What does 2017 hold for the Adirondacks and the Tri-Lakes villages? We're not going to go out on a limb with predictions, but it's valuable to look at what is happening now and what looks like it's coming in the next 12 months.
We'll be curious to see what happens with the rail-trail debate. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad's lawsuit against the state will be heard in court soon, and that will determine whether the state can move forward with its plan to remove 34 miles of tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake and start replacing it with a trail for bikes, snowmobiles, etc.
It also could be a big year for the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The state Adirondack Park Agency's upcoming decision on how to classify the scenic Boreas Ponds tract, which the state bought this year, has drawn a ton of attention statewide.
As 2017 begins, we say good-bye to retiring state Olympic Regional Development Authority CEO Ted Blazer, seen here at the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway with Gov. Cuomo.
Also, hiker traffic has increased dramatically on the Adirondacks' most popular mountain trails, such as those listed among the 46 High Peaks, Saranac 6ers and Tupper Lake Triad. That renewed interest in the Adirondack backcountry will likely lead to new developments in 2017, and it will be interesting so see what they will be. Hiker parking fees? A new public information campaign to protect these mountains' natural beauty? Increased environmentalism from young people? More deaths and rescues of people caught unprepared? We'll see.
This village is constantly so full of visitors that it seems it can't hold them all - and yet it adds massive new events every year to bring in still more. At this point, all signs indicate that trend will continue: more new businesses opening, more existing businesses expanding or upgrading, real estate prices rising, more tear-down-and-rebuilds.
Yet changes are coming. The minimum wage increase could cause ripples, as could the ongoing parking crunch that once again angered local residents this year. And could this year's vote to keep the village court signal a growing resistance to the Community Development Commission's push toward municipal consolidation?
Meanwhile, Adirondack Health is gearing up to build a new medical center on the Uihlein property and give its old hospital to the town of North Elba, which may use the property to develop a Global Center for Sports Excellence in conjunction with the Olympic Training Center and USA Luge.
Also, Ted Blazer has retired as head of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, the board of which has picked Gore Mountain chief Mike Pratt to be interim CEO amid a national search. ORDA's management has a huge effect on this village, which is re-evaluating what kind of major winter sports events it can hold.
It looks like 2017 will be eventful for Saranac Lake, based on what is in the works now:
The Hotel Saranac renovation is the most visible project underway. It's scheduled to open in May, although so many of its predicted opening dates have come and gone that it's hard to say for sure. Nevertheless, workers are busy there, and it seems likely it will open this year. In addition to hotel rooms it will add a restaurant, gift shop, spa and bar downtown, plus a ballroom to host weddings, proms, meetings, conferences and other events.
The Lake Flower Resort is being reviewed by the APA, and the public is invited to speak on it at a hearing at 10 a.m. Friday at the Harrietstown Town Hall. If the project is approved, the developers may soon demolish three motels on the site - the Lake Side Motel, Adirondack Motel and Lake Flower Inn - and might start construction this year.
Saranac Lakers may see some figurative fireworks over Lake Flower in the coming year between the developers of two hotels mentioned above. The Roedel family, which owns the Hotel Saranac, has sued the village over its approval of the Lake Flower Resort, which the Roedels see as a competitor. "This town ain't big enough for the two of us," the Roedels say. The state and its Regional Economic Development Council apparently disagree; they have pledged a multimillion-dollar state grant to each project due to the supposed need for such development.
Tom Lawson just stoked the fires of curiosity about 2017 on Wednesday night, Dec. 28, when he told the Tupper Lake Joint Planning Board that the Adirondack Club and Resort, of which he is a developer, should have environmental permits in hand in January and will close some seven-figure lot sales shortly afterward - at the same time buying the land it's selling from a land trust of the former Oval Wood Dish factory.
The "great camp" lot sales will let those buyers build their luxury houses and give the developers money to sink into shared aspects of the project such as electrical and water-sewer infrastructure. More sales might enable the overhaul of Big Tupper Ski Area, which volunteers have run in some recent winters but probably not this one, since the ARISE group can't afford the insurance and other costs. That's too bad because it looks like a snowy season so far.
The resort has been in the works since 2003, but construction has yet to begin.
The long, hard road has drained Mr. Lawson's personal finances severely. Tupper Lakers would love to see it finally get going.
Beyond that, we'd like to see Tupper Lake's recent trend of small business improvements and openings continue in 2017.