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Motel’s lakeside fence draws concern from residents

Village to hold public hearing on revised fence law

June 21, 2012
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - A local motel's new lakeside fence has sparked a public outcry.

The owners of Gauthier's Saranac Lake Inn recently put up several sections of wooden, 6-foot-high stockade fence along a 50-foot stretch of their property on Lake Flower Avenue, across the street from McKenzie's Grill.

But some local residents and passersby are calling the fence an eyesore, as it blocks part of the view of Lake Flower in a scenic and highly-traveled thoroughfare. A Tuesday post titled "Fencing Off Lake Flower" on WNBZ radio's Talk of the Town Facebook page, which also included pictures of the fence, drew no shortage of negative reactions. One person called it "unwelcoming" while another described it as a "visual nightmare" - and those were some of the nicer things people had to say.

Article Photos

Some village residents think this fence, located along Lake Flower on property owned by Gauthier’s Saranac Lake Inn, is an eyesore. The owners of the motel say it’s designed to protect the lake.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

"I've received a lot of phone calls about it," village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans said Wednesday. "People are asking, 'Do they have the permit? How could the village allow such a thing?'"

The issue also came up briefly at the end of Wednesday night's village Planning Board meeting.

Gauthier's co-owner Nicole Brownell told the Enterprise Tuesday that the fence is designed to protect their property and the lake from garbage, debris and road salt.

"It is part of our green program," Brownell said. "We're an Audubon Green Leaf property. One of the big pieces of that green program is the lake. We have to preserve and protect the lake as best as we can."

Brownell said a lot of dirt and garbage from the road gets on the property.

"The other problem we have is the state has raised the road grade over the years, and all the runoff from Duprey Street and down runs directly into our property and funnels itself into the lake," she said. "We've tried anything we can to soak up the runoff. We've found anything we plant or put there dies because of the salt. There's no way that we can create a deviation from the runoff without having a barrier there."

Brownell said they also have liability concerns about people who are not their guests using the property. In the past, she said, people have launched kayaks, gone fishing or walked their dogs there, even though it's posted as private property.

"So when we looked at this, really from all angles, we saw this was just the best approach," Brownell said.

Brownell said they got the proper permits from the village and consulted with the state Adirondack Park Agency before deciding to put up the fence. She said it will not be a solid wall.

"It's broken up so there's a stretch that's 16 feet in front and then 16 feet behind," she said. "That way we could plant vegetation in between those 16-foot layers to make a combination stockade and living wall. That's the goal here. It's going to be a process, but slowly and surely we'll be putting the vegetation in."

Brownell noted that the prior owners of the motel put up a similar fence in that area in the 1990s, although she said it was used seasonally. She also said most of the view of the lake had been blocked by two large pine trees until they died and had to be removed. Now people have gotten used to the open view there, she said.

Brownell said she understands people's concerns but hopes they'll wait to see the finished product before they cast their opinions.

"I think if people give it some time, there's not going to be an issue, and I think they're going to be impressed with all the work in the gardens we're going to be putting in," she said.

Evans confirmed Gauthier's did receive a permit to build the fence last summer. It's valid for a year, and the fence started going up recently, before the permit expires, Evans said.

Although the fence met the village's requirements at the time the permit was granted, it might not meet the standards of a new fence law the village has drafted. A section of that proposed law limits fences in a building's "architectural front yard" to four feet in height. In a waterfront lot, the "architectural front yard" is defined as the yard facing the street.

"The height would have to be different," Evans said. "My guess is we would limit it to four feet under the proposed new law because it's in the property's architectural front yard."

The village held a public hearing on the fence law earlier this month but it was sent back for further review because some board members and village residents said it was too restrictive.

Revisions have since been made to address garden fences and the replacement of stone retaining walls. Another public hearing will be held on the revised law at the village board's next meeting, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday night in the village offices on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall.



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