Review board OKs Cascade rental project
Board members lament “shortcoming” in land use code
LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid-North Elba Review Board this past Wednesday narrowly approved a project that will convert a metal shed on Cascade Road into a two-story home for short-term vacation rental use.
Review board members agreed that the project, which raised some concerns among board members and members of the public because of the building’s intended use as an STR, has revealed what board member Laura Yerkovich called a “shortcoming” in the town and village joint land use code.
Representatives of Stay at Lina, a property management company based in New York City, presented two projects before the review board in March: one that will convert the former Subway and Nice n’ Easy gas station on Sentinel Road into townhomes, and another that will convert a metal shed on Cascade Road — in the rural countryside district — into an eight-bedroom, four-bathroom single-family home.
Stay at Lina representatives Katrina Peralta, Frank Hax and Albert Gjonbalaj, who first presented the project to the review board in March, told the review board that both of the properties would be used as short-term vacation rentals.
The town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid both have an active moratorium, which halted the issuance of new STR permits. Stay at Lina wouldn’t be able to apply for an STR permit until the moratorium ends, which is expected to be around the beginning of September.
The town and village Land Use Code Committee has presented some ideas for how STRs could be regulated, which include labeling any property with more than one STR unit as a hotel. Hotels aren’t allowed in the rural countryside district. If Stay at Lina follows through with its plan to use the Cascade Road property as an STR, according to Code Enforcement Officer Mike Orticelle, the company would only be able to rent it out as a single unit.
The review board unanimously approved the Sentinel Road property earlier this month, though the Cascade Road property was tabled for a couple of weeks as board members waited on a more thorough planting plan and material samples for the project. The project was ultimately approved last week with four yes votes, two no votes and one abstention.
Thompson, Bissell, and board members David Genito and Bill Walton cast the four yes votes, saying they believed the project met the viewshed code. Board member Peter Aliferis abstained, indicating that he would have voted no if the review board had jurisdiction over more than the viewshed. Yerkovich and Vice Chair Bob Rafferty voted against the project, saying it would impede the approaching view as people drive into Lake Placid on state Route 73.
The review board will maintain jurisdiction over the project for a year to ensure that it’s completed according to plan.
Stay at Lina’s Cascade Road property was proposed as a single-family residential home in a viewshed overlay in a rural countryside district.
The Cascade Road building’s label as a single-family home and its intended use as an STR sparked several discussions about the project over the course of four board meetings. Yerkovich — who voted against the project last week — and Lake Placid resident Lowell Bailey told the board earlier this month that the project would set a precedent if approved; they thought the building’s label as a “single-family dwelling,” as defined in the town and village joint land use code, wasn’t accurate for an STR property that would house transient renters.
The land use code 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.
Aliferis brought up the single-family label again at last week’s meeting, telling the board that Stay at Lina was a corporation with no intent to stay at the home seasonally or year-round.
“I don’t know how I can support it based on what I’ve seen,” he said.
Board member Chip Bissell said the review board didn’t have the jurisdiction to review the property’s use.
Aliferis asked who labeled the Cascade Road property as a “single-family dwelling.”
Board Chair Rick Thompson said both the applicant and the code enforcement officer select a building’s label. Aliferis thought the property would be more like a hotel or motel.
“It seems to me that, however this was defined, it was really kind of gaming the system,” he said.
Thompson said that level of jurisdiction “sits with our town and village fathers” as far as how they write definitions in the land use code and what’s formulated as law. The review board only had jurisdiction over the Cascade Road project because it’s located in the viewshed corridor, according to Thompson, and members are meant to vote on a project proposal based on that jurisdiction alone.
According to the joint land use code, the review board has jurisdiction over a project’s parking and loading areas, select design elements, lighting, fencing, retaining walls and sidewalks, and other factors concerned with building height and mass. Thompson has said in the past that the review board has approved many proposals that might have turned out to be STRs.
Board members agreed that there were points of contention surrounding the case. Rafferty told Aliferis he agreed with his concerns about the property’s intended use as an STR, and Bissell told Aliferis that he had some problems with how STRs work right now, but Bissell and Rafferty reiterated the board’s jurisdictional limitations.
Yerkovich asked the board if it was fair to say that they’d identified a “shortcoming” in the code that they hoped would be addressed as the town and village rework their STR regulations in the land use code. In the meantime, she said, the review board would have to do the best it could to “fit a square peg into a round hole.”
“That’s exactly where we are,” Thompson said.
Thompson told Aliferis that, at one time or another, every review board member has had to grapple with a case they’ve seen issues with. Those members have had to come to the same conclusion, Thompson said: that their frustration isn’t with the project itself, but with the way the code is written in relation to the project.
“We’re charged with enforcing the code as it is, as it sits,” Thompson said. “And that’s where we’re at.”
Board members encouraged Aliferis to submit his concerns about STRs to the town and village Land Use Code Committee. The committee is currently fielding public comments about STRs through May 30 at https://tinyurl.com/2snt7r7z.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article included the incorrect date of the review board meeting where a Cascade Road project was approved; it was this past Wednesday, not this past Tuesday. The Enterprise regrets the error.