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Lake Placid trustee candidates discuss issues

Marc Galvin (top left), Colin Hayes (top right), Jackie Kelly (bottom left), Scott Monroe (bottom right) (Photos provided)

With an election coming up Tuesday, four village trustee candidates participated in a forum on Sunday hosted by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and the Lake Placid News. The topics ranged from long-standing issues like affordable housing and parking, to short-term rental regulations, when it’s OK to allow large-scale events back to Lake Placid, and what the candidates felt they could do for young people.

The candidates include incumbent Scott Monroe and newcomers Marc Galvin, Colin Hayes and Jacquelyn “Jackie” Kelly. All four are running on independent party lines: Monroe on the Common Sense party line, Galvin and Kelly on the Teamwork party line, and Hayes on the A New Vision party line.

There are two open trustee seats, both with four-year terms.

Polls will be open at the North Elba Town Hall from noon to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16. Registered voters in the village should’ve already received applications for an absentee ballot, which they can use rather than voting in person on Election Day.

The full video of the forum is available at tinyurl.com/lakeplacidtrusteesforum.

Questionnaires with background information on each candidate are available on the Enterprise website here.

For the mayoral candidates, their forum can be seen here and read about here, and their questionnaire answers are here.

Housing

Kelly said Lake Placid’s affordable housing shortage weighs on her.

She believes there won’t be any one housing development that can provide a solution for every income level. She noted that there are two new housing developments in Lake Placid that have been approved, MacKenzie Outlook and the Peaks at Lake Placid, but this crisis is going to require a “creative solution,” she said.

“We need more of those projects,” she said later. “We need to look for more of those to help. We need to look for more property. Maybe we can be creative. I think we’re making strides, not as much as everybody wants. We can’t stop. We just have to keep moving forward.”

Galvin and Monroe both agreed with this.

“I think it is going to take a lot of creative ideas,” Galvin said. “We have to think outside the box.”

Monroe said there is little available land upon which to build new housing left within village boundaries. Galvin said he thinks the old Placid Memorial Hospital site, outside village limits in the town of North Elba, could be an ideal location for a new housing complex.

Hayes said he agrees that there’s no magic solution, but “The point of solving it isn’t to just put another problem to rest,” he said. “It’s to get families to move here.”

Short-term rentals

Monroe said he would be in favor of instituting a moratorium on issuing any new short-term rental permits in residential neighborhoods. He would also be open to lowering the number of days non-owner-occupied rentals could be rented each year and enacting a “sunset clause” for permits so when a property sells to a new owner, that rental permit ends.

Kelly is currently working on a review committee looking at the town and village’s joint land use code, and she said her group is looking at where rentals should be allowed and where they shouldn’t be. The reviewed code, once a draft is complete, will be presented to the town board and the village board, and it will go to a public hearing before it moves forward. While campaigning, she said she heard from voters that there “isn’t any real oversight” over short-term rentals.

Monroe said there is a complaint system in place.

Galvin said the village’s current regulations are a good starting point.

Hayes said the number of short-term rentals in town versus the number of long-term rentals relates to whether a young person like himself is able to live in Lake Placid.

Large events

All four were skeptical about having large-scale events in Lake Placid this summer. Asked if they would be willing to say no to large-scale events if the state of the pandemic doesn’t improve dramatically, both Monroe and Galvin said it would depend on state guidance and what the state requires at that time.

Kelly said the National Women’s Hockey League bubble in Lake Placid — which was canceled after players and staff tested positive for COVID-19 — showed that “if you can’t control the entire environment, you can’t control anything.”

“We can’t do it,” she said. “We can’t do large-scale events. It’s just an impossibility to keep everything under control.”

Asked how they would decide if the state and the county left it up to a local decision on events, Monroe said each event’s organizers would need to submit a plan for how they would contain the spread of the virus before he could make a decision, but he agreed with Kelly, and would likely say no to most events.

“It would be a case-by-case basis, with them providing a plan of how they would contain it and how they would treat it, before making a decision,” Monroe added. “But I would say for large-scale events like Ironman, it’s just not possible.”

Galvin and Hayes agreed.

“We really can’t stress out our limited medical resources here by bringing 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 people here and have an outbreak,” Galvin said. “We just don’t have the resources to deal with that.”

Parking

All of the candidates agreed that parking in Lake Placid is bad.

“When locals go up on weekends and can’t find a spot within 500 steps of their intended destination, I think that’s an issue,” Hayes said.

If a parking garage is built downtown, Hayes said it should be aesthetically pleasing and needs to be put in a place where people are willing to park.

Monroe said he doesn’t like the thought of parking garages, but it’s the only option.

“We need to stop dragging our feet and get it done,” he said.

Kelly agreed.

“There are options, it’s just a matter of time. We just can’t let it stall anymore and move forward so we wind up with the parking that we need,” she said.

Galvin said the retaining wall by the upper municipal lot across from the NBT Bank on Main Street needs to be replaced as part of the upcoming Main Street revitalization project, and he thinks building a parking structure there when the wall is replaced makes sense.

Transparency

The candidates, with the exception of Hayes, believed the village government is more transparent now than it has been in the past, and it’s been getting better.

“The transparency has gotten better,” Monroe said. “If there’s one thing that COVID has done for the village, it has made us more transparent.”

Monroe said he pushed for the village’s board meetings to be video recorded in the past and the idea wasn’t accepted, but because of public safety guidelines during the pandemic, the village has been recording its meetings. The village is also working on getting a push notification system online that would send out mass-emails to residents.

“I think we need to go down the road of it being text messages as well,” Monroe said.

Hayes said the issue of transparency in government is one he’s running on, and he feels residents have sometimes been left in the dark. He pointed to a recent mixup with charges on village electric customers’ bills as an example of that.

“It took a memo from the village a few days later to calm everybody down,” he said.

Hayes later added that as a young person, he knows that “we’re not really keen on emails.”

“I don’t believe an email list will be enough,” he said. Hayes recommended the village do town hall-style meetings where residents could ask questions of village officials.

Galvin said he’s in favor of the village starting an Instagram account.

Young people

Hayes said he’s running for village board to create a pathway for other young people, and to be a voice for young people. Issues like the affordable housing crisis impact people his age, he said.

“I want to be a part of the solution,” Hayes said. “People like me are being forced to live with their parents until they’re 25 years old. The goal of mine is fixing the gap between being able to live here and being able to comfortably live here and raise your family.”

Kelly said the MacKenzie Outlook housing development might “fill the void for young people who come in for the summer and want to stay here and settle here.” But more of that type of project is needed.

Sense of community

All of the trustee candidates agreed that Lake Placid hasn’t lost its sense of community, but Hayes said he believes it is being diminished by the proliferation of short-term vacation rentals taking up available housing stock in residential neighborhoods. Monroe agreed with this, noting that there are just fewer people.

Mirror Lake

All of the candidates agreed that protecting Mirror Lake was a priority.

Galvin, who sits on a committee that focuses on protecting Mirror Lake, said there’s a “big educational component” to protecting the lake. People need to be educated about more responsible road salt use.

Hayes said he thinks the upcoming Main Street overhaul will “do well to remove the amount of salt draining into Mirror Lake.”

Kelly wondered if there could be a different place for the village to dump its snow after plowing the streets that would be further away from the watershed.

Monroe said the village is “far ahead” of where it was five years ago in reducing the amount of road salt entering Mirror Lake.The village uses a live-edge plow now, which allows the plows to more precisely scrape snow off of roads, and the village has reduced its road salt use.

“The next step will be to get private properties to reduce salt use on their driveways,” he said.

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