SARANAC LAKE - The new owners of the former Crescent Bay Marina have dropped their plan to connect to the village sewer system.
That's one of a handful of changes to the marina redevelopment project that were outlined at Thursday's town of Harrietstown Planning Board meeting, held in the town hall auditorium. LS Marina LLC, led by Mike Damp of Lake Placid, is also holding off on plans to renovate five cabins and reopen the restaurant on the property.
"Really, at this time, they just want to focus on the development of the marina," Mark Taber of The LA Group, Damp's consultant, told the Enterprise after the meeting.
The project involves two properties on Lower Saranac Lake: the former Crescent Bay marina site off state Route 3, and an annex site at the end of Lake Street in Ampersand Bay. The properties were bought by LS Marina in March for $1.7 million. The business has since been renamed Saranac Lake Marina and opened for the season last month.
The company wants to replace the existing 70 slips and 12 moorings at the main marina with a 175-slip covered floating dock system. At the annex parcel, the existing 80 slips would be replaced with 110 covered slips.
The project has seen a mix of both support and concern since it was first presented to the planning board in December. The same was true during the public comment portion of Thursday's meeting.
John Morgan, who said he's rented a boat slip at Crescent Bay since 1981, urged the board to approve the plan. He talked about how much traffic there used to be on the lake and in the village when there were tent platforms on the lower lake. The state removed the platforms in the mid 1970s.
"Saranac Lake was a pretty busy place with all the people that used to come to this community," Morgan said. "Now it's pretty depressing to walk downtown and see all the empty storefronts. We've missed a lot of opportunities in the last 30 years in Saranac Lake compared to Lake Placid 10 miles away. Now we have somebody who wants to put a lot of money into what I consider a historic business landmark in the community. We need investment in Saranac Lake."
Lake Street resident Joe Spadaro said he's concerned about the likely increase in traffic on his street from the expansion of the annex marina site.
"I think most people agree that what we have down there needs to be straightened out. It's not very attractive," Spadaro said. "But do we need to double it? I would urge this board to approve maintaining what we have, to fix it up, to do what they have to do so they can use them. Once you approve this great expansion, you can never go back."
The appearance of the new dock systems was a concern raised by board member Peter Wilson.
"At moorings you get individual boats floating around, but a dock is a pretty solid thing, even painted dark green, and the view from the shore or the other shore of the lake becomes an issue," Wilson said. "The height of those roofs, it's a pretty solid, long line out from the shore."
Damp noted that several of the existing, dilapidated boathouses are higher than the new covered slips, which will be 12 to 15 feet in height.
"They're low lying," he said. "They're well below treeline."
Board Chairman Dean Baker suggested the developers place balloons at a height of 14 feet, anchored in the water, on the site of the docks, so the board could get a sense of how high they would be.
Board members also asked who owns the lake bed where the new docks would be located. Damp and Taber said some of the docks are over land owned by Crescent Bay while some will be over state-owned lake bed. Taber said the company has to get a state Department of Environmental Conservation temporary revocable permit to install pilings for the docks into the lake bed.
Instead of connecting to the village sewer system, LS Marina plans to have several composting toilets on the property. Asked after the meeting why he no longer plans to connect to municipal sewer, Damp said, "I think you can ask the village about that."
When the company first proposed connecting to municipal sewer, village officials said they couldn't do so until the properties are annexed into the village, citing a 2010 village law. Damp's attorney argued that the properties couldn't be annexed because they're not contiguous to the village's boundaries. Obviously, that debate hasn't been resolved.
Baker said after the meeting that the board still needs more information about the project before it can make a decision. He said the scale of the project "is still a consideration and something we have to think about."
Damp said he didn't go into Thursday's meeting expecting a decision from the board.
"It's a process," he said. "We're in the middle of it, and I can't predict when. It's needed; that much I know from working at the marina every day for the last three months. It's falling down."
LS Marina will also need a variance from the state Adirondack Park Agency. It applied for one in April.
Speaking at Thursday's APA meeting in Ray Brook, agency Deputy Director Rick Weber said the agency issued a Notice of Incomplete Permit Application May 2.
The primary issue, he said, is there is wetland vegetation in the lake that could be impacted by the project. A survey will need to be conducted when that aquatic vegetation emerges from the lake bed, typically sometime by mid July, Weber said.