The Saranac Lake Village Board of Trustees has turned down an offer to lease the Sears parking lot.
Local businessman Paolo Magro is under contract to purchase the lot and the building from current owners Phil Vivlamore and Larry Mullen.
The village had previously negotiated with the current owners but could not strike a deal for a new lease or for the parking lot's purchase.
Magro, who owns the Little Italy pizzeria and the Nonna Fina restaurant, said he could not afford to purchase the lot and keep it open to the public without some support from the village.
His offer would have the village lease the lot for $2,000 a month, also requiring the village to pay for insurance, maintenance, and enforcement.
Trustees say that deal would have forced the village to install parking meters.
Village Manager John Sweeney says Magro's lease offer was similar in nature to an offer proposed last year by Vivlamore and Mullen.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau says the board could not come to a consensus on Magro's offer - but he says the board did get creative with a counterproposal.
"We did ask Paolo if we would accept an offer with the Local Development Corporation, which would separate the village from the parking lot," he said. "The LDC would get the older Lake Placid meters and give the vast majority of proceeds to Paolo for maintenance and upkeep."
"But that offer didn't meet his needs," Rabideau added. "Paolo is still an earnest and respected business person in this community. He pays a lot of taxes, he supports a lot of worthy causes, and I wish him well with that parking lot. He does have the option to put in meters himself, and if he does, so be it. It's his property."
Rabideau says there's still room for negotiations down the road, noting that the board's ears are "always open."
"But, we've drawn a line in the sand and it's a respected line," he said. "People understand where we're at and where Paolo is at. That's the way it goes."
As the board mulled Magro's offer, trustees promised to listen to residents and business owners.
Rabideau says that's exactly what happened.
"Predominantly, the voice we heard was against any kind of deal on the parking lot - we heard that from the general public," he said. "We only heard from three of the downtown merchants. One said, 'take the deal,' the other two said, 'don't take the deal.'"
"It was telling that we didn't have a group of merchants taking a stand either way, which told us we should stand back and let private enterprise take its course," Rabideau added.
With the current deal off the table, Rabideau says the board will continue looking at ways to address the village's "parking situation."
Rabideau says that begins with a basic assessment of available parking downtown.
"Judging from the vacancies that I have noted every single day, every single hour, there are parking spots open," he said.
He adds that trustees will do everything in their power to make sure Saranac Lake's "unique downtown area" remains vibrant and viable.