LAKE GEORGE -- Village officials are looking into adopting design standards that would give them the power to enforce, rather than suggest, what buildings should look like.
“We have a framework in place,” Trustee John Root said. “We need to put some details in and give it some teeth.”
Under the village’s existing design guidelines, property owners of any buildings that have been altered are encouraged to restore the buildings to their original forms if possible, through any renovations that are done. But officials have no mechanism for enforcing the standards.
The architectural guidelines take into account building proportions, facade, roof type and building material. Building color isn’t addressed.
Historically, buildings on Canada Street have stayed within the Greek Revival, Italianate, Victorian or Mission styles. And while several historical buildings remain on the village’s thoroughfare, in most cases, they’ve been heavily altered, said Lisa Nagle, of Elan Planning, Design and Landscape Architecture.
“Some might say the village doesn’t have its own character but it really does,” Nagle said. “There is a historical look and feel to Canada Street.”
Nagle has been working with village officials on a re-examination of zoning issues, such as building height, parking and architecture.
A nine-member zoning steering committee made recommendations last month to the Village Board, which included allowing buildings of up to six stories on the west side of Canada Street in the heart of the village’s commercial district. Current village zoning caps buildings at three stories and 40 feet.
The zoning examination was spurred by several factors. Mayor Robert Blais has voiced concern about the village’s future prosperity in light of a declining population and tax base and presence of vacant storefronts during the village’s 10-week tourism peak in the summer.
At the same time, developer Dave Kenny has proposed locating on Canada Street a large chain hotel that would exceed the height cap.
If and when the Village Board amends its zoning regulations, the hotel and any other new projects that come up would be subject to the new rules. The hotel project, which has been opposed by some Lake George residents, would also need Adirondack Park Agency approval.
The village has design guidelines that were drafted as part of a zoning plan several years ago, but the board didn’t formally adopt them and can’t enforce them.
Nagle suggested that, before the next zoning workshop, which hasn’t been scheduled yet, each of the Village Board members walk down Canada Street and study the architecture to determine the standards they would like to adopt.
Nagle said he will bring images and material boards to the next workshop to help board members make their decisions.
The Village Board will hold two more zoning workshops before preparing proposed amendments to the zoning code. The board would then hold public information meetings, go through the state environmental quality review process and hold a mandatory public hearing before adopting any changes.