APA approves apartment complex, despite concern
Two structure, 70-unit complex for artists, mixed-income renters; Lussi worried about lack of parking, stormwater plan
SARANAC LAKE — The Adirondack Park Agency board gave its approval Thursday for a 70-unit apartment complex for artists and mixed-income renters to be built between Broadway and Depot Street, despite one board member feeling “very uncomfortable” with the project’s plans for parking and stormwater management.
The project passed by a vote of 9-1. APA Board Member Art Lussi voted “no” over concerns that the project does not plan for enough parking for all of its units and does not present a detailed plan for how it will handle stormwater runoff.
The project, proposed by Kearney Group in the Hudson Valley, would construct two structures housing 70 mixed-income apartments on one acre of property behind and on the site of the current Adirondack Tire building on Broadway.
The project includes two buildings — The Carry and The Loft.
The Carry is a smaller, three-story street-side building with a commercial office and seven apartments, built where the current Adirondack Tire building is. It would be 47 feet tall and 3,000 square feet.
The Loft is a larger, four-story structure — 56 feet tall, 17,500 square feet and holding 63 apartments. This would include 46 one-bedroom units and 17 two-bedroom units.
The Carry would have a community room, artist work spaces and residence for a live-in superintendent.
Forty-five units would be designated for artists to live in. A portion would be rented to people earning 60% or less of Franklin County’s median income — currently $65,200 per household, annually. Others would be rented to people earning between 80% and 130% of the median income.
The project is in a hamlet, the least restrictive land type in the Adirondack Park, but because the planned structures will be over 40 feet tall, the APA has jurisdiction to review it.
The board said it feels the heights are proportionate with other nearby buildings.
“A three-story storefront on Broadway is pretty typical,” said APA staff member Devan Korn, who presented the project to the board.
He added that the taller building, The Loft, sits at an elevation lower than street level.
Korn said APA staff recommend the board approve the project with conditions, saying they found it would have “no undue adverse impact on resources of the Park.”
The conditions include restrictions on building color, lighting, signage, landscaping and utilities. They mandate that the construction follow the proposed development plans, control for invasive species and manage stormwater runoff and erosion appropriately.
The project plans for 33 parking spaces, opting to build indoor and outdoor bicycle storage areas instead.
“The village of Saranac Lake had no minimum parking requirement to encourage less motor vehicle dependence within the village core,” Korn said.
Lussi said this goal is “noble” but he thinks it is “not practical.” He was “shocked” by the proposal.
“We, in our history, have never considered something like that,” Lussi said. “We’ve always required more parking than that.”
He said the project is around 40 parking spots short.
Korn said residents and their guests can park in public lots in the village.
Lussi said parking is an issue in every town in the Adirondacks and that he believes it is a “big mistake” to not include more parking spaces.
He suggested including a condition in the permit requiring more parking spaces. This did not happen.
Korn said the APA defers to the village and state Department of Transportation for parking decisions.
“We’re not supposed to tell communities how to plan for themselves, but we certainly can recommend,” Lussi said.
APA Board Member Dan Wilt asked where stormwater will be sent from the parking lot. He pointed out that the concrete lot and the building’s roof are both “impervious,” meaning water cannot travel through them.
Korn said the developers plan to tie the project into a nearby stormwater collection area.
Board members wanted to see the plan, though, to make sure it will not hurt the nearby Saranac River.
Lussi worried that their plan is not accounting for the large rainstorms which are more common now because of climate change.
APA Board Member Ken Lynch agreed that stormwater management is a legitimate concern, but he said it might not be the APA’s concern. He hopes other agencies, like the state Department of Conservation would study it.
The project had one public comment letter from Wendy Foley who owns Wendy’s Christian Bookstore across the street from the proposed buildings. She said she has no problem with the residential portion of the project, but is concerned by the creation of more retail space when the village has many empty storefronts on main streets.