A dozen people spoke out during a Saranac Lake Village Board of Trustees meeting Monday evening in favor of opening a large downtown parking lot to the public.
The first floor of the village office building was crammed with members of the public, including one man wearing a paper hat that read "more parking."
Several spoke out in favor of the village leasing the Sears parking lot from Paolo Magro, a local restaurateur who is under contract to purchase the property.
At least one of the people who spoke referred to the parking lot as the community's "welcome mat."
"I used to look at that parking lot as a big welcome mat and it doesn't say 'welcome' anymore," said the man, a local resident who owns a building downtown.
Magro was among those attending the meeting. He argued that the village should lease the lot from him as a means of supporting the local economy.
During the meeting, he presented a counter offer to the village consisting of a 10-year lease starting at $1,500 per month; that's down from an offer in March of $2,000 a month.
Magro is under contract to purchase the Sears building and its adjacent parking lot from Phil Vivlamore and Larry Mullen, who weren't able to work out an agreement with the village last year to renew its lease or buy the parking lot.
The $2,000-a-month lease price from Magro was roughly the same amount Vivlamore and Mullen wanted from the village.
Magro said he remembers a time when downtown was busier.
"We got to work together to make downtown alive; we need to invest in the parking lot," he said.
Until just recently, there had been very little verbal support for a deal between the village and Magro. But several who spoke on Monday cited the approaching tourism season as an impetus for opening the parking space in time to welcome visitors.
A large number of those who spoke during the meeting were shopkeepers. Some said their businesses had seen a downturn since the parking area was closed last year.
Some residents differed on whether or not the village should provide free or metered parking, but no one spoke out against leasing the lot.
Village Mayor Clyde Rabideau acknowledged the importance of reopening the parking lot for the community, but asked the public to respect the village's interest in negotiating on the terms, which include costs that would put the village well over $2,000 a month.
Trustee Jeff Branch suggested that business owners pitch in a share of the cost. Other trustees expressed an interest in purchasing the lot outright rather than leasing it, and said they would request an updated appraisal of the property.