to hold even shares.
“This is a great arrangement,” Lake George Village Mayor Robert Blais said after the vote. “We’ll be bringing the town back in, and we’ll only be dropping five shares.”
Dickinson said he was happy with the new hefty, equal ownership stake, even though it would be costing his taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars up front to buy back in.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I can’t believe this change in direction came this fast.”
Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe, who chairs the park's ad-hoc committee, estimated that the town would need to pay from $560,000 to $620,000 to buy back into the project — about $700,00 or so in initial acquisition costs plus subsequent development expenses, minus about $140,000 the town had left invested in the effort, which would be repaid to the Town.