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GUEST COMMENTARY: Still no decision on Lake Placid sign code?

June 1, 2018
By LORI FITZGERALD - Lake Placid Business Association , Lake Placid News

The Lake Placid Business Association is happy to see that the village board has taken some steps to move our proposed sign ordinance forward. We are, however, profoundly disappointed in their position that changes may not be made prior to the critical summer season.

As you know, small businesses are the lifeblood of our community. They are what makes our destination unique among so many other choices that tourists and residents have when selecting places to visit and live. The summer months are critical to the success of those businesses as most of their revenue is generated during those two months. To limit their ability to promote themselves as options to visitors this summer will have a detrimental impact on their vitality. And I don't say that lightly. In the 15 weeks prior to the start of enforcement for the ordinance, Gallery 46 (Lake Placid Center for the Arts) saw a 25 percent increase in foot traffic over the previous year, but in the 20 weeks following the removal of sandwich boards from Main Street, they saw an 11 percent decrease in traffic over the previous year. Those types of declines are not sustainable for any small business, and could result in more empty storefronts, which are more unsightly than any sign.

While we agree that our draft of the ordinance needs more specificity, we are unsure of how much more time this issue needs for consideration. The LPBA began working with the Main Street Committee of the Community Development Commission in early 2016 to address this issue. The revised ordinance was created at that time and presented to the village board in May of 2016. No action was taken. When the code enforcement officer began to enforce the code this past fall, the village informed us that we had not followed the proper procedure to get the ordinance revised, so we began the process again, following the guidelines provided. Still we cannot get a decision in time for our busiest season, if at all.

Two things that we would like to clarify for the board. First, the statement by the mayor that the reason for retail declines is Amazon and not promotion is not true. The internet does have an impact on all retail, but so does promotion, particularly in a visitor community such as ours. Secondly, on that point, many of those using sandwich boards and flags are restaurants, not impacted by the internet at all. The other statement, by Ms. Bliss, that this may not be the time for change because of the sewer project. This is precisely the time because of this project! We understand the necessity of the work being done, but it is having and will have an impact on business, and to imply that doing both is too much right now is to be out of touch with the realities of our community.

The LPBA is an association of volunteers, many of whom have spent countless hours of their personal time on this initiative. We strive to have a positive working relationship with both the village and town to make this a better place to live and to visit. Laws are amended all of the time, and we have agreed that if this doesn't work out, we can revise it. But to do nothing, again, to get this done on a timeline that helps businesses implies that our elected village leaders are not all that interested in the concerns of their constituents and their livelihoods. In saying that, we have to thank the town board for their cooperation and support of our position on this.

(Lori Fitzgerald is president of the Lake Placid Business Association.)



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