SARANAC LAKE - Residents of upper Park Avenue have enjoyed more peace and quiet in their neighborhood since the southern gate to the American Management Association's campus was closed to vehicle traffic about five years ago.
Now some of them are fighting to keep it that way. They're mounting a petition drive to urge the village to keep the gate closed when it takes over AMA Way, which crosses the management association's property and connects to Trudeau Road.
Village officials are negotiating a deal to annex AMA's 63 acres into the village. As part of the agreement, the village would get easements across AMA property to allow for construction of pipes and an access road for the village's $12 million water project. In return, the village would take over maintenance of some of AMA's water lines, sewer lines and roads. AMA Way would become a public road; and the gate would be opened.
The American Management Association's campus gate on AMA Way.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
An anonymous flyer distributed to Park Avenue homes last week urged people to "organize and gather a petition, quickly, to oppose opening the gate," citing concerns about increased traffic if the road becomes a thoroughfare again.
"Upper Park Avenue used to be a speedway for AMA employees rushing home from work or going out to lunch," the flyer reads. "Also for large delivery trucks, when the AMA iron gate was left open. The police could not control the speeding. We now have a safe, quiet peaceful street since the AMA iron gate has been closed."
Copies of recent Enterprise articles about the proposed deal between the village and AMA were distributed with the flyer.
In addition to the flyer, some Park Avenue residents have been going door to door, collecting signatures on a petition to present to the village board, according to several of their neighbors.
Hannah Hanford, who moved into the neighborhood in the past year, said she signed the petition.
"One of the reasons I purchased my home was because it was on a quiet residential street," Hanford said. "I would be disappointed if there was a huge change in that at this point. I enjoy the peace and quiet and I enjoy the fact that I can walk my dog and it's a peaceful part of town."
John Duffy, who lives in the house closest to the AMA gate, said this isn't the first time this issue has come up. The gate has been closed year-round for about five years, he said. Before that it was open several times during the day for AMA employees to come and go.
"We've been through this many times over the years, and we've lived here for more than 30 years," said Duffy, who supports the effort to keep the gate closed. "When the gates are open, the traffic can be bad, especially if you have young children around. It's a hazard. Something's gotta be done about the speed control if they open it back up."
AMA has about 140 employees at its Saranac?Lake site.
"People in the neighborhood do say that when the gate is open that everybody goes quite fast and people trying to get to and from work are flying through the place," said Debbie Zale, who's lived on upper Park Avenue for the past four years. "I wasn't here prior to when the gate was open. I've only been here since the gate was closed, so it is kind of nice and quiet."
Zale signed the petition, but said she "could go either way." Her kids are older now, and opening the gate would give them and her quicker access to Trudeau Road to get to Mount Pisgah Ski Center.
"My kids are that age where they'd like to go up to the mountain and I wouldn't have to go down, around and up," she said. "But I can see everyone else's point, and I signed the petition because it does make for a nicer street."
Village Manager John Sweeney said Monday that he hadn't seen the flyer or heard any concerns from Park Avenue residents about reopening the gate, which he said AMA could do at any time.
"I fully understand where they're coming from, but if AMA wanted to open it today, they could," said Sweeney, who used to work at AMA.
If the village takes over AMA Way, it would become a public road and would have to be opened to through vehicle traffic, Sweeney said.
"Obviously there would be additional traffic, and I'm not trying to underplay what they're saying," he said, "but if it is a village of Saranac Lake road, it's a public road."
Once the village receives an annexation petition from AMA, Sweeney said it would likely be another six months before AMA Way becomes a village road and the gate is reopened.