LAKE GEORGE -- A steering committee will explore over the next few months whether the village’s commercial district should be rezoned, an endeavor prompted by a controversial hotel project proposed for Canada Street.
“We’re trying to come to a fair and just proposal about the proposed hotel on Canada Street,” Mayor Robert Blais said. “Because of the nature, size, and height of the proposal, it’s opened our eyes to the need to look at zoning regulations and what directions folks want to go in the future.”
Developer Dave Kenny has proposed a large chain hotel and conference center for just north of the intersection of Canada and Amherst streets, where Giuseppe’s Pizzeria and Cafe is located. Kenny has proposed a hotel that would exceed the village’s three-story cap on buildings.
The Village Board voted Monday to appoint a nine-member zoning steering committee, with members from the village Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Village Board, Lake George Town Board and local residents and business owners. The committee will hold two public meetings each month in October, November and December, and the issue will go to public hearings in January. The plan is to then have the Village Board take action on the zoning issue in late January or early February, Blais said.
Ron Mogren, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, will serve as the steering committee chairman. The committee will work with Lisa Nagle from Elan Planning, Design and Landscape Architecture.
The timeline for the steering committee coincides with a study at the village’s waste water treatment plant that will decide how much capacity of the village’s system the large hotel would require, and how that would affect its contract with the town to provide service to the town’s Caldwell Sewer District.
The issue has become larger than just Kenny’s project, and the steering committee will be asked to look at a variety of zoning issues, which could chart a course for commercial development in the future.
“If the village is going to exist as an incorporated village in the future, it’s going to need to grow,” Blais said. The village’s assessed valuation has declined for the past two years, and it has been a struggle “to keep the village tax rate where it is,” he said.
“There have been more vacant storefronts this year than we’ve had in the past history I’ve been here,” said Blais, who has been mayor for more than 40 years. “It’s time to look at this.”
The committee isn’t just being asked to consider the building height issue, but other zoning issues, such as setbacks and parking.
“We’re asking them to look at everything,” Blais said.
Kenny was initially requesting a variance from the village Zoning Board of Appeals for a building height that exceeds the village cap. Kenny agreed to wait for the village to explore the zoning issues, and the Zoning Board of Appeals tabled the variance request a few weeks ago.
Kenny initially proposed an eight-story structure with more than 100 guest rooms, but said at the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting a few weeks ago that, if the village rezones, he could perhaps buy another piece of property and build to six stories instead of eight. Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center is six stories tall.
Resident Joan West asked the board at Monday’s meeting how large of an area the committee would be considering.
“We residents of Lake George village need to know,” she said.
The committee will be looking at the commercial area of the village, which is less than a mile long. It won’t be looking at the village’s residential areas, Blais said.
Although in the early stages, the hotel proposal has been controversial, with many residents coming out against it because of its potential to change the character of the village. Area business owners have been more supportive.
In addition to getting approval from village officials, the project would require Adirondack Park Agency approval.