SARANAC LAKE - The owners of a local motel will be allowed to keep a controversial fence along the Lake Flower shoreline; they just have to reduce it in height by 2 feet.
The village code enforcement officer, Tom Worthington, said he recently issued a building permit to Gauthier's Saranac Lake Inn under the new fence law the village board adopted July 23.
"Gauthier's had applied for a new permit, so that means they have to be in compliance with the new regulations, so that's what they have done," he said Wednesday.
Under the new law, fences in a building's "architectural front yard" can be no taller than 4 feet in height. In a waterfront lot like Gauthier's, the architectural front yard is defined as the yard facing the street. That means the sections of wooden, 6-foot-high, stockade fence the Brownell family - which owns the motel - put up along their property in June will have to be reduced in height by 2 feet.
The change comes after the village Zoning Board of Appeals ruled July 12 that the village had incorrectly issued a building permit to the Brownells last year. The ZBA found they didn't have approval from all the adjacent property owners, as required by the village code at the time, before building the fence.
The ruling was based on an appeal filed by Jim Murnane, the owner of the Best Western Mountain Lake Inn and McKenzie's Grill, located across Lake Flower Avenue from Gauthier's. Murnane said he hadn't been contacted prior to issuance of the permit.
Worthington said he hasdn't thought Murnane needed to be contacted because he didn't consider that property "adjacent" to Gauthier's. But the ZBA defined adjacent under the old code to include the hotel property across the street, and ruled that Murnane should have been notified.
The decision prompted a review by the village's attorney that led to the village notifying the Brownells that their old building permit was no longer valid, Worthington said. They then applied for a building permit for the fence under the new law, which Worthington granted. Among other things, the new fence law eliminates the requirement that neighbors must approve a fence before it can be built.
Employees of the motel could be seen working to modify the fence earlier this week. The Brownells have said it's designed to protect their property and the lake from garbage and road salt, and to keep trespassers off the property. Some village residents have called it unwelcoming and an eyesore because it blocks part of the view of the lake.
Asked if he now considers the matter resolved, Worthington said he hopes so but added, "Time will tell."