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Lake Placid-North Elba signage hearings stay open

May 11, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - This village and the town of North Elba held public hearings Monday and Tuesday, respectively, concerning possible changes to code regulations on signs and flags in the Village Center (Main Street) and the Gateway Corridor (Saranac Avenue and state Route 3).

More than 40 residents and business owners attended the village hearing. Many fewer attended the town's hearing the next night. Progress was made and voices were heard, but both the village and town boards agreed to leave the hearings open for written comment until next Monday and Tuesday. After that, the boards will come together in joint review and decide whether the new language for the code is specific enough and will benefit both businesses and pedestrians. From there, the new code would be sent to the secretary of state's office, and the implementation would follow approximately 30 days after filing.

Local businesses want A-frame sandwich boards and flags because they feel it helps increase traffic into their stores and restaurants. Currently, flags are allowed only on the Gateway Corridor while sandwich boards are prohibited in both areas. Jon Donk is the art collector at Gallery 46 on Main Street, a satellite facility of the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. His door has a sensor and documents how many people walk in each day. Donk said as soon as the signs came down, he started seeing a drop in store traffic.

Article Photos

About 40 Lake Placid residents and business owners attend the Monday, May 7 public hearing on signage codes at the North Elba Town Hall. From left at the table are village Trustee Art Devlin, Clerk Anita Estling, attorney Janet Bliss and Mayor Craig Randall. (News photo — Griffin Kelly)

On the other side, the village and town boards originally made this code because they felt that signs and flags block pedestrian traffic, pose health risks and can make the streetscapes look crowded and unappealing. The codes also adhere to disability regulations, which require 6 feet of clearance so that two wheelchairs can pass each other comfortably.

In both a previous interview and at the hearing, village Mayor Craig Randall was more concerned with safety, mobility on the sidewalks and following the written code; however, he did recognize that the business community thinks it would benefit from sandwich boards on the sidewalk, and said he's willing to work with them.

This issue isn't new, but it has gained more attention in recent years.

Since 1991, shops on Main Street were prohibited from placing A-frame sandwich board signs and flags outside their businesses, but it was never really enforced until last year, when Micheal Orticelle became the code enforcement officer, according to multiple Lake Placid business owners.

"The plan to enforce the code had been in development for many years," Orticelle said in a previous interview.

Orticelle attended the meeting Monday night. He expressed how he doesn't have an opinion on whether the code changes.

"Whatever the boards decide, I'll enforce it," he said.

He also asked that the language of the code be specific and clear if it changes.

"The better it's worded, the easier it is to enforce."

A few folks brought up things such as tables, chairs, plants, awnings, displays and clothing racks, asking whether those should be considered. These are actually some reasons why businesses started receiving stricter code enforcement, according to Randall. He allowed the questions but had to reiterate a few times that the hearing was about sandwich boards and flags. Everything else is a separate code issue.

People who own business on Saranac Avenue were concerned that even if the code changes, they wouldn't be allowed to place their sandwich boards close enough to the road. A current draft suggests that Gateway Corridor businesses can have A-frames up to 20 feet from the building. Owner of the Placid Bay Inn Denise Dramm said that wouldn't really help.

"Any sign that's 20 feet from my building would not be seen," she said.

By the end of the hearing, Randall said he thought it went well.

"We're all just trying to accommodate the needs of the street," he said.

Village Trustee Jason Leon agreed, saying, "I think it was positive."

The town's meeting on Tuesday was less involved. One resident, Judy Shea said she doesn't want the see the streets look cluttered, but would be willing to accept a few signs as long as they look pleasant and positively impact local business.

North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi said he and his board pretty much agree with Shea. They don't mind sandwich boards or flags as long as they fit design standards and don't have any safety risks. Any new sign has to be approved by the village-town Joint Review Board and meet certain design and dimension requirements.

Lake Placid Business Association President Lori Fitzgerald said the LPBA has volunteered to streamline the approval process and present multiple A-frame designs to the Joint Review Board, and then sell the signs to local business.

Politi said the town has basically just been following the village's lead on the matter. If the village wants to change the code, then the town will approve the new regulations. However, if the village chooses not to change the code, then it doesn't matter what the town thinks because the amendment needs dual approval.



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