Trestle Street gets initial OK to expand

Board allows structure to exceed property line setbacks

Trestle Street, a music community space on Woodruff Street, got a first approval from the Saranac Lake Development Board last week toward installing a pre-fabricated structure in the rear to expand its rehearsal, jam and recording space. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

SARANAC LAKE — The Saranac Lake Development Board approved property line setback variances for the owners of the Trestle Street music space on Woodruff Street, the first step for them to potentially install a pre-fabricated structure there to expand the studio near the village downtown.

The planned installation of a 20-by-28 foot, 560-square-foot structure in the rear of the property would be closer to the property lines than is allowed by the code, so the owners requested a variance — or an exception — from the development board.

The code calls for accessory structures such as this one to be set back 8 feet from the property line. This structure would be between three and five feet away from the property lines in the rear and on the side shared with the RiverTrail Beerworks pub and brewery currently under construction.

Trestle Street owner Dave Filsinger requested two variances to allow them to build closer to the property lines, saying the benefit to the music space and the community would outweigh the change in the neighborhood and the closer distance to the property line.

The board unanimously approved the variances, with minor conditions.

The installation is not fully approved yet; the development board has to approve the site plan and a vote on this is scheduled for next month’s meeting. Public comment on the proposal is open now. Franklin County has to sign off on the project, too.

Conditions and approval

Development Board Chair Allie Pelletieri said they are only concerned with the development code which governs what can be built, not the building code which governs how it is built.

Pelletieri said the board must consider if the benefit to the applicant outweighs the changes to the community and if it will have any negative effects on the health, safety, environment or character of the neighborhood. They also must consider if the hardship necessitating the variance is self-created.

“Yeah, it’s self-created, but it’s self-created for a purpose,” Development Board member Dan Reilly said.

Board members asked if there was a way to avoid the variances. Pelletieri asked Filsinger if he could make an addition to the existing structure since principal buildings have 0-foot setbacks. Filsinger said they could not get the roof pitch and foundation footer to work with snow load and stormwater drainage. He also said the cost of an addition was prohibitive.

He said he’s spending $50,000 to $60,000 on the prefabricated structure but an addition would be much more expensive on his “shoestring budget.”

Pelletieri wondered if money should be a factor to grant a variance.

Filsinger also said moving the structure to avoid the setback limit would eliminate spaces in the parking lot lower than the minimum needed in the code. He added that a smaller structure would be insufficient for their needs.

Development Board member Bill Domenico said he felt there as no adverse change to the neighborhood in the proposal.

Domenico said since most of Trestle Street’s parking lot is owned by the state, the state could reclaim that land for use with the adjacent Adirondack Rail Trail which crosses Woodruff Street on the eponymous former train trestle.

Domenico was concerned about what would happen to emergency service access if access to the parking lot is lost.

The variances were approved with a condition that the village code enforcement officer will review the project with the lens of first responder access. The variances also carried conditions that building code cannot find any issues with the project.

Village Community Development Director Katrina Glynn did not weigh in on the project, since she takes music lessons there.

Music crowd

Musicians and supporters of Trestle Street packed the board room on April 2, each extolling the virtues and values of Trestle Street. They spoke highly of Trestle Street’s contributions to Saranac Lake’s music culture. Some spoke of the life-changing support of the space, giving them a place to return to music after getting sober. They said Filsinger renovated the building and built a community welcoming to everyone — beginners and pros.

The general theme from supporters of the project is that the space is maxed out in terms of its current capacity. With jam sessions, rehearsals and shows growing in popularity and attendance, they are running out of practice and teaching space.

Les Parker said he’s been recording songs and albums for local bands at Trestle Street with grant funds, and gave members of the development board CDs with music recorded there. Parker said with some bands, not everyone can fit in the room at once, which affects the recording process.

Mary Brown said she’s not a musician but she believes this space will improve Saranac Lake. She said zoning rules are important but she said in this instance, these rules are in the way of Saranc Lake achieving its goal.

“It think this is one of those instances where we should set those things aside in the interest of a larger purpose,” Brown said.

Virginia Slater said the studio is a place for people to grow their skills and sooth troubled minds. It hosts Slo Jam, the Mountain Melodies music camp, dancers, recording sessions, band practices and jam sessions.

Tom Techman said the expansion of Trestle Street is personal for him. He has cerebral palsy and walks with the aid of poles. The hallways of the current structure are too tight for him to walk comfortably and he said it poses a major safety issue for him.

Emily O’Mahoney said the building is not ADA accessible. She said Trestle Street is a stable home for the Slo Jam, which had wandered around from location-to-location before landing there.

Jim Derzon, who runs Slo Jam, said Trestle Street is a community asset and not a money-making enterprise. He said he wants to grow the jam, but they can’t in the space they have now.

Caperton Tissot said there’s nowhere dedicated to local music like Trestle Street is.

Mina Clark said when she started organizing belly dancing lessons with a local instructor they were held in Lake Placid, but that’s too far for most people and class attendance dwindled. Filsinger offered Trestle Street as a space, the only space Clark said she’s found here available in Saranac Lake.

Neighbor concerns

Chris Ericson, who owns the RiverTrail Brewery under construction next door to Trestle Street said his neighbor has a great facility, and he has no personal issues, but that the variance should not be determined on its emotional merits. He had a couple concerns about the project, and compared it to his time before the development board getting approval for the brewery a few years ago.

Ericson said that when his project was before the board, a group of people from Trestle Street came with concerns about potential light and noise from the brewery, and he found it “ironic” that he wasn’t hearing that about the music studio.

Tree removal was discussed when he was before the board and the new Trestle Street project would require the removal of several trees. Susan Nolde, who is married to Filsinger, said none of the trees to be removed are mature.

Ericson worried the pre-fab “garage” aesthetics of the structure. Filsinger said the structure will look nice and not like a shed.

He also was concerned about the impacts on his landscaping and said since the structure is not on a slab, it could become a nesting place for rodents.

Ericson said he supports Trestle Street’s expansion, but with thought to the code.

Fred Balzac, who rents an office at Trestle Street, said he attended board meetings when the brewery building was being discussed. Back then, he had asked about the potential removal of a rental home next to the brewery site and was told by Ericson the house would be kept and moved.

“Well, guess what? It’s gone now,” Balzac said.

Ericson said the parking plans expanded through the project design and the house was not feasible to keep anymore.

“I’m very in favor of all the things Trestle Street does,” Ericson said, adding that he felt attacked and the “subject of vitriol” by some of the Trestle Street crowd’s comments about him and his business.

Sara Diaz, who was there to support Trestle Street, said she hopes the neighbors can move forward with love and acceptance for each other.


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