Dew Drop is too important to fail

To the editor:

I was deeply disappointed to hear of the demise of the Dew Drop Inn renovation project. I’m sure many others were as well. It is hard to understand how the Saranac Lake village administration could redefine a special zoning district out into the middle of Lake Flower for the Lake Flower Resort but couldn’t figure out how to do something similar for the Dew Drop Inn. How could they fail to help the Dew Drop Inn navigate the arcane state and local regulations? The Dew Drop Inn renovation was arguably much more important for the village than even for Ms. Shelton.

The Dew Drop Inn building is probably the most “iconic” building in the village after the Hotel Saranac. Longtime residents have fond memories of the bar-restaurant that was at one time one of the most popular establishments in the village. The building also occupies a key location next to the Saranac River in the heart of the village. A vibrant establishment (with 20 to 30 employees) at that location would be an important economic driver for that part of downtown. Additionally, there was the opportunity to complete a key missing section of the River Walk.

I am aware of the village administration’s explanations. There are multiple jurisdictions that have to sign off on any project. We all know that the Hotel Saranac took years longer than originally anticipated and that the Lake Flower Resort hasn’t even started construction yet, years after starting the process. But Ms. Shelton is a civilian trying to start a small business, not a professional real estate developer with deep pockets and a staff of lawyers and accountants. It shouldn’t have been hard to see that treating her in the normal adversarial bureaucratic manner — carefully making sure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed, but without the extra guidance required for a novice developer — would doom the project.

I admit that, like most people, I have absolutely no understanding of the village permitting process. I have no idea of what specifically could have been done differently other than perhaps designating someone to shepherd the project through the multi-jurisdictional bureaucratic maze. But the Dew Drop project should have gotten extra care, if only to avoid the harm to the village that failure now means.

I am very aware that the individual village trustees did what they could and that the mayor arranged a $200,000 bridge loan. I myself, as of one the local development corporation directors, spent hundreds of hours working to obtain a $300,000 state grant. But it obviously wasn’t enough. Understanding what could have been done differently would help avoid future disasters. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has been apparently allowed to slip away.

As natural and human as it is to try to fix blame for a disaster like this, the focus should now be on doing whatever it takes to get the project back on track.

Peter Hahn

Ray Brook