Lake Placid rejects third variance application
LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees last week narrowly rejected another application for an exception to the village’s current moratorium on issuing new short-term vacation rental permits.
The application, from siblings Andrea and Louis Iakovidis of ALI Ventures, LLC, was the third variance application the village has rejected since its six-month STR moratorium started in early March. However, this was the first time the village board didn’t vote unanimously to reject a variance application — there were three “no” votes and two “yes” votes.
The village and the town of North Elba boards both passed a local law in March activating a six-month moratorium as board members consider changes to the town and village STR regulations. The moratorium is expected to end in early September, in less than two months. However, the local law does give town and village boards the option to extend the moratorium if they think it’s necessary.
The village board also recently received a fourth variance application from New Jersey resident Justina Deitz for their property on Harbor Lane. The board will hold a public hearing for the application at 4:45 p.m. on July 18 in the North Elba Town Hall.
The village board took a roll call vote on Tuesday on the Iakovidis’s application. Trustee Peter Holderied, Trustee Jackie Kelly and Mayor Art Devlin voted to reject the application request, while trustees Jason Leon and Marc Galvin voted in favor of giving them an exception.
Ahead of last Tuesday’s vote, during the regular village board meeting, board members chose not to have a public discussion on the Iakovidis application in favor of including a set of “findings of fact” and conclusions about the application — compiled on behalf of the village board by village Attorney Janet Bliss — with that night’s meeting minutes.
According to those documents, the board concluded that it believed the Iakovidises had notice of the moratorium before it started through public media and public notice; that they could have applied for an STR permit sometime between the purchase of their Saranac Avenue property last September and the start of the moratorium; that the only thing keeping them from applying for a permit was the condition of the property; that there were only three months left in the moratorium; that the Iakovidises haven’t presented a Certificate of Occupancy; that they didn’t prove there was no opportunity for reasonable financial return if “used as otherwise allowed”; that the moratorium applies to all village properties; and that “the applicant has not provided any financial proof based on actual figures.”
Andrea wrote in her variance application that she and Louis grew up in Lake Placid. They formed ALI Ventures this past September, according to their application. That same month, they purchased the Saranac Avenue property, as a property with commercial and residential uses in the gateway corridor. They are renovating the building to use as a body art studio, with one apartment for long-term rental use, one “owner’s suite” apartment for Andrea and two apartments to use as STRs.
At the time they applied, both of the Iakovidis’s STR units were undergoing renovations, and the long-term apartment already had a tenant, according to the application. The commercial space was expected to undergo renovations this summer with completion slated for November, and renovations of the owner’s suite were expected to be done by later summer or early fall.
The renovations are “extensive,” according to the application, and Andrea wrote that some of the necessary repairs weren’t made known to the siblings upon purchasing the property. The application stated that repair costs doubled from $100,000 after the siblings discovered undisclosed fire damage that left three of the four apartments “uninhabitable.” They also had to go through an eviction process that Andrea wrote “has taken twice as long as expected.”
When Devlin opened the floor for public comment at the end of last week’s meeting, Andrea addressed the board’s conclusions and decision to reject her application.
Devlin asked Andrea if she had a Certificate of Occupancy for the apartments she wanted to rent as STRs — which would be required before renting them — and she said she didn’t. She hoped to have one within two to three weeks, leaving her around six weeks left in the moratorium — through the peak of the tourist season in Lake Placid — to earn back some of the money she’s lost through renovations and an eviction process.
Andrea wrote in her application that the moratorium would cause financial hardship for her and her brother because they’re applying for loans to make the necessary repairs and recover financially from their losses. Lenders are hesitant to commit to loaning money with the moratorium in place, Andrea wrote, knowing that the loan would largely be repaid by revenue generated from the STR units.
Andrea asked the board last week what else they needed from her to prove her financial hardship. The variance application asks people if they are experiencing financial hardship because of the moratorium.
Andrea told board members that they had 29 days between the public hearing for her case and last week’s vote to ask her for more proof of financial hardship. She said she told the board at the start of the application process that she was happy to answer any further questions they might have had.
“But no one called me, no one said, ‘Hey we have a question,'” she said. “… I’m happy to continue to prove my hardship, but it can’t come without dialogue from the other side.”
In addition to details about the Iakovidis’s application, the board’s findings included a statement saying that “no actual lost rent income due to the moratorium was presented by the applicant.”
Kelly said she was “fully aware” of the Iakovidis’s financial hardship. She said she voted “no” because “the moratorium halted all new permits.” She added that it was “challenging” for her to differentiate between what the Iakovidises were doing and what a second homeowner was doing. Kelly also said that the moratorium was put in place to give the board “breathing room” to decide where it wants STR regulations to go next.
Andrea told the board at last month’s public hearing that their property wasn’t a second home. At the time, Andrea said she was staying at a friend’s house.
Devlin told Andrea last week that she could turn the property into a hotel, and Kelly said she’d suggested that idea to Andrea when she turned in her variance application.
Board members encouraged Andrea to attend that night’s presentation from the Lake Placid-North Elba Land Use Code Committee at a joint meeting between the town and village. Committee Chair Dean Dietrich presented a review of public feedback about STRs and a set of maps with ways STR regulations could be tied to the joint land use code, plus some recommendations from the committee about permitting, enforcement of STR regulations and day limitations.
For the gateway corridor where the Iakovidis’s property is located, the land use code committee is recommending that both hosted and unhosted STRs be allowed there with no limitations on how many days a year they could be rented.