It's tough to turn down business, but that's what we're asking the Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees to do as it faces reissuing a permit for next year's Eastern Region Water Ski Championship regional qualifier on Mirror Lake.
Mirror Lake is motor-free, and it should stay that way. Exceptions can be made with village approval, as is traditional for the one-day Ironman Lake Placid triathlon. Ironman needs motorboats on the lake for the safety of swimmers, but having waterski competitions there is no longer compatible with the current use.
Residents and visitors have come to expect a motor-free experience on Mirror Lake, with room for swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, etc. The community has chosen this way of life, and it should be respected.
Village Trustee Jason Leon commented at a recent board meeting that the waterski tournament, held in early August, changed the dynamic of the lake. Of course it did. That was expected, and that's why we published an editorial in December asking the village not to issue this year's permit. It did anyway, rushing to meet the organizer's tight deadline so Lake Placid could be chosen as the site for the regional qualifier.
Mirror Lake has a history of hosting waterski events, but times have changed. A carnival-type atmosphere on the lake is no longer desired to drum up a little business, and it's certainly not needed during the summer when it's busy enough with major events such as the lacrosse and rugby tournaments, horse shows and Ironman. We said it in December, and we'll say it again: The village board doesn't have to accept every event proposal that walks through the door. It has the right to be choosy when it comes to planning the atmosphere of our community.
When the Lake Placid-North Elba Joint Comprehensive Plan was approved in 1997, community leaders decided what kind of development was appropriate. They consolidated the village and town land use codes and adopted specific guidelines for the size, architecture and construction materials to be used for new buildings in order to create a specific type of mountain town.
Look at some of the accomplishments from the Joint Review Board and previous planning boards. Projects such Rite-Aid, the Outpost development (Price Chopper plaza) and Aubuchon Hardware would have looked different if that vision and those guidelines weren't in place. Recently, the Joint Review Board sent the developer of the proposed Tractor Supply Company store back to the architectural drawing board because the original design didn't meet the strict specifications for the mountain town envisioned in the 1990s.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan was a bold move, one that should never be forgotten. It was one of the most important decisions community leaders made for Lake Placid in the 20th century.
Village leaders are now faced with a similar decision about the types of activities they want on Mirror Lake, the centerpiece of our community.
It's premature to say whether the forthcoming decision - pro-waterski or not - will set a precedent. Frankly, we're surprised this year's event was approved given the level of opposition from the Mirror Lake Watershed Association. Voices such as those from MLWA President Bill Billerman are important, as they come from experience. He has a history with community planning as a member of the village planning board in the 1990s and the Acting Planning Commission that combined the town and village land use codes into one document, approved in 2000. He is one of the people who helped create the village's vision.
If adopting a law could prevent a waterski event from being held on the lake in the future, we'd support it, but we're not convinced legislation is the answer. Making decisions that support the comprehensive plan is more appropriate.
That vision for appropriate uses of all public spaces in the town and village, including Mirror Lake, should be part of the comprehensive planning process. It should be drafted, adopted and practiced so future generations understand how community leaders created this one-of-a-kind mountain town and made it one of the best places to live and visit on Earth.