Review board mulls impact of STR decision
Two call STR proposal ‘precedent setting’
LAKE PLACID — One Lake Placid-North Elba Review Board member and one member of the public have raised concerns about the potentially precedent-setting nature of a proposal before the review board, which would convert a metal shed on Cascade Road into a two-story home for short-term vacation rental use.
Representatives of Stay at Lina, a property management company based in New York City, presented two projects before the review board in March: one would convert the former Subway and Nice n’ Easy gas station on Sentinel Road into townhomes, and the other would convert a metal shed on Cascade Road into an eight-bedroom, four bathroom single family home.
Stay at Lina team members told the review board in March that both of the properties would be used as short-term vacation rentals.
The review board unanimously approved the Sentinel Road project on Wednesday, but the Cascade Road project was tabled as the board waits for more details about planting plans, paint colors and materials for the building’s roof and exterior, an updated parking plan, plus an additional plan for a new tree barrier between the proposed building and rear-facing neighbors.
Review board member Laura Yerkovich and Lake Placid resident Lowell Bailey raised concerns about the building’s classification as a single family structure and the potential impacts of short-term vacation rental use there. Those issues weren’t identified as part of the reason the case was tabled.
Stay at Lina has converted two other Lake Placid properties into STRs — one on Sentinel Road and one on state Route 86.
The board tabled Stay at Lina’s Cascade Road case until the board’s next meeting on May 18, pending receipt of the requested materials.
Stay at Lina’s Cascade Road property is being proposed as a single-family residential home in a viewshed overlay in a rural countryside district. Its location in the rural countryside district, and its proposed status as a single-family dwelling, were the subject of debate at the review board’s meeting.
Bailey, who attended Wednesday’s meeting virtually, asked the board if the building falls under the legally-admissible definition of a single-family dwelling as laid out in the Lake Placid-North Elba joint land use code. He thought there might be a conflict since Stay at Lina is proposing to use the building for transient, rather than seasonal or permanent, use.
Review board Chair Rick Thompson cited the joint land use code, which defines a single-family dwelling as “a detached dwelling unit designed for year-round or seasonal occupancy by one family only,” specifying minimum amounts of square footage and requiring a permanent foundation.
The land use code defines a family as “a group of people, related or not related, living together as a common household, with numbers of persons and impacts typical of those of a single family.”
Bailey thought the definitions in the joint land use code were ambiguous. He said the state provides additional guidance for those ambiguities, citing a state memorandum that suggests a family constitutes “more or less” a permanent living arrangement.
Code Enforcement Officer Mike Orticelle told Bailey that he was making assumptions based on guidance, not laws. He added that the board doesn’t have the authority to determine a building’s use.
According to the joint land use code, the review board has jurisdiction over a project’s architectural and design elements, parking and loading areas, lighting, fencing, retaining walls and sidewalks, and other factors concerned with building height and mass.
“New York State guidance is all well and good if we need it, but we already have rules, we already have definitions that we are bound by,” Orticelle said. “And as far as a building of this type in the building codes, it’s considered a single-family residence.”
Orticelle used the same reasoning when Yerkovich said she thought the proposal would have adverse effects on the rural countryside district. She cited the number of parking spaces — six — along with the lack of a garage and the design of the building as reasons why she didn’t think the building was designed for one family. She also said that the joint land use code states that a building in the rural countryside district has to be occupied by an owner, which the Cascade Road property wouldn’t be. Orticelle said she was making assumptions that weren’t based in facts about how the property would be used.
“Well, it was founded in their proposal,” Yerkovich said.
“It’s just a proposal,” Orticelle said. “If they change their mind, they change their mind.”
The town and village are currently under an active moratorium on submitting new STR permits. Stay at Lina wouldn’t be able to apply for an STR permit until the moratorium ends, which is expected to happen around the end of September.
Bailey asked what entity has the authority to determine whether or not a review board project proposal’s intended use conflicts with definitions in the land use code. Stay at Lina’s proposal labels the Cascade Road building a residential single-family home, and Bailey asked who enforces the accuracy of that label.
“If I have a Volkswagon and I tell someone it’s a Ferrari and no one says otherwise, then I own a Ferrari,” he said.
Review board attorney Tim Smith replied that the land use code says that single-family homes should be “designed,” not “used,” for year-round or seasonal occupancy. Smith added that addressing STR use in a review board project proposal might require legislative action in the land use code.
“This board has approved dozens of single-family dwellings that were jurisdictional for one reason or another, and never have we required or imposed conditions addressing the STR phenomenon, so this may be fodder for legislation in the future, but … we have to apply the definitions that we have,” he said.
Yerkovich called the proposal “uncharted territory” since it was explicit about its intention of operating the property as an STR.
Thompson disagreed, saying the review board has approved a lot of single-family homes that might have turned out to be STRs.
Bailey told the board he disagreed with their interpretation of the project, calling it “precedent-setting” if the board gives its approval.
“Is this what Lake Placid and North Elba want their rural countryside district to look like?” Bailey asked the board. “If we talk about precedent, of a town that I grew up in, a precedent that we all locals know and love this region to be — and we know and love the tourists as well, of course, we rely on them — but this is precedent-setting, so I’d just like to point that out to everyone present.”
Yerkovich encouraged board members to revisit the first page of the joint land use code, which encourages the protection and enhancement of the community and its natural surroundings.
She agreed. She also thinks that the project would be precedent-setting if approved.
“I think we should come back to basics before we talk about it again,” she told the board.
Stay at Lina plans to take the site of a former Subway and convenience store, at 6157 and 6163 Sentinel Road, and convert the two existing buildings into townhomes.
Each building would have three two-story townhomes each. The former Nice n’ Easy building would be expanded to accommodate wider units. The first building would have a kitchen, living room, five bedrooms and three bathrooms per unit. The second building would have a kitchen, living room, three bedrooms and two bathrooms per unit. That’s a total of 24 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms between the two buildings.
Stay at Lina co-founder and COO Frank Hax told the review board in March that Stay at Lina intends to maintain ownership of the property, establish a homeowner’s association there and rent out the units for short-term use. Hax mentioned that there’s a possibility that Stay at Lina might sell the townhomes, but he said that for a period of time — “a period of time which is unknown at this point” — the company plans to own them and use them as STRs.
The properties make up six tax parcels, though Stay at Lina’s land surveyor and consultant, Robert Marvin, said the company wants to treat them as one. The project’s application states that each townhome would have individual tax identifications. Marvin said the properties run straight through from Sentinel Road to Spring Street.