QUEENSBURY — Great Escape has proposed a 165-foot-tall ride in a section of the park where tall rides are specifically forbidden, and neighbors came out in force Tuesday night to criticize that choice.
In 2001, the town and Great Escape went through a laborious process that included floating balloons above the park to decide what height would intrude on the viewscape of Glen Lake residents.
Great Escape officials acknowledged those rules at Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting. They also acknowledged that the proposed ride, Adirondack Outlaw, would be seen at least slightly from the Glen Lake area.
But they asked for approval anyhow, saying that the ride wouldn’t really hurt the neighbors’ view.
“The view (of the ride) would be minimal, not substantial, not material, and of limited duration,” said attorney Charles Dumas of Lemery Greisler LLC, who was hired by Great Escape to represent the company at the meeting.
Residents disagreed. About 20 people came to the meeting.
“I am opposed to anything that can be seen on Glen Lake,” said resident Lorraine Stein. “I want to go out on my boat and not see something flying around every four minutes.”
It takes four minutes to load the ride. Then it spins for 90 seconds. The ride is long, horizontally, but it points in the direction of Glen Lake, so they would see it on end, which is the shortest side. The ends are only four chairs wide.
Several residents urged the town to stick with the rules set out in the 2001 Environmental Impact Statement.
“It’s very, very frustrating to work with the board and Great Escape and all the people to come up with a conclusion, an agreeable situation, and then 20 years down the line we decide we want to change all we agreed to,” said resident Linda Clark. “The problem’s been resolved. They have areas in the park they can put this ride.”
But the ride is needed in Ghost Town, said Great Escape maintenance division Manager Danielle Smith.
She told the Planning Board that few people go to Ghost Town anymore.
It has three major rides: the Steamin’ Demon, the Desperado Plunge and the Canyon Blaster. There’s a large arcade in the center and a restaurant, the Saloon. Although wait times at those attractions can be significant, Smith said the area is a true ghost town.
“It’s not attracting many people anymore,” she said.
The location would also draw more customers to Great Escape, Dumas said.
“It’s closer to the road. It’s attractive. Passersby will see it as an attraction,” he said.
Planning Board Chairman Stephen Traver asked Great Escape representatives to consider not putting lights on the ride, to minimize sights on Glen Lake. They refused.
A ride without lights would be “dark and gloomy,” Smith said.
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“I think it is just in Six Flags’ best interest to have theming lights,” she said.
She noted that often the park closes before dark. Generally, lights are only on during Fright Fest, she said.
Traver pressed for compromise, asking if the ride could be moved. But Smith said the only location in Ghost Town where the ride height was allowed has already been taken by another ride. She noted the ride was only 20 feet from the zone in which it would be allowed.
Residents were not persuaded, saying the ride could be placed in other parts of the park outside of Ghost Town.
“Why should Glen Lake suffer from bad planning?” said Paul McPhillips, president of the Glen Lake Protective Association.
Others noted that the balloons floated for the 2001 study led to a limit of 135 feet in the area where the ride is proposed. That’s 30 feet lower than the ride.
“Their study clearly shows we will see this ride from nearly the whole lake,” said resident Paul Derby. “There are two other zones in the park you can put this ride. … (The Planning Board) should deny this application and the applicant should put it in an area of the park where it’s allowed.”
Some residents worried that if the ride is allowed, it would open the door to more changes to the Environmental Impact Statement.
“The next one’s going to be, ‘Oh, it’s only 10 feet higher,’” said resident David Doster. “This will be in our direct view. I don’t want to look toward the sunset and see this whirly going through.”
Dumas argued that trees have grown in the last 20 years and the ride would be barely noticeable. Engineer Frank Palumbo added that the ride would be so small, with space for just four seats on each end, that people probably could not see it.
Planning Board members asked for a new balloon float, saying it would be ideal to fly a balloon the same size as the proposed seating area.
But Palumbo said that would require “a very large balloon” and that it would be hard to notify everyone and fly a balloon during a window of good weather. He added that the Planning Board should not deny the application because of a balloon test.
“Just saying the balloon can be seen so there is an impact is maybe too quick a judgment,” he said.
He asked the board to “measure the severity of the impact” and decide on that basis.
The board tabled the proposal until Nov. 26, at which Great Escape representatives will provide “additional visual analysis” but not necessarily a balloon flight. The company must also provide detailed information about the lighting on the ride, the colors, the hours of operation and the volume level of the music played on it.
In the meantime, Traver said the board will study the Environmental Impact Statement from 2001 to see whether the ride is breaking the rules.
“We all have a lot of homework to do,” he said. “The public comment kind of speaks for itself. This is in the zone — it appears to be in the zone that has a limit of 135 feet.”