Proposed relocation of APA headquarters raises questions

To the editor:

In April, the Adirondack Park Agency confirmed that it was exploring the possibility of leasing the Paul Smith’s Electric Light and Power Building at 1-3 Main St. from the village of Saranac Lake. Not many details were revealed at the time, pending completion of a feasibility study by the agency.

The prospect of moving APA headquarters downtown raises questions, both for the agency and village trustees.

In 2022, New York state gave the APA $29 million for a new headquarters to replace its 12,000-square-foot office building (not counting 1,800 square feet of garage/maintenance space) in Ray Brook. By comparison, 1-3 Main St. offers less than 9,000 square feet of office space. For an agency looking to expand its staff from 44 to 55 employees, the need for office expansion, as well as garage space, will present itself immediately. And while the village could offer room to build and grow in the building’s parking lot, it is unclear whether the agency would or could commit to new construction on leased property.

Use of the parking lot creates a dilemma for the village, too. At Saranac Lake’s farmers market on Saturday, all 40-plus spaces at the 1-3 Main St. lot were constantly filled. At the same time, the APA fleet of a dozen vehicles — idle on weekends — occupied the Ray Brook lot. Moving the fleet to 1-3 Main would eliminate a quarter of the parking lot’s spaces, inhibiting use of Riverside Park year-round.

Apart from size issues, a deal with the village presents the APA with an awkward choice. Moving into 1-3 Main St. will displace Saranac Lake’s Police Department. The village has proposed moving the department to a 78,000-square-foot combined emergency services building at 33 Petrova Ave. A large portion of that site is freshwater wetlands; the project will require APA permits. Having recently lost a court case for neglecting to protect wetlands feeding Ampersand Bay on Lower Saranac Lake, the agency will need to proceed cautiously; water from the wetlands at Petrova Avenue also flow to Ampersand Bay.

When discussions with the Adirondack Park Agency over a lease of 1-3 Main St. were made public eight weeks ago, Saranac Lake Mayor Jimmy Williams said there was no connection between that negotiation and the relocation of the police department. From the perspective of an environmental regulating agency protective of its public image, the deal might look too much like a conflict of interest.

Mark Wilson

Saranac Lake


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