LAKE PLACID — Two parcels of land on Main Street that were intended to be a museum in 2007 will remain the property of the Adirondack Historical Association.
The state Supreme Court decided Thursday, nearly a year after the Village Board applied for eminent domain on the land with hopes of building a downtown parking garage there, in conjunction with its current parking lots next door.
The association, which operates the Adirondack Experience (formerly Adirondack Museum) in Blue Mountain Lake, bought the parcel from the Church of the Nazarene, demolished the church and intended to build a satellite museum, which was designed by David Childs, the architect who conceived One World Trade Center in Manhattan.
However, in 2008, those plans fell through because of increased construction costs, fundraising difficulties, a strained economy and the potential effects of high gas prices on museum visitation.
The association has owned the parcels for the last 11 years and hasn’t done any construction on them.
The Village Board wanted the land for its own project, though.
They believed the community would benefit from a parking garage and applied for eminent domain on the parcels in 2017. This meant that if the village could prove its garage would benefit the public and not have a negative impact on the environment, then the association would be forced to sell the land to the village.
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However, the court decided Thursday that the village did not provide enough evidence that the garage wouldn’t create traffic or environmental problems, and decided in favor of the museum.
In a press release, David Kahn, the museum’s executive director, said, “We are delighted that the Appellate Court sided with the Adirondack Experience in blocking the Village of Lake Placid’s unprecedented, brazen attempt to seize a nonprofit organization’s assets. We also look forward to success in a related matter: having the courts reverse the Essex County Assessor’s revocation of the two parcels’ tax-exempt status. Mayor Randall and other local officials will soon be deposed as part of a separate lawsuit filed in that matter.”
Village Mayor Craig Randall said he was disappointed with the decision but didn’t have enough information to comment further.
In a 2017 interview, Kahn said the association bought the parcels for $1.34 million and had the land assessed by independent auditors at $1.49 million.
He believed there was collusion between the Village Board and town of North Elba Assessor Todd Anthony when Anthony valued the property at $850,000, despite it previously being $1.18 million. Kahn also called collusion when Anthony removed the property’s tax-exempt status.
In a phone interview Thursday, Anthony said the last time the village did a property assessment was six years ago and it wasn’t done correctly, so that’s why the values went down. He also mentioned how the property market had changed over the decade.
“They’d like to get what they originally paid for,” he said, “and that might not be possible.”
As for tax exemption, Anthony insisted there was no legitimate reason for the property to remain tax-exempt if nothing was being built.
“The museum would have been tax-exempt, seeing as how it’s a facility of a 501©3 nonprofit organization,” he said, “but it became very obvious that there wasn’t going to be a museum satellite. The usage of the property did not conform to the original plans, so I removed the tax-exempt status.”
In 2017, Kahn said the museum was still interested in building the new facility.