Saranac Lake Resort responds to APA
SARANAC LAKE – Developers of the proposed Lake Flower Resort and Spa have made a few changes to their plan that could make it easier for them to get a shoreline variance from the state Adirondack Park Agency.
They’ve also responded to questions and concerns the APA has raised about the project’s height and design, among other things.
Saranac Lake Resort LLC wants to build a 93-room hotel on the site of three Lake Flower Avenue motels: the Adirondack Motel, the Lake Side Motel and the Lake Flower Inn. The $18 million project would also include a spa, pool, conference center and two restaurants.
The project was approved in July by the village Planning Board, a decision that’s now being challenged through a lawsuit filed by Roedel Companies, which owns the Hotel Saranac.
Saranac Lake Resort submitted permit and variance applications to the APA in March. Since then, the agency has issued three notices of incomplete permit application, and the developers have responded each time. The resort’s latest submission was filed Sept. 7. The Enterprise obtained copies of the documents from the APA through a Freedom of Information Law request.
The agency’s most recent notice raised questions about the potential visual impacts of the hotel, the four-story portion of which would be over 64 feet tall.
“Further consideration needs to be given to whether the overall height of the hotel could be lowered and whether alternative colors and design could be used to help the structure better blend in and not adversely impact the character of the area,” the agency wrote.
The agency suggested adding a second or third floor above the one-story restaurant that would create an overall lower structure. Interior spaces could be reconfigured to lower the building height without reducing the number of rooms, the agency said.
Lake Placid attorney Bill Kissel responded to the agency on behalf of Saranac Lake Resort. He noted that the village Planning Board found the building would “blend with surrounding buildings and natural features of the landscape, substantially conform to the Architectural Review Guidelines of the Village of Saranac Lake Land Use Code, and help mitigate the visual impacts of the project.”
Kissel also referred to a previously submitted “Visual Analysis Market Study” done by Baskervill architects of Virginia that outlines the reasoning behind the height, colors and design of the project.
“At this point with the project approved by the Village of Saranac Lake and the Applicant’s planning having been completed, the Applicant cannot possibly change the exterior footprint of the building without severe economic detriment and delays,” Kissel wrote.
The project needs a variance from the APA because some of its features and amenities would be within the agency-enforced 50-foot shoreline setback of Lake Flower, like an outdoor hot tub, fire pits, a patio, walkways and a corner of its shoreline restaurant.
Saranac Lake Resort has argued that its working with a narrow site, hemmed in by the lake and a road, and that many of the features are necessary because they contribute to the “economic viability” of the hotel. In its submission last month, it provided the agency with links to studies that it says show the importance of waterfront and other amenities to a resort’s viability.
The agency’s most recent notice asked the company to provide conceptual sketch plans for an alternative building design that “obviates a need for a variance for the restaurant by positioning it within the footprint of the pre-existing structures.” The agency also asked why the proposed restaurant would not be just as popular and profitable as other similar-size local restaurants if it was located outside of the shoreline setback.
Kissel wrote back that the restaurant is located within the footprint of a pre-existing concrete pool, “only a sliver” of which is within the shoreline setback. He said being located by the water provides a competitive advantage, like several Lake Placid restaurants have: the Cottage, the Boathouse, the Black Bear and Player’s, all of which are on Mirror Lake. Some of those restaurants have been granted shoreline setback variances by the agency, Kissel noted.
“These restaurants were constructed on the water and within the shorefront setbacks because of the obvious positives of highlighting the beautiful bodies of water that the Adirondacks have,” he wrote.
Two weeks after Saranac Lake Resort responded to the agency’s third incomplete application notice, Joe Garso of North Woods Engineering submitted a summary of “significant plan changes and revisions” to the APA.
“These changes were in part driven by the village of Saranac Lake Planning Board’s conditional approval of the project, as well as the developer re-evaluating lakefront elements, to reduce their footprint or impact, where possible,” Garso wrote in a Sept. 21 letter.
Among the changes, developers have removed a 1,700-square-foot, semi-public wooden deck that would have been located outside the restaurant along the shoreline. The semi-public area will instead be a grass area.
The conference center wing of the building was pulled 7 feet back from Lake Flower, removing it from the shoreline setback. The change also resulted in removal of a walkway and roof overhang that would also have been within 50 feet of the lake. A permeable patio and path along the lake were removed from the plans and replaced with lawn, and a pergola and outside fireplace area were reduced in size.
Other amenities are still within the shoreline setback area, including the outdoor hot tub area and a corner of the restaurant.
The agency had 15 days from Sept. 22, the date it received the updated plans, to determine if the project’s application is complete. That’s still under review, APA spokesman Keith McKeever said Thursday.