Abuse of power
To the editor:
As a village taxpayer who’s had numerous dealings with the Saranac Lake village administration, both as a homeowner and a prospective business owner, I echo the sentiments expressed by Stephen McAuley and Dan Reilly in their recent opinion pieces. In my experience, some elected officials and staff actively discourage new small businesses and unnecessarily inhibit established businesses. They appear to believe they have carte blanche to override New York state laws and local regulations, making decisions on the fly and with no apparent awareness of the laws. They clearly favor certain people and projects over others, and there’s an unmistakable culture of “we can do anything we want” that makes trying to start or conduct business here a nightmare for some.
This village needs small businesses to thrive so we don’t become dependent on big businesses to fuel our economy. Despite efforts by a few well-meaning public servants including Paul Van Cott, Melinda Little, Jeremy Evans and Jamie Konkoski, the current small business climate here is appalling — just look at all the vacant storefronts for confirmation of that. I personally know three prospective business owners who’ve abandoned plans to open small businesses here because of their experiences with the village.
When I was trying to renovate the Dew Drop Inn, Mayor Rabideau and his staff imposed numerous, unnecessary delays in the process. When the delays became too onerous and the project failed, Mayor Rabideau openly crowed on social media and taunted me with “lessons” on how to start a business.
I’ve also heard from other local business people who’ve had similar experiences. A few examples might help to illustrate the arbitrary, capricious and abusive practices going on:
¯ A code enforcement officer informed a prospective business owner that he needed to submit sketches of interior plans to obtain a building permit. When the sketches were delivered, THE SAME code officer said he needed to submit stamped engineer drawings instead. This caused a five-week delay in the project — five weeks that the business can’t earn revenue — putting the project in jeopardy.
¯ A business owner sought a change-of-use permit to operate a 13-bedroom residence as a hotel rather than the current use as a bed and breakfast. The planning board granted the change-of-use permit but stated, as a condition, that the hotel must be operated as a bed and breakfast. What?
¯ A business owner was granted approval by the planning board and, 18 months later, still doesn’t have a building permit for the approved project.
It’s clear to me that the village twists, distorts and invents regulations with the apparent goal of preventing certain small businesses from succeeding. These public officials and their staff seem to have forgotten they work for us and that they serve at our behest. I hope everyone who sees the need to curb this destructive abuse of power votes the current administration out of office in 2020.