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Placid may repeal income-based housing provision

Village board, town council eyeing public hearing

April 7, 2017
Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - This village's board and the North Elba Town Council will meet to discuss potentially repealing the village and town's income-based housing provision.

The proposal is one of several amendments to local laws that the village board and town council discussed at their Monday and Tuesday meetings, respectively.

The current law's objective is to give incentive to developers to include housing for people with low and moderate income. It does this by requiring developers to include at least one income-based lot for every 10 units. The income-based lots are for people whose gross annual household income does not exceed 120 percent of the Essex County median income.

Developers are also permitted to make a payment to nonprofit housing trusts such as the Affordable Community Housing Trust, in lieu of creating income-based housing units. The law went into effect in January 2011.

Speaking at Tuesday's meeting, North Elba Town Supervisor Roby Politi, who owns and operates the Merrill Thomas real estate company on Main Street, said he proposed the amendment. He said he wants to repeal and rewrite the provision because he believes it unfairly burdens developers while not burdening other entities, such as businesses, that bring jobs and residents to Lake Placid.

"A hotel can come into town and create 100 rooms and have to provide all these employees - bring them in from somewhere else - and not provide them with housing whatsoever," Politi said. "And that contributes to the housing crisis that we have."

Town Councilman Bob Miller, who works with Politi as a realtor at Merrill Thomas, and several other councilmen agreed with Politi. Miller and the town council also pointed to how there is affordable housing in the area - just not in Lake Placid.

"I just am not sure it's (the developer's) responsibility," Miller said. "They are paying taxes already. To take more money from them to give to someone else, I'm not sure I agree with that, and I'm a believer in the free market, and if we are looking for affordable housing, there is affordable housing - it just may not be here. And that's the market."

Politi said he thought it was unfortunate when the Hampton Inn was built that laws didn't require housing to be built. He also pointed to Golden Arrow Resort owner and village Trustee Peter Holderied purchasing the Mountain View Inn across Main Street to use as housing for his employees as a sign that there is still a lack of affordable housing in Lake Placid despite the 2011 provision.

On Monday, Holderied said he'd consider repealing the provision as long as a rewrite replaced it.

Politi, Miller and several other councilmen also mentioned that the 2011 provision has only affected two developers thus far, another sign that the law is flawed. Lake Placid village attorney Janet Bliss said the same on Monday.

Joint Review Board Chairman Bill Hurley, Community Development Commission Chairman Dean Dietrich - who also works as a town and village justice - and village Trustee Jason Leon disagreed.

Dietrich agreed with Politi and the council that affordable housing in Lake Placid is a problem that requires more of a multi-faceted approach. But he felt if the 2011 provision helped just a couple of families, it was worth it.

"I can't argue philosophy," Dietrich said to Miller.

"What happens is the market price is set," Dietrich added of the purpose of the provision, "(Potential homeowners) are then eligible for a subsidy because of their income and what happens, basically, is (ACHT) comes in and gives them a subsidy so they can afford it. So it's not like we are forcing (a developer) to sell those lots at less than the market price.

"I agree that it's spitting into the wind; it's a macroeconomic problem," Dietrich said. "But if we can make 10 families live here then we've helped 10 families come into Lake Placid."

Hurley echoed Dietrich's perspective while also asking Politi why he wouldn't keep the provision until changes were drafted. Politi said he'd prefer to start fresh, and commended the land use code provision that permits homeowners to have accessory housing such as long term rentals on their property

"It was a plus," Hurley said of accessory housing, "(but) they are all pluses. There is no one magic bullet. You have to do everything. So I am saying why eliminate one thing? If you want to change it, that's fine, but why eliminate it? That can be a discussion for the public hearing.

"I see $50,000 (in Affordable Community Housing Trust subsidies) going into a pot to be distributed to somebody else to help them keep their kids in town when the parks are empty in town," Hurley continued, "while the schools are losing students in town."

At Monday's village board meeting, the board passed a resolution to meet with the town about the matter, but not without disagreement from trustee Jason Leon.

"I can't vote to even move it forward to have a discussion until I have more information," Leon said. "With more context.

"This looks like more than just house cleaning to me," he added.

For the law to change, both the village board and town council would have to individually pass it. Politi said a public hearing on the matter could occur as soon as May and votes could take place this summer. He added that the proposed change to the land use code would be enacted retroactively as to not alter current applications to the joint review board that must comply with the law, such as the Barile subdivision off of Cascade Road.



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