Lake Placid, museum dispute eminent domain procedure law

Village schedules meeting day after 90-day deadline

The Adirondack Experience owns this property with the stone retaining wall on Main Street in downtown Lake Placid, next to a village parking lot. The village wants to take the land by eminent domain and build a parking garage there. (Enterprise photo — Matthew Turner)

LAKE PLACID — Another divisive development has sprung up as the village board is set to host a special meeting Monday about its plan to use eminent domain to acquire Main Street parcels from the Adirondack Historical Association in order to build a public parking garage.

The special meeting will occur on Monday at 3:15 p.m., at which point the village board of trustees will adopt its determination of findings to enter into a formal eminent domain proceeding.

The meeting, though, will come 91 days after the March 13 public hearing the village held with regards to using eminent domain to acquire the properties at 2476 and 2478 Main Street from the association, which runs the Adirondack Experience, the museum on Blue Mountain Lake.

According to state eminent domain procedure law, within 90 days after the conclusion of the public hearing, the condemnor — in this case, the village of Lake Placid — must make its determination and findings of fact on the proposed public project and publish a brief synopsis of such in the local newspaper, as well as serve a copy of the synopsis on each affected property owner.

Speaking Wednesday afternoon at the North Elba Town Hall after returning to the village from Fargo, North Dakota, Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said the village has been advised by its counsel, attorney Patrick Seely of Clifton Park, that holding the meeting to announce its findings of facts on Monday is allowable. He said this is so because 90 days from March 13 is Sunday, a non-business day.

“(Seely) was brought on board to help us because he has experience in that particular type of proceeding,” Randall said.

Museum officials, after being briefed by their own attorney, dispute this.

They also are pointing to the fact that they believe the village only rescheduled the special meeting from an initially announced date and time of Thursday at 3:15 p.m., to Monday at the same time after the museum asked village Clerk Ellen Clark to cite the board’s authority to call a special meeting on 48 hours notice.

Clark said in an email to the Enterprise Wednesday morning that the date change was due to her publishing the wrong date in the original notice.

“I am advised that whether they made the 90-day time limit will be a matter for the Appellate Court to determine, not Mr. Seely or Mayor Randall,” said David Kahn, the museum’s executive director. “Keep in mind, this is the team that was all set to hold the special meeting on two days’ notice rather than the five days clearly required by statute.”

Speaking Wednesday afternoon, Randall stressed that the village continues to pursue the eminent domain proceeding because by law, he said, the village is tasked with paying fair market value for any property. The village and museum had negotiated the sale on and off for a six-year period before negotiations picked back up this winter, though they proved fruitless by the time a final mid-January in-person meeting between the two parties took place in Glens Falls.

The schism has grown so much that the museum has threatened to sue the village and the town of North Elba in state Supreme Court to reverse the removal of its tax-exempt status by North Elba Town Assessor Todd Anthony. The museum believes Anthony was influenced by Randall and other village officials to not only remove the museum’s tax-exempt status but also this year to drop the assessed value of the 0.35-acre property from $1.18 million to $850,000. Randall has said the museum’s claims are “absolutely untrue.” Anthony also denies them.

At the town hall on Wednesday, Randall reiterated that he sees this as a public benefit project and the eminent domain proceeding is the only remaining resource the village has left with the museum to progress negotiations.

“Discussion was at a standstill,” Randall said.

“It really left us with no place to go,” he added. “We still need to do the project. The property adds significant opportunity to create what the village wants without creating a monster big building up there.

“Let me point out though,” he added, “that at every step along the way until eminent domain is ultimately concluded, there is an opportunity for the parties to come to the table and agree on a different course. What eminent domain does is exactly what I proposed to them a long time ago, which is: ‘Why don’t we just do what the court does?’ The judge is going to go out and get a fair market value appraisal. He’s going to establish the value on the property and we are going to be directed to pay that, whatever it is.

“But, in the meantime,'” the Mayor continued, “we are running out of time for this project. I’ve got grant funding which has been available now for almost two years that we are going to either sign a contract for in September, or it’s gone. And to do any of the Main Street upgrades, including the sewer project, which we are going to put out to bid later this summer, we have got to have a place that moves cars that are currently parking on the street.

“We are looking at all of the options,” he added. “I am well aware of the fact that a net gain of 80 spaces is not going to fulfill the need (for parking in the village). But I also know that we have to take our opportunities where we have them and then put together a program that makes sense.”