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Lake Placid Business Association divided over Main Street proposal

Several weeks ago, the leadership of the Lake Placid Business Association became aware of the initiative to close one lane of Main Street for the months of July and August to allow for expanded dining and retail in an effort to help our local businesses. During these unprecedented times, we appreciate all the thought and effort that many in our community have given to help local businesses remain vital. As we anticipate Phase 2 of the reopening, we as a group look forward to seeing more of our businesses return to normal and our customers return as well. We have met and discussed the Main Street proposal and have engaged in much dialogue over the course of these meetings.

Those in favor of the proposal are excited about the opportunity and have offered support to help to make the experience pleasant and positive for locals and visitors. The benefit of additional space is helpful to restaurants by expanding seating options and shortening wait times. For retailers, the allowance of parking or outdoor merchandise display may create greater foot traffic inside the stores. It would also increase the space available to do social distancing and lessen bottlenecks that the sidewalks alone create, making a trip to Main Street both accessible and safe. Our hotel guests will see a Main Street corridor with a new twist for them to experience. Those in favor are glad to see out-of-the-box thinking to preserve the vitality of our village. There is a desire to share resources and help execute the plan as presently described.

Those in opposition see a disruption to new patterns of curbside and customer service they have recently created to stay in business during the pandemic with more local customers. They have found encouragement from the greater sense of community they are experiencing with local people right now who frequent and support their Main Street businesses during these slower moments. They see this closure proposal pushing Main Street toward an event-heavy tourist model that drives locals and even long-term summer residents from downtown. If the goal is building community, the fear is that any strides these businesses have made to build up and deepen their local customer base since March will be diminished. They see this as another decision that lures short-term tourism revenue at the expense of our resident community.

On May 27, the board and officers met for a final discussion and vote. In the present climate of social distancing, a meeting of our full membership is not easily possible. At the end of the day, we sadly find ourselves yet divided. The resulting vote tally was 5 yes, 2 no, and 1 abstention. Despite this reality, our leadership is committed to continuing dialogue and offering suggestions throughout the duration of this pandemic, to minimize and accommodate all the fears and concerns raised. We are sending this letter to Craig Randall, village Mayor, and Art Devlin Deputy Mayor.

To our members, our understanding is that Lori Fitzgerald and Greg Borzilleri are the points of communication for the project. The goal is to have the change in place on or before July 1. For those on the lakeside of Main Street, it is imperative that you make your desires known as soon as possible for the space in front of your business.

Jim Koenig is chairman of the Lake Placid Busienss Association’s Board of Directors.

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