QUEENSBURY — West Mountain Ski Area is buying two adjacent residential properties to expand its parking lot.
The project would require the town to rezone the parcels to recreational commercial.
West Mountain already owns one of the properties and the other is under contract to purchase.
Town Board members expressed some reluctance to turn forested areas into a gravel parking lot, but noted that it could resolve a serious safety issue. On the busiest ski days of the year, cars line both sides of West Mountain Road because the ski area’s parking lot is full.
“This will eliminate the practice of overflow parking on the shoulders of West Mountain Road for parking during these periods in the peak winter months,” the ski area wrote in its application for rezoning. “Total car and bus parking is anticipated to be adequate with the addition of the new overflow parking lots.”
The existing parking lot is 5.5 acres and has room for 558 cars. The residential lots are 4.5 acres, and the ski area wants to turn 2 acres into parking.
The houses and garages would not be demolished. They would be used for ski purposes, which were not described in detail in the application. There would be a 50-foot buffer of vegetation between the new parking lots and adjacent residential properties.
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The town zoning code only requires 110 spaces for the business.
“This is far less than what is actually experienced at the ski area during peak operating periods,” the owners wrote in the application.
West Mountain’s busiest day on record had 2,000 customers, including 300 people tubing and 1,700 skiers. (There are 300 tubes, so the tubing area was sold out.)
Holidays are the busiest days for the business, but the average weekend day in winter brings in 1,000 customers, while the average winter weekday brings in 500 customers, according to West Mountain.
Calculating that three customers arrive in each car, West Mountain said the busiest day would require 667 parking spaces — about 100 more than the existing parking lot.
But they noted people don’t stay for the whole day, so there is turnover of spaces. Still, it leaves a lot of cars parked on West Mountain Road.
The project will go before the Queensbury Planning Board for a zone change review, and then the Town Board for a vote on rezoning. If successful, the project would go back to the Planning Board for project review.