Have we become so inured to Saranac Lake that we no longer see the beauty that brings tourists our way?
Years ago, in the interest of attracting visitors, the village was advised to tear down buildings lining Lake Flower's eastern shore, replacing them with open space and parks. That was successfully carried out, enhancing this lovely lake that anchors the village's center.
Tall, oversized structures spatter the American landscape like a bad case of measles. Today's tourists do not visit here to see yet another massive building, this potential one cluttering the shoreline. They come because the village is a unique and beautiful lake-based community with small shops, historic buildings, beautiful parks with open vistas and trees surrounded by mountain wilderness. I seriously question the wisdom of destroying this special charm by allowing a large, high-rise building right smack on the edge of the lake. Better to expand the economy by focusing on our assets, not plundering them.
Regardless of design, the hotel would be a massive block of a building, overwhelming the surrounding lake and street neighborhoods and replacing lovely views from both ends of the lake. From the north end, it would loom as a solid, unbroken wall locking out trees and everything behind it, as we saw when balloons were floated. Along Lake Flower Avenue, it would loom above the road, blocking light, trees and the intermittent lake views now visible between low buildings.
The desire for economic stimulus does not justify incautiously leaping on the project like a frog after a bee. The sting could well be that costs to the village far exceed gains. Problems that require serious attention are traffic routing, a sea of parking lots at the gateway to the village, four stories of brightly lit windows dominating the night, noise impacts on the lake, likely request for PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes), costs of upgrading the village infrastructure to accommodate this massive uplift, risky shoreline location in the face of annual lake flooding, possible discovery of toxins in the building site soil and impact of increased boat traffic on the lake.
Further, has anyone done an occupancy study of Lake Placid and Saranac Lake to see how many hotel rooms are presently filled and how many more might actually be needed? Is there a market for all these new rooms? If this new hotel were to fail, what would we do with the remains of a misguided white elephant expiring on our shores? Personally, I find it sad to plunk down what sounds to me like a Vegas-style (not in looks but intention) "destination hotel" in a village that already offers so much. My personal concern is about something which has, to my knowledge, not yet been addressed. The phrase "destination hotel," brings to my mind flashy shows with pyrotechnics and loud music. What assurance do we have that the hotel will not evolve into this kind of facility? Were this to be the case, the targeted guests would be quite opposite the outdoors and arts clientele the village cultivates today.
Why not invite the developers to locate in another more practical and aesthetically acceptable alternative, like Watertown or Piercefield, leaving the beauty of Lake Flower for all to enjoy, not just the guests of a high-end hotel?
These days, much is going well in Saranac Lake; several new exciting projects have been initiated or are in the works. This particular one, however, seems spattered with unknowns. I am aware that many others have thoughts on this subject; I hope they will share them here in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. I would like to see more open discussion on this topic.
Caperton Tissot lives in Saranac Lake.