Light in Dew Drop darkness
Progress made as state approves property line to center of river, but plan has been withdrawn
SARANAC LAKE — Over the last month progress has been made regarding an aquatic property line dispute for the former Dew Drop Inn at 27 Broadway.
In January, one of the location’s owners, Calli Shelton, said she’d hired a contractor and that work was set to begin later that month. Work had previously stopped in October 2017 because of a lack of funding, and the building permit had expired.
It was during the course of building permit renewal that the village paused the project. The issue was a plan to rebuild nearly 70-year-old porches hanging over the Saranac River that were, according to documents submitted to the village, outside of the owner’s property line.
“Unfortunately the deed subsequently submitted did not reflect ownership into the river and also did not match the property boundary in the submitted plans,” village Code Enforcement Officer Paul Blaine wrote in an email.
Village officials said they could not permit a property that its owner did not own, and because the porches’ status was unknown, they were waiting on state approvals before moving forward. Shelton told the Enterprise in February that she could not wait those approvals to come in — it was expected to take a couple of months. She said her contractor had taken another job. She said she was walking away from the project.
It is unclear if she has truly abandoned the project, now that most of those agency approvals have come in.
“I was contacted and recently obtained information from (the state Office of General Services) that reflects ownership to the middle of the river which should resolve questions for the north side of the structure,” Blaine wrote.
He said a southern side encroachment, which involves a wedge of land not within the property line, should be a simple matter to resolve when complete building plans are provided to the village.
Additionally, he said the state Adirondack Park Agency issued a nonjurisdictional determination, and that Shelton provided documentation showing no permit is required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since no fill or dredging would occur.
“I am aware that a permit was not necessary from the (state Department of Environmental Conservation) for the initial phase of demolition and limited framing,” Blaine wrote. “The DEC may have to issue a permit for the remaining work however. This will be determined, again, when complete plans are available.”
Where does that leave the Dew Drop?
The project is not active, Blaine said. Shelton has requested, and been refunded, the building permit fee.
“Also upon request, the project plans have been returned to the project Engineer,” Blaine wrote. “The project has Development Board approval and may proceed as submitted when the appropriate permits are issued.”
Shelton declined to comment for this story. Her business partner Randy Coles said they’re taking a step back, to take stock of where they’re at. The two were married when they began the project and are now divorced.
“I think we need to step back and have a look,” Coles said. “Everything is on the table.”
Whether that’s selling the property, scaling back their plans, or continuing with the project — that hasn’t been decided yet. The three-story business was planned to operate as a combination restaurant and bar, cooking school, event space and short-term rental units when complete.
Coles said he, Shelton and another minority stakeholder in their company, Chicota, will meet later this week to discuss the project’s future. He said the delays have taken a toll on the ownership, and work is on hold at least until June, but possibly indefinitely.
“Obviously it’s been extremely disappointing,” Coles said. “It isn’t just about us. Calli wanted this project because it kind of defined Saranac Lake.”
Coles said that while he didn’t know for sure, he doubted that Shelton was looking for another contractor right now — at least until the group meets later this week to discuss the project.
So why now?
When the village raised the concern of the property line, many said it was a move by the village to stall or halt the project. The main point of concern, the part of the structure overhanging the Saranac River, was built in 1950, according to Franklin County tax records.
“I am not aware of anyone that does not want the project to be successful,” Blaine wrote. “The project has not been delayed by the village.
“The matter of how the property boundary was not known since the mid-20th century is not a simple answer,” Blaine wrote. “The village of Saranac Lake, like most small municipalities, has evolved in enforcement of codes and laws.”
He said in the past, a project such as the one proposed for the former Dew Drop Inn may or may not have required a simple top-down plan of the parcel and the buildings on the property.
“Even now a building permit application and some Development Board applications do not require submission of a survey map,” Blaine wrote.
He said the village relies on the applicant to submit accurate documentation — and that the cost of providing a survey map for all applications is too large an expense for most municipalities.
“Unfortunately this can create encroachment issues that may be subsequently revealed,” Blaine wrote. “When discovered, encroaching structures have fairly and consistently been addressed and resolved.”