Hearing on Quality Inn rebuild draws crowd, concerns

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas, of Plattsburgh, defends the Quality Inn rebuild at a public hearing Wednesday. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — Residents are concerned a proposed rebrand and rebuild of the Quality Inn on Saranac Avenue could disturb the peace at Paradox Bay and create parking problems.

At a standing-room-only public hearing on the project Wednesday evening, residents put developers’ feet to the fire, questioning their plan to add 99 additional rooms — and 51 additional jobs — to the hotel.

Representatives of Dual Development, the company behind the project, joined Tupper Lake-based attorney Kirk Gagnier and North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas, of Plattsburgh, in defending the rebuild as a major investment into the region, designed to fill what they see as a gap in Lake Placid’s hospitality industry.

The public hearing on the project came as the North Country Regional Economic Development Council seeks a $6 million state grant to help fund this rebuild, which is expected to cost upward of $30 million and create 51 new jobs, according to a progress report from the NCREDC.

The $6 million funding ask for this hotel rebuild is the largest request among this year’s 11 NCREDC priority projects.

Aaron Ovios, president of engineering firm Robert M. Sutherland, outlines plans for the new hotel on Peninsula Way Road at a public hearing at the North Elba Town Hall Wednesday. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

Residents share concerns

Some residents contended the hotel’s proposed site plan doesn’t have enough parking spaces to accommodate the expected increase in both occupants and employees.

“I’m in the hotel business, and one-to-one (parking spaces to rooms) may be what the code says, but it’s not realistic,” said Denise Dramm, owner of the neighboring Placid Bay Inn.

Others shared skepticism that the hotel would be able to extract enough workers from the small local labor pool to staff the business.

“Where will 51 more people be found when we can’t even fill what’s here?” asked Georgia Jones, a longtime resident of Lake Placid.

And though Bill Hurley, president of the Lake Placid-North Elba Joint Review Board, shut down comments from the public about the developers’ $6 million request for state grant funding through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council — the board has no involvement in that request — some residents in the crowd murmured their dissatisfaction with the selection throughout the hearing, and questioned why the hotel should be the recipient of public funds.

“Why is this hotel in need of public investment?” Jones said.

Other residents shared concerns about the impact additional rooms may have on traffic along Peninsula Way Road and the Saranac Avenue corridor. Karen Armstrong, a resident of Hillcrest Avenue — a road that branches off of Saranac Avenue and runs parallel to Main Street — said it’s “already dangerous” for drivers to turn onto Sara-Placid without the expected additional traffic.

But the primary concern, which arose multiple times throughout the public hearing, was the potential impact of moving the hotel’s check-in office from its existing spot on Saranac Avenue to the new building further up Peninsula Way Road. That building overlooks Paradox Bay.

Drown said she’s concerned about a possible increase in noise, and light disruption from headlights in the parking lot, as the result of visitors checking in there.

“The noise pollution that will be created…” she said. “You’re not going to sit in an Adirondack chair and enjoy a quiet evening listening to the bay frogs.”

Developers defend

Dual Development is the company behind this project. Bhavik Jariwala, a partner at Dual Development LLC, joined Gagnier and Douglas in defending the project.

“This project is a major private investment and a direct response to state investment into Olympic venues,” Gagnier said.

The state Olympic Regional Development Authority, which oversees sports facilities in the Adirondacks and the Catskills, has seen a capital funding commitment of nearly $240 million from the state in the last few years, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. That funding is being used for infrastructure updates and new recreational amenities at all of the facilities that ORDA manages, including the Olympic Center, the Olympic Jumping Complex and the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg. These upgrades are being undertaken in the lead up to the 2023 World University Games, an Olympic-style winter sporting event.

Jariwala said they believe the hotel is outdated based on consumer response. That’s part of why the developers decided to revamp the property.

If approved by the review board, the existing Quality Inn hotel building near Peninsula Way Road would be demolished and replaced with a new L-shaped, 102,935-square-foot structure on the same footprint.

The new space would have double the number of rooms inside, from 92 rooms to 191, according to Aaron Ovios, president of engineering firm Robert M. Sutherland.

Of those rooms, 90 are expected to be Home2 extended-stay suites, and 93 would be Tru by Hilton rooms, which are “mid-priced” and “marketed to younger tech-savvy and design-minded travelers on a budget,” according to the NCREDC progress report.

“We feel we’re bringing two strong brands with a lot of momentum,” Jariwala said. “We’re very excited to bring these brands to the Lake Placid region.”

In response to residents’ concerns about headlight and noise pollution, Ovios noted that landscaping would shield headlights from the bay area.

Douglas, who previously served as a member of the NCREDC, said Dual Development has a “proven track record of positive development” and has been a reliable partner in the Tri-Lakes and in Plattsburgh. He underscored what he saw as the need for “this kind of investment” into the region to sustain and grow destination tourism.

“The REDC has acted well and appropriately in branding this as a high priority project,” Douglas said. “We stand behind this project and look forward to a groundbreaking.”

Asked about the expected construction timeline for this project, Jariwala deferred all questions to Gagnier, the company’s attorney, who did not immediately respond for comment Thursday.

(Correction: Denise Dramm’s last name was incorrect in an earlier version of this article.)