Development Board OKs resort PUDD amendments

SARANAC LAKE — The village Development Board has signed off on proposed amendments to the zoning district for the Lake Flower Resort and Spa project.

The changes would remove 203 River St. from the Lake Flower Planned Unit Development District and amend its boundaries to include submerged lands on Pontiac Bay, where the four-story, 90-room hotel is planned.

The village Board of Trustees proposed the amendments earlier this month. Mayor Clyde Rabideau said at the time that he hoped the changes would help end a lawsuit brought against the village Planning Board — now the Development Board — by Roedel Companies, which is restoring the Hotel Saranac on Main Street. However, the New Hampshire-based company said last week that it plans to continue the litigation.

Nevertheless, the village is moving ahead with the Lake Flower PUDD changes. The village board has scheduled a public hearing on the amendments at its next meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. Monday in the village offices on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall. The changes could be approved soon afterward.

When the village board created the Lake Flower PUDD in March 2015, it included 203 River St., a blue two-story house next to North Country Community College’s River Street Hall, as a potential location for off-site parking for the resort, which is planned on a trio of Lake Flower Avenue motel properties. The River Street parcel’s acreage was critical at the time, as it helped push the project over a 3-acre minimum for all PUDDs in the village. Without it, the resort properties added up to 2.97 acres.

Later, however, a new group of investors called Saranac Lake Resort LLC took over the project and said they didn’t need the River Street overflow lot. They said there was enough acreage from the motel properties extending out under the water to exceed the 3-acre requirement. That’s why 203 River St. wasn’t included in the project site when the Planning Board approved it last July, even though it remained in the Lake Flower PUDD.

A month before the Planning Board vote, Roedel Companies bought 203 River St. under the name Malone Real Estate LLC. It later filed its lawsuit, seeking to annul the Planning Board’s approval of the resort. Among its arguments, Roedel Companies said removal of 203 River St. from the site plan without amending or reconfiguring the PUDD boundaries “effectively precludes” it from developing the parcel or using it for anything other than parking and a storage shed.

There was only a brief reference to the lawsuit during Tuesday’s Development Board meeting. Chairwoman Leslie Karasin and others noted they had previously recommended 203 River St. be taken out of the PUDD.

“The proposal at that time was to tear town a perfectly good building and construct a parking lot in a location where we as a board felt it would be dangerous, would be difficult to screen and would be aesthetically unappealing,” she said. “Looking at it now, the ultimate thing is there’s a lawsuit going on. Leaving that aside, I think, from a planning perspective, you’ve got a parcel that is floating in limbo.”

“What this proposal does is, it would allow 203 River St. to be used for any use allowed under the B1 zoning district,” village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans said. “Right now, it’s pretty much locked up and useless.”

Expanding the district’s boundaries to include land under the water of Pontiac Bay gives the project a total size of 4.07 acres, above the 3-acre threshold, Evans noted.

Board member Donna Difara asked if these changes could affect the board’s site plan approval of the project, granted last summer.

“Would we have to reapprove it under the new PUDD?” she asked.

“That’s a good question, but I don’t believe so because there’s been no development,” Evans said. “There’s no project components that occur under water, and there’s no project components that include 203 River St., so this doesn’t affect the scope of the site plan review.”

Difara then asked if the applicant would now have the right to develop the lands under water that they say are part of the project’s acreage. Evans said that’s something the resort developers could propose, but it would likely reopen the review process for the village and the state Adirondack Park Agency, which signed off on the project earlier this year.

“This is basically redefining the boundaries of the PUDD without necessarily invoking any specifics related to the project,” Karasin said. “It doesn’t compromise the project that’s been proposed.”

In a 4-0 vote, the board approved what was described in a resolution as a “purely advisory” recommendation to approve the amendments. Since the Development Board doesn’t have any decision-making power over the zoning amendments, it didn’t conduct any kind of State Environmental Quality Review. Since there’s no new use or development proposed with the amendments, the resolution says they don’t trigger review under the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.