Housing, child care top priorities for development commission
LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid-North Elba Community Development Commission has outlined its 2023 goals, which span from increasing the availability of affordable housing and improving access to child care to reviving derelict monuments and installing more public art in Lake Placid. The development commission’s goals are intended to improve residents’ quality of life in the village.
The community development commission is an advisory board to the Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees and the North Elba Town Council. The development commission branches out into several committees that are formed around community needs — housing, environment and sustainability, government efficiency, among others. The commission and its committees are run by community volunteers.
The development commission is behind beloved village events like the annual Community Day, but it also has a history of taking on controversial policy issues in the village. Last year, the development commission presented recommendations for how short-term vacation rentals should be regulated in the town and village — the product of years of work by the commission’s land use code committee volunteers, including the development commission’s then-Chair Dean Dietrich. Though not all of the STR recommendations stuck, the recommendations laid the foundation for the latest STR regulations passed by the town and village boards in January.
Earlier this month, presiding development commission Chair Lori Fitzgerald presented to town and village boards a new list of to-dos for the commission this year.
The community development commission was created in 2014 by the town and village boards to implement the 2014 comprehensive plan. Now, nearly 10 years later, the commission is in the beginning phases of updating the plan.
The 2014 plan has served as the development commission’s mission over the last nine years, prioritizing open space, government efficiency, community resources and facilities, housing and economic development, environment and sustainability, and mobility in its goals. The updated plan, which likely won’t be complete until at least 2024, according to Fitzgerald, will serve as the commission’s mission in coming years.
Over the course of 2022, the commission formed a steering committee for the updated comprehensive plan and submitted a request for proposals, or an RFP, to hire a firm to help the commission with the updates. The commission also secured a $98,000 grant for the work.
This year, the commission hopes to start the “visioning” process for an updated plan — working with a hired consultant to gather “robust” community feedback that informs the priorities of an improved comprehensive plan.
The commission has been in talks with town Supervisor Derek Doty and town Councilor Emily Kilburn Politi about creating more child care in Lake Placid, according to Fitzgerald. But before any real work can begin, the commission is looking for community members to form an ad hoc child care committee — people who have relationships to the daycare industry and people with “skin in the game,” Fitzgerald said.
The committee would look at a “large gamut” of problems when it comes to child care, according to Fitzgerald: How to make it affordable, finding a place for child care services and checking out resources to help subsidize affordable daycare. First, Fitzgerald said, the committee would likely start by looking at other communities to see how they’re securing affordable child care.
Last year, the development commission’s housing committee came up with a housing plan to address the lack of affordable housing in the area. Though many of the goals could take years to achieve — like ultimately increasing the affordable housing stock in the town and village — the commission wants to keep working away at its housing goals this year.
One part of the development commission’s housing plan that could get some attention this year, according to Fitzgerald, is the commission’s exploration of deed restriction programs — like ones in Old Forge and in Vail, Colorado — where a nonprofit or other entity offers a lump sum payment to homeowners to deed restrict their properties so they can’t be used as STRs in the future and could potentially contribute to the pool of long-term housing available in the area.
The housing committee’s full 2022 housing plan is available at tinyurl.com/48eybsem.
This year, the development commission wants to take more empty or lackluster spaces in the village and turn them into art.
Lake Placid Elementary School students have chosen the theme “Adirondack Wildlife” for an upcoming public art mural along the crosswalk closest to Teddy Bear Park on Hillcrest Avenue, according to Fitzgerald. She said older students will design the mural, which could be painted in May, pending village approval.
The commission is in discussion with the town about rehabilitating the cauldron used in the 1980 Winter Olympics, which currently sits on the verge of dilapidation at the North Elba Horse Show Grounds. The town has set aside some funding for the rehab project, according to Fitzgerald, and she said the commission is thinking of ways to get funding for the work. She said that the Lake Placid Arts Alliance — a subcommittee of the development commission — discussed at a meeting last week the possibility of installing a park around the cauldron.
For government efficiency, the commission wants to evaluate the pros and cons of consolidating the town and village’s separate court systems into one court. Talks of consolidating the courts have come up many times before, and propositions for consolidation were shot down by Lake Placid voters in two separate village elections. But with the recent resignation of former village Justice David Coursen — who resigned in February after a state commission began investigating a complaint that he’d shown bias in court — talks of consolidation have risen to the surface once again.
The commission is also in the process of forming a committee on dark skies to address some locals’ concerns that recent construction and rehabilitation projects have increased light pollution at night and negatively impacted residents’ quality of life.
The revitalization of Peacock Park, next to Mirror Lake, has been a focus of the development commission since 2017. Members are hoping to make more progress this year by working with the Adirondack Park Agency, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the town and the village, the Mirror Lake Watershed Association, and the Ausable River Association to revitalize the park to shore up the boat launch near Lake Placid Pub and Brewery to contain erosion. The commission also wants to repair a wall and install a boat launch on the lake near the Beach House.
The development commission and the town are currently evaluating how sidewalks might be installed on Wesvalley Road, especially near the new McKenzie Overlook housing development there.
It takes a village
The community development commission is volunteer-run, and lately, they’ve been a little short on help. The commission itself currently has six members, though it would ideally have up to 10 members. The commission is looking for more people to sit on its different committees and task forces, too, including the upcoming child care and dark skies committees and the housing committee, which needs a chair and new members.
The development commission meets every third Thursday of the month at 8 a.m. in the third-floor meeting room of the North Elba Town Hall. Fitzgerald said anyone is welcome to come to the meetings, and there’s no pressure to commit to volunteering.