SARANAC LAKE — About two dozen people offered comments at a public information session looking at Saranac Resort LLC plans to build a hotel on Lake Flower.
The session and subsequent public hearing was hosted by the Adirondack Park Agency last week.
Voices raised concerns that have endured more than three years of public review, including public hearings hosted by Saranac Lake’s Village Board of Trustees and Planning Board.
Susan Mueller, who co-owns the Adirondack Motel — one of three lodging properties slated for purchase and demolition to make room for the resort — said the 1950s-era buildings with aging infrastructure are destined for redevelopment.
If not purchased for one combined project, she said, each motel lot could be sold individually resulting in “a hodge-podge of development.”
Mueller said throughout the past several years of review the current plan “has been approved and enhanced by all the serious attention.”
Coming to the podium after Mueller, Curt Stiles, former chairman of the APA, raised the zoning litigation specter.
“The PUDD (Planned Unit Development District) overlay negates zoning,” he said, suggesting the village process resulted in “spot zoning” favorable to one developer, which Stiles said is illegal.
He warned APA that approval of the project would mark an “unwarranted, unwanted and unnecessary” precedent.
“Adjudicatory Hearing is the only acceptable way to get fact from fiction into the permanent record,” Stiles said.
Several other speakers also urged APA to take the matter into a formal adjudication, a legal sequence of testimony in front of a judge sometimes added for large projects that have drawn immense public reaction.
For Saranac Lake resident Frannie Preston, the very need for any “variance” on village waterfront triggers concern.
“Why are we even thinking about a variance. We have these (zoning) limits (zoning) because we all did a lot of work ... to protect what we have. Who are we turning ourselves into? And why are we doing that?”
Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer said that with the village zoning changes in litigation, APA should explore the project further.
APA policy indicates adjudication is needed, he said, in many circumstances, including heightened public interest and the need for local variance.
He pointed out that adjudication took place some years ago for size and placement of the Lowe’s sign in Ticonderoga.
For lifelong Saranac Lake resident, historian, Harrietstown town councilman and former village mayor Howard Riley, the new resort is the right size at the right place.
“And it’s the right time,” he said.
As to busy traffic coming and going on Lake Flower Ave., Riley said he hopes “it becomes the busiest intersection in the North Country.”
The Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce stands completely in support of the new resort construction, Riley said.
“And to people who question the need for two hotels (in downtown Saranac Lake), that’s absolutely what we need.”
APA spokesman Keith McKeever said the agency will likely discuss the Saranac Lake resort plan at the Feb. 9 and 10 meetings.
The option to bring the project to full adjudication is one among several decisions that commissioners could render, he said.