Grant may be available to potential Dew Drop buyers

$300,000 available through 2019

The side of the former Dew Drop Inn at 27 Broadway, Saranac Lake, is seen this month. The enclosed porches hanging over the Saranac River are outside the owners' property line on an abstract map they submitted for a village building permit, but now state agencies say they may be rebuilt. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

SARANAC LAKE — One of the grants declined by Chicota Inc. for the renovation and restoration of the former Dew Drop Inn may be available for use by the property’s next owner, if a sale happens soon.

Chicota declined $638,000 in grant money it was awarded in a letter to the state on Monday. The company blamed the Saranac Lake village government for the failure of the project to renovate the former Dew Drop Inn.

“We are unable to continue with the 27 Broadway Renovation & Business Startup project but hope to be considered for future funding opportunities for other worthwhile projects,” states a letter from Chicota to Empire State Development.

Chicota President and majority owner Calli Shelton declined to comment for this story. The abandonment hinges on the former Dew Drop Inn’s porches that overhang the river. Earlier this year, Shelton said the construction was set to begin on the project at the end of January. It was around this time village officials questioned the ownership of the porches, saying they could not issue a building permit for lands an entity doesn’t own.

“The village displayed a serious lack of judgment in making this claim four days before construction was to begin, we have determined that the risk to the project is now at an unacceptable level,” the letter states. “In our opinion, the project unraveled due to the village of Saranac Lake’s inability to exercise sound judgment and effectively perform its role as a business development partner.”

It was because of this delay, while waiting for agency approvals, that Shelton said her contractor walked away from the project. In February, she said she was abandoning the project. On Tuesday, the property went up for sale for $750,000.

The letter is signed by President Shelton, shareholder Randy Coles — Shelton’s ex-husband — and shareholder Joseph W. Poole.

“I am saddened by Calli’s claims and her latest financial maneuvers which will hurt her chances for re-selling the building,recouping her costs, and for the village to see the building come back to life in some form,” wrote village mayor Clyde Rabideau in an email.

For decades, the former Dew Drop Inn was one of the most popular bar and restaurants in the village. Rabideau said he understands that many want to see the business return, but “we must temper this dream with the reality of today’s market and how to even get close to being there and, I say, no matter what, pursue the dream.”

The grants

The project was awarded two grants, totaling $638,000. A New York Main Street grant, accounting for $300,000 of that sum, “is still potentially available to a buyer of the former Dew Drop Inn,” wrote SLLDC chair Paul Van Cott in a press release. “We obtained the grant in 2017 to assist in the restoration of the building. Although the current owner has now listed the property for sale, the SLLDC has a short-term window to work with a new owner of the property to make use of the grant.”

Van Cott said he hopes terms are reached with a new owner soon so the restoration of the property could continue with the $300,000 assisting. He said the grant is available through 2019 without an extension, but a new owner would need a plan approved by the SLLDC and the state in advance.

The other grant, administered by Empire State Development to Chicota, is less clear, according to Peter Hahn, who was formerly on the SLLDC when Chicota was awarded the grants.

“As to whether the grant could be used by someone who buys the building, I doubt it, although it is theoretically possible (and up to the state),” Hahn wrote in an email. “The grant was to renovate the building, but also tied to the business plan that would create 25 jobs. … I’m not sure the state would be happy to just give the whole thing to someone else with a different business model.”

The overhang

Chicota included a timeline in its declination letter to the state. Work stopped on the project in October 2017 due to lack of funding and the project’s building permit subsequently expired. In early January 2019, the process to renew the building permit began.

It’s in this review process that village officials said they discovered that the property line on a survey map supplied by Shelton did not include the overhanging structures on the Dew Drop.

“Two weeks after their supposed ‘discovery,’ the village requests a meeting to discuss the planned River Walk extension,” Chicota’s letter states. “A project we were excited about and supportive of. Up until this time, the plan had been to route the River Walk through the overhanging porch. Over the two years we’ve discussed the project, no claims of encroachment are made.”

This is when village officials said they could not permit the company to build on land it didn’t own, and that the property may have been encroaching on state land. It’s at this time the letter says the village began the design process to build an independent River Walk extension that would run alongside the former Dew Drop Inn.

“(Shelton) submitted a survey map showing the river bump out to be not within her property, so the village properly responded to her very own information,” village Mayor Clyde Rabideau wrote in an email. “That is on her. In fact, because Calli did not ask the (Department of Environmental Conservation) for clarification, we, the village asked last week and got a response within three days. Further, as a matter of record, I asked the DEC to respond to any inquiry by Calli as quickly as they could and their response was that she had not made an application or official inquiry.”

A copy of the survey map Shelton submitted to the village does show a property line not including a portion of the overhang, as well as a slice of land in the back of the property. However, the state Office of General Services confirmed that the property did include the land to the center line of the river.

“Research of early land patents that title to the lands in the subject area were granted out of sovereign ownership through the Macomb’s Purchase of 1972,” wrote state public lands surveyor examiner Ralph Hill to village Code Enforcement Officer Paul Blaine on Feb. 28. “It is the opinion of this office that the grant included title to the beds of lands under water located within the bounds of the grant.”