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Lake Placid looks to future with new comprehensive plan

April 4, 2014
By MATTHEW TURNER ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - People of the town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid will meet for a public hearing at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 8 in the town hall to discuss an updated comprehensive plan, which will be used as a guide for the future of the two bodies.

The plan was developed by the Lake Placid-North Elba Community Development Board, made up of seven volunteers appointed by both governments. The last comprehensive plan was developed in 1996-97.

The body is chaired by Dean Dietrich, and the other members are Julie Ball, Jean Brennan, Pat Gallagher, Georgia Jones, Kelly Kennedy and Tim Robinson. Other volunteers were involved on the board early on.

Article Photos

Visitors enjoy walking the popular ice track on Mirror Lake in February. The Lake Placid-North Elba Comprehensive Plan has a section called “Environment and Natural Resources,” which includes the inventory of best usage for lakes and waterways. See Page 2 for specific goals and objectives of the proposed plan. (Photo — Andy Flynn)

"I'm not anticipating any difficulties (with the vote)," Dietrich said. "The village and town have both been in the loop."

And so has the community, with about 80 people helping in the drafting process, Dietrich said.

"I really enjoyed the process. A lot of people talking about the community," Dietrich said.

The plan was broken into different issues with each volunteer focusing on one of those areas, including government structure and function, economy and tourism, community facilities and services, mobility, environment, land use and design.

Mayor Craig Randall said the comprehensive plan serves as a guideline for the future.

"A comprehensive plan is designed to be a long range look to see what people want to see happen in the community," Randall said.

Randall said more services for an aging population was one element of the plan he thinks is important.

"One of the big changes in there is, over the last 17 years there is certainly a change in demographics of our communities," Randall said.

North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said there should be an effort to maintain the comprehensive plan moving forward.

"I think the most important thing is the general thing that you have to continue to upgrade your comprehensive plan," Politi said. "They will be constantly tweaking it and making it better, to address the needs of a growing community."

Politi added that he thought the development board did well on the plan.

"We have a very dedicated group led by Dean that have done a wonderful job," Politi said.

The town has a larger population of residents and territory, including to a part of the village of Saranac Lake and hamlet of Ray Brook.

Big ideas

Dietrich said the plan has some low-hanging fruit that are quick fixes and some that are long-term proposals.

"Some of them have already been implemented," Dietrich said.

Other proposals will require time and effort.

"When things become a problem, there are two reasons: political will and resources," he said. "Some things are going to have difficulties in both of those areas."

Some proposals that fall into the difficult category are the expansion of Lake Placid Police Department to include parts of the town's territory and the creation of a vacation rental permit system.

The expansion of the police department's jurisdiction would spread out the cost of the tax base to town residents.

"It makes some sense," Dietrich said.

Politi said that would be a discussion topic, but he doesn't believe town residents would want to pay for it.

Another idea is a potential parking garage in the village.

"This is a passion of people on Main Street," Randall said. "It's a large project that's been worked off and on for the past five years."

Dietrich said it would require the cooperation of a number of groups, including the Olympic Regional Development Authority.

"Everybody talks about it, but you might just need a champion to push it forward," Dietrich said.

A full-time municipal manager position was another potential future change in the plan. Dietrich said that would need time to implement, phased in with the retirement of government workers.

"The idea there is, if you are serious about that, it's not something you bring in overnight," he said.

Dietrich said the position would be an automatic sharing of services between the town and village.

"In time, I think that's a practical thing," Randall said. "The mayor's position would become more typical of a politician, dealing with policy."

Politi, however, said a municipal manager is unnecessary.

"I don't necessarily agree with the manager position," Politi said. "I think we don't need it. We have good department managers."

Sharing services

A theme throughout the comprehensive plan is the cooperation between the town and village of Lake Placid.

"One thing we have recognized is the village boundaries are blurred," Dietrich said. "It is hard to tell where the village begins and the town starts."

Randall said shared services and collaboration is a real focus moving forward.

"One of the primary issues out there is more collaboration between the town and the village, more cost sharing, to make the local government more efficient," Randall said.

He thought the idea of a shared part-time grant writer is a good idea.

"A shared position between the village, town and school district is a theory that has been practiced in the past," Randall said.

Politi said that has been something the two governments have done well for years.

"We're one of the best examples of shared service between municipalities that exist (in the state)," Politi said.



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