It looks like the Saranac Lake Village Board of Trustees will opt to update its 1989 comprehensive plan.
During last week's regular meeting, trustees voted down a resolution seeking "expressions of interest" regarding consultant services. Those services would be paid for using a $75,000 grant from the state.
In November, trustees expressed major reservations about a draft comprehensive plan that a village committee put together over a four-year period. That plan included public input acquired through surveys and several public hearings.
But Trustee Jeff Branch says the village board didn't play a large enough role in the process.
"I've sat in on public hearings where I've raised questions as a board member and I was shushed - I was told I couldn't ask questions," he said. "I've gone to meetings and I begged people to take into consideration everybody's concerns and comments because if not, it's going to lead exactly where it's going now."
During the pubic comment portion of last week's meeting, village resident Rich Shapiro said the board didn't give the draft plan its due diligence.
"I'm wondering what sort of effective use of village resources this is - in terms of time and dollars," he said. "There were people on the board that campaigned heavily on saving taxpayer money, yet there are many things in this plan that have already been done. There's a draft plan that was torn apart by the board without fully understanding everything that was in there."
Branch countered that the board does understand the draft comprehensive plan, noting that trustees chose to discard portions of the document that were too subjective and too open to interpretation.
He says useful legislation can't be built on mere theories and ideas.
Rather than adopt the draft comprehensive plan, Branch wants the village to update the 1989 document.
"My suggestion would be to do the process and do the process right this time," he said. "Let's update the existing master plan and involve this board and anyone who has to by law vote on and accept it from the get go. Listen to our concerns and listen to our comments. Take them for what they are - as the comments of the people who elected to fairly and equally represent the people of this village."
Trustee Allie Pelletieri said that because the town of Harrietstown is no longer interested in pursuing a joint plan, any and all references to the town should be cut from the discussion.
"Since the town is not involved, that's a major issue with the whole plan," he said. "There's also many things that have already been done - water meters for example. There were many things in the plan that were someone's ideas or theories - words like 'appropriate' - that doesn't belong because what's appropriate to some may not be appropriate for all."
Pelletieri says the village should use the 1989 plan as a base going forward. He says what works should be left in - while what doesn't work should be removed.
Trustee John McEneany says he's still reviewing the draft plan.
"It's extremely important that somebody goes through these documents line-by-line and leave as little open for interpretation as possible, because that's what gets you in trouble," he said. "I don't feel at this time that I can support this resolution as I am not done reviewing and altering the document as it sits now."
During public comment, Ray Scollin said the village needs to get the plan right in order to reflect the general public, noting that a relatively small cross-section of village residents participated in drafting the plan.
"So if we don't get it right, then we're stuck with something that could subject the village to more regulations," he said.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau says he appreciates the amount of time the committee put into drafting the comprehensive plan.
But he notes that without input from the town, the plan needs to be revised. Rabideau also wants input from the towns of St. Armand and North Elba.
He adds the plan does include some strong points, like increasing density in the village's downtown and creating healthy infrastructure.
For Rabideau, the board's nuts-and-bolts approach to the plan is a good thing.
"They want to touch and feel things before they adopt it as law," he said. "So when terms like 'smart growth' are put out there, they want definition. I respect that."
Trustee Pelletieri said the board should schedule work sessions in order to provide guidance for Community Development Director Jeremy Evans, who has guided the plan in its current draft form.
Branch said the board should not seek expressions of interest until it has a good working document.