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APA approves variances for Mirror Lake project

October 17, 2012

LAKE PLACID - The state Adirondack Park Agency has approved a series of variances for a proposed three-story building at the north end of Main Street in the village of Lake Placid.

One Main on the Lake LLC, owned by John J. Nelson, plans to replace the building along the shoreline of Mirror Lake that previously housed Players Sports Bar on the bottom floor, along with retail space on the main floor and two upstairs apartments. That building, which dated to the 1920s, was torn down in mid-May.

The new building will be a larger, taller structure that will have three stories of restaurant space, APA planner Colleen Parker told the agency's Regulatory Programs Committee Thursday.

Article Photos

Photo/Chris Knight
The state Adirondack Park Agency has approved a series of variances that will allow a new building to be constructed on this narrow lot on Main Street in Lake Placid, across from the High Peaks Resort, as seen last week. The former building on the site was demolished in the spring.

She said the building requires variances, even though it's in a hamlet area, because it would be taller than 40 feet and because the expansion of the building, which is on a small, 0.1-acre lot, would be within 50 feet of the shoreline of Mirror Lake. Parker said APA staff recommended the board approve the variances.

"This hamlet area in the village of Lake Placid consists of pretty heavily developed shoreline, and many commercial uses and tourist accommodation uses," she said. "The applicant's proposal seems reasonable within the context of this area and the hamlet area."

Parker said the owners of the property would have preferred to rehabilitate the original building, "but it was so dilapidated and the safety concerns were so extreme that they were actually required to remove it.

"The local code enforcement officer (James Morganson) for the town of North Elba said that he requested that the building be removed because there were safety hazards associated with it," Parker said.

The original building was 38 feet tall. The new building would be 43 feet, 2 inches in height, when measured from its lowest grade to the highest point.

Parker said representatives of High Peaks Resort, located across the street, raised concerns about the potential visual impact of the taller building. Parker showed the board visual simulations taken from the outside, second-floor patio of the resort's restaurant.

"Some of the views across the lake and the hillside area will be blocked by the new building," she said. "No doubt there will be some impact, but our feeling was it will not be an undue adverse impact given the context of the hamlet area and the other development on the site, and also given the fact that there will be some positive visual impacts from this newer, nicer building that replaces the older structure. But of course, that's a matter of opinion."

In the late 1970s, Parker said, the building's prior owner had expanded it, added a porch and a third-story balcony without getting the necessary APA variances. The agency didn't know about it until it received a complaint in 2011, when it told the owner the structures could remain, but that any expansion within the setback area of Mirror Lake would require a variance.

The One Main on the Lake owners propose to expand the structure 3 feet toward the village-owned park on the north side of the property. The other two variances would be for proposed decks on the second and third floor that would each be 178 square feet in size.

The property owners have said denial of the variances would result in them losing seating capacity in the restaurant, and outdoor seating, which they believe would jeopardize some of the economic feasibility of the project, Parker told the committee.

APA Commissioner Arthur Lussi, whose family owns the Crowne Plaza Resort in Lake Placid, said he didn't buy that rationale.

"I feel like by stating this we are saying to people that if they buy a place in a commercial area, and the footprint of the existing business isn't big enough, they can buy it, enlarge it and say they need the increased seating capacity to make it economically feasible," Lussi said. "I just don't think this is a good precedent to be setting."

Commissioner Cecil Wray asked what would happen if the variances were denied.

Parker didn't know but said the owners could replace the prior structure without expanding it and not need variances from the agency.

"They could replace the building in kind, but the applicant feels that would not meet their economic objectives and would not provide the economic return to support replacing the building in the way they want to," Parker said.

When it came to a vote, the committee approved the project unanimously. The project then came before the full agency board on Friday, and Commissioner Richard Booth asked that language be added to the permit that recognizes the project is located along a heavily developed commercial shoreline in a hamlet area.

"I have trouble with this fitting into the variance criteria exactly, but I think it makes eminent sense on the ground," Booth said.

The project was subsequently approved with only Wray opposed.

The owners have already received the necessary local approvals from the village-town Joint Review Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.



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