Weighing pros and cons of a Lake Placid hotel expansion

Town ZBA plans decision for Monday

The Quality Inn on Saranac Avenue in Lake Placid is seen in February. The two-story building up top is planned to become a 192-room, four-story Tru-Homewood Suites in the future. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

LAKE PLACID — With the proposal made and public comment period over, the North Elba Zoning Board of Appeals met Monday to discuss a variance for a four-story Hilton-brand hotel that would replace the Quality Inn on Saranac Avenue.

Board members answered five questions on whether they should approve the variance. One of the questions was if the variance would create a detriment to nearby properties or an undesirable change to the surrounding area. Three board members said yes, and two said no.

Dual Development LLC is looking to tear down the two-story Quality Inn at 2125 Saranac Ave. and replace it with a four-story Tru-Homewood Suites from Hilton. The hotel would contain 192 rooms. The current hotel has 92 rooms.

Currently, the land use code permits buildings to reach a maximum height of 35 feet, and that’s how tall the current hotel is. The new hotel would add 19 feet. Also, any building taller than 40 feet requires approval by the state Adirondack Park Agency.

A variance would not change the land use code; it would apply specifically to the proposed Hilton.

This rendering shows what a new 192-room, four-story Hilton-brand hotel could look like on the grounds of the current Quality Inn on Saranac Avenue in Lake Placid. Photos from other vantage points are on display at the North Elba Town Hall.

When asked if it would be a detriment to the surrounding area and businesses, board member Charlie Roscoe said no, since the height of the building would change but the footprint would be basically the same at 34,868 square feet.

Board member Linda Friedlander said yes because the Quality Inn is already on a ridge over the rest of Saranac Avenue, and it doesn’t need to get taller.

Board member Todd Rissberger said no because he doesn’t think the new building would create any traffic problems for drivers, the state Department of Transportation or medical transport services. He also said it should be OK to have a commercial business operating in a commercial area.

Board member Bill Morris said yes, saying that tall a building would not fit nicely in the neighborhood. “If it were in a different location, it might be a different vote on my part.”

Hopkinson said yes, quoting the local land use code: “The Gateway Corridor District (Saranac Avenue) should create positive impressions of the community. The principal goal of this district is to develop visual, physical, functional and aesthetic enhancements that link, unify, welcome and define the area.”

Like Friedlander, Hopkinson went on to say the Quality Inn is already taller and situated higher than most of the buildings along Saranac Avenue, and that another 19 feet of building could ruin the view as people enter Lake Placid.

“It would be unlike any other structure in the area,” he said. “I do not consider having a huge, big-box-like edifice perched on top of a plateau high above a nearby street either attractive or welcoming.”

Horst Weber, who co-owns the neighboring Wildwood on the Lake, said in a previous interview that he’s not sure if the Hilton would negatively affect his business, but he is concerned about the size of the building.

“You have the potential for a lot of people in a small area,” he said.

Next to the Wildwood is Paradox Lodge, and next to that is Placid Bay Inn on Lake Placid, and next to that is the Whiteface Lodge’s Canoe Club, all of which have access to Paradox Bay.

“People want to be on the lake, and it will become a more congested area,” Weber said.

The town Zoning Board of Appeals will meet again at 4 p.m. Monday on the third floor of the North Elba Town Hall for its final vote on the matter.