Gentrification markers in Placid
As Lake Placid gradually becomes a more high-end address, where the rich and famous buy classic camps as tear-downs — and at record prices, no less — the community has approached some minor milestones.
For one, the town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid boards agreed Thursday to further consider banning chickens and other farm animals from the village and all parts of the town not zoned as “Rural Countryside.” There will be a public hearing on the matter next month, elected officials said. Those who have livestock now would keep them, however.
For another, the two boards reconsidered a requirement in their land-use code to guarantee a certain amount of housing for people with low and moderate incomes. They did not change the requirement, but it prompted another serious conversation about where local workers can afford to live.
The “Rural Countryside” zoning exists mostly south and east of the ski jumps, plus a little off Old Ray Brook Road, but it doesn’t include Old Military Road and Route 86 in Ray Brook, places with notably less density of housing than the village.
“Do you want chickens and roosters and everything on the Ruisseaumont (Way) and Peninsula (Way) and Whiteface Inn (Lane) and areas where people have maybe expensive homes (and) live right on top of each other?” North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi, who sells high-end homes for a living as a real estate broker, said when village Trustee Jason Leon made a mild comment, ‘It seems sort of self-sufficient — chickens or whatnot.”
“I don’t have anything against chickens,” Politi continued. “It’s just that I don’t want somebody next door to me — it’s never a problem until it’s next door to you.”
How about just ban roosters? They are loud and disruptive while hens are not. People who raise chickens generally do so for the eggs, which don’t need roosters unless the owner wants baby chicks.
It works in Saranac Lake, where neighborhoods are easily as densely packed as Lake Placid’s. Village homeowners there are permitted to keep up to six hens, but no roosters, per 5,000 square feet, or 30 for any lot size. It hasn’t been a problem.
But Saranac Lake is less high-end than Lake Placid, and with wealth comes neighborly intolerance.
Lake Placid, like other resort towns, needs an army of workers for its many businesses, but much of the housing those people used to occupy has been converted into vacation rentals, and not much is being built for those people.
Three village trustees blocked the proposal to change the low-income housing requirement, which was backed by Mayor Craig Randall and the whole town board. Note: All of these reps want affordable housing. The main reason some gave to change the policy is not that it hurts developers but rather that it does too little toward its goal. It’s only affected two developments since it went into effect in January 2011.
Here’s how it works: For every 10 homes, townhouses or condominiums built, it requires developers to include at least one for people whose gross annual household income doesn’t exceed 120 percent of Essex County’s median income. Developers can opt out by donating to a housing nonprofit group instead.
Mayor Randall said more attention should be paid to apartments rather than houses, since he figures the complexes where many local workers live will soon be bought and redeveloped. Town Councilman Derek Doty brought up the idea of creating a housing authority. Whatever is tried, Randall said, “We really need a force in the community working on it.”
Amen to that — not just “a force in the community” but also a force of the community. This is Placidians’ problem as a whole, and a few officials can’t solve it on their own. We may disagree with the town and village board members about things such as chickens, but we think they do a good job of representing the people who elected them. These residents have a downtown that bustles with shoppers when nowhere else in the Adirondacks does, tons of jobs and a wonderful array of shops, restaurants and events to enjoy. With the extra tax base, they can afford to spend a little more on public works, fire and police services than other villages of 2,500 people, and to spend more per pupil in their public schools.
But there’s a cost for those things, however, besides the taxes for those extra services. Gentrification feels good on the surface but brings more materialism and shallowness with it. That takes a toll on the soul.
Based on our limited impressions of other resort towns, Lake Placid has done a remarkable job of retaining its local grounding. That was on full display in the village’s glitziest moment, the 1980 Winter Games, sometimes dubbed “the last small-town Olympics.” It demonstrates that local people are relatively unified in what they think the community should be like, and they live that out.
Maintaining the balance between prosperous and proletarian will take a lot of work as luxury creeps in more and more, and it will. We will truly need the community out in force to work on it.