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Good job, Saranac Lake

In regard to your editorial, “Good work on DRI” I would like to congratulate Saranac Lake, its citizens and mayor for setting such a wonderful example of how the Downtown Revitalization Initiative should be used for community benefit. At the end of your editorial, you also captivated exactly what is wrong with the Plattsburgh DRI.

Yes, it was, and still is, developed in City Hall, Plattsburgh, with little if any true public input. Of the public input that was received, most of it was tossed aside, derailing positive, beneficial community development in favor of a mayor and entire Common Council pursuing special-interest projects — one project, to be exact.

The parking lot that you referenced in your editorial is at the center of our downtown and has been utilized by residents, visitors and most importantly the customers of our downtown businesses, which, I might add, have PAID for its maintenance via an annual “special assessment” fee/tax for the past several decades. These businesses depend on that parking lot for their very survival. Residents of our downtown’s many apartment buildings without their own private, off-street parking depend on that lot to live and exist in this area. Our city mayor and Common Council plan to give that parking lot away to the Cohoes developer for $1.

They also plan to give that developer over $4 million of our DRI grant, and finally, that developer will be given 20 years of PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) tax breaks, 20 years of below-value taxes to be paid, with the burden to make that loss up falling directly on the shoulders of the Plattsburgh taxpayers.

Our city and this developer have claimed the apartments will be “market rate,” but anyone who lives here knows it’s more like “upscale” rates, far beyond what the surrounding neighborhoods currently charge.

The final knife in the back is that our community farmers market exists in that lot. Our city plans to tear that building down and relocate our farmers market to the far edges of our downtown, where it will likely receive far less traffic, be “out of the way” and likely fade into nothing more than a memory of a good thing that once was.

The DRI was developed to do exactly what YOU are doing, Saranac Lake! You are setting the example of positive, fair and considerate community development! Our mayor and Common Council ignore our pleas, call us “disgruntled” and “angry” in our local media, and steam forward as if we do not exist. They limit our public commentary at Common Council meetings because they do not want to hear us. They have the wife of a Common Council member address the council in favor of their actions so it can be livestreamed on YouTube to give them some form of credibility. What they are not doing is embarking on a well-thought-out plan on how best to utilize a $10 million grant from the state of New York that best addresses community needs.

We hope that you continue to shine, Saranac Lake, because your success in these endeavors will help us solidify our point that the DRI needs to be a community-driven process in which the fruits of such efforts benefit all in the community, and not a tiny special-interest minority and sole private corporation that doesn’t even exist in our business community.

Edwin J. Darrah lives in Plattsburgh.

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