Saranac Lake village board members did the right thing in listening to residents and then turning down an offer from local businessman Paolo Magro to lease the Sears parking lot for $2,000 a month, plus maintenance and parking enforcement costs. The village had turned down a nearly identical offer from the two men who are trying to sell the property to Mr. Magro, and there was no new reason to accept it now. That's what Mayor Clyde Rabideau said people have told him, and that's also what we've heard from last week's Web poll (63 percent of 734 voters said don't lease it) as well as people on the street and online commenters.
The village should either buy the lot, lease for a much lower price or let it go for now.
In any case, the village should not install parking meters, as it was considering. New, electronic meters are fiercely expensive, and the mechanical ones the village of Lake Placid would give away are old, with parts that aren't made anymore. But more importantly, no meters are needed. Unlike Lake Placid, Saranac Lake doesn't have a parking crunch; that has been proven by the lack of crisis since the Sears owners blocked the lot to all but their and their tenants' customers. Meters won't make anyone much money because the supply of free parking options is still greater than the demand.
On the other hand, the village board made a mistake in saying no to the Adirondack Farmers' Market Cooperative's request to use Riverside Park for a Tuesday farmers market - the same market that has set up shop in front of the Lake Flour Bakery on Tuesdays in recent summers.
In doing so, the board put the interest of everyone who likes fresh food below a request from Nancy Moriarty, owner of the Lake Flour Bakery across the street from the park. She has kicked the cooperative out this year because they brought in another baker, and she wouldn't stand for the competition. She told the board that having a baker in the market across the street would give her unfair competition because she pays property taxes and the market doesn't.
That argument should have been dead on arrival. The village has already established that commercial use of its parks is acceptable in most cases, with permission: by the Saturday farmers market in Riverside Park, by vendors at fairs such as Winter Carnival and by canoe sellers for demo days. We say these things are good for other businesses, not bad; they bring crowds of visitors and locals downtown who can easily be tempted to spend money at shops. If Lake Flour Bakery set up a big sign in front of its store that said, "Fresh bread here," plenty of customers would cross the street from the park to buy her goods.
By Mrs. Moriarty's reasoning, one could also say that farmers'markets compete with every taxpaying local shop that sells food and crafts, some of which are within a block or two away from Riverside Park. No others are complaining, and she wasn't, either, when she hosted the market that was competing with them.
We hope the village board reverses this decision at its next meeting.
(Editor's note: The spelling of Paolo Magro's first name has been corrected.)