SARANAC LAKE - The public will get its first chance next week to gauge the height of a proposed Lake Flower shoreline hotel.
Balloons will be floated over the site of the proposed building as part of a state Adirondack Park Agency-required visual analysis of the project, Malone developer Chris LaBarge told the village Planning Board Wednesday night.
The potential visual impact of the nearly 60-foot-tall building continues to spark questions and concerns from planning board members, along with LaBarge's plan for off-site parking at an already busy village intersection.
(Enterprise file photo)
The board also spent time Wednesday discussing the multi-layered review process for the project under the village's new Planned Unit Development law and agreed to schedule additional public comment sessions as the process moves forward.
LaBarge wants to build a 90-room, high-end hotel on the site of three existing Lake Flower Avenue motels he's under contract to buy: the Lake Flower Inn, the Lakeside Motel and the Adirondack Motel. While there's a lot of support for the project, the height of the building has been a concern for some planning board members and the public.
Sometime next week, LaBarge said several red, 6-foot-diameter helium balloons will be floated up to 59 feet, 6 inches, at what would be either end of the hotel, representing the height of the proposed building. Orange "spotter" balloons will be floated above the red balloons so the site can be more easily picked out from a distance.
APA staff and village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans have agreed on nine locations from which photographs will be taken of the balloons, LaBarge said. The photos will later be embedded with a three-dimensional model of the hotel so they can be used to gauge the visual impact of the building.
The nine locations where the photos will be taken from are as follows: a straightaway on Lake Flower Avenue (state Route 86) south of the project site, across the street from it, looking down Lake Flower Avenue near NBT Bank, at the state boat launch on Lake Flower, across the lake from Kiwassa Road, Franklin Avenue, Riverside Park, coming down LaPan Highway and the top of Mount Baker.
LaBarge said he plans to issue a press release on Friday or Saturday outlining how the study will be conducted. He said he wants to be sure people understand that the red balloons, not the orange "spotter" balloons, are what will be used to show the hotel's height. The balloons will likely be left up for a couple of days, he explained.
"It would give people a day or two to visually understand the height of the building," LaBarge said.
North Woods Engineering of Saranac Lake will manage the study with oversight from APA staff, LaBarge said.
LaBarge initially applied to the village Zoning Board of Appeals for a string of variances for the building's height, shoreline setbacks and parking. He later withdrew that application to pursue a Planned Unit Development or PUD, which would essentially create a new zoning district on the properties where the project would be located. The village added language to its land-use code in 2011 that allows PUDs to be created in any existing zoning district.
Evans said the PUD process involves three steps: a sketch plan review, a final application review and site plan review. During each of the first two stages, the planning board will review information submitted by the applicant and issue a recommendation to the village board. The village board will then hold a public hearing and ultimately make a decision on whether to approve the zoning change.
If the PUD is approved, the hotel project would then go through a normal site plan review process by the planning board, Evans said.
Planning Board Chairwoman Leslie Karasin suggested her board hold additional public comment sessions during the sketch plan and final application stages. LaBarge said he plans to submit a complete application for the sketch plan by Nov. 22, so the board tentatively agreed to host its first public comment session at its Dec. 18 meeting.
As Wednesday's meeting came to a close, LaBarge tossed out a big question.
"Is there a general consensus from the board about the project?" he asked.
In general, Karasin said she has a "level of comfort" about the direction the review is heading, with three exceptions. In addition to concerns about the potential visibility of the proposed hotel, she and board member Molly Hann said they're worried about pedestrian safety and traffic impacts at the intersection of River Street, Brandy Brook Avenue and Lake Flower Avenue. LaBarge wants to put up to 48 off-site parking spaces in two locations near that intersection.
Karasin and Hann also questioned whether LaBarge's plan meets a requirement in the PUD law to have a certain amount of open space in the new zoning district that's accessible to the public. LaBarge has said he'd meet that requirement by making a separate lakefront bar and restaurant on the property, along with a deck along the lake, open to the public.
The board's other members - Scott Stoddard, Don Carlisto and Patricia Hilling - agreed that they have the same concerns, although Carlisto said he has "a high level of confidence" that they can be remedied. Hann said she hopes the concerns are something the board and LaBarge can work through, calling the hotel an "an incredible economic opportunity for Saranac Lake" that would make it more competitive with Lake Placid.
"I think it's going to be a great thing for the village," Hilling said.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.