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GUEST COMMENTARY: Boathouse construction and protecting the shoreline

October 4, 2010
Lake Placid News
The Shore Owners’ Association of Lake Placid, in its mission to protect the waters and shorelines of Lake Placid, makes every effort to remain neutral on specific construction projects around the lakeshore. However, two boathouse construction projects begun this month, which have escalated into a legal challenge to the Town of North Elba Land Use Code compel us to address the issue head-on and explain what’s at stake for the entire community.

The boathouse projects, both undertaken by the Grimditch family of East Lake, begun without permit or oversight by the Code Enforcement Officer or the Joint Review Board — approvals necessary for any major building project in Lake Placid and North Elba. In pushing these projects through, the declared intent of the owners was to beat the Adirondack Park Agency deadline earlier this week which increased regulation over new boathouses.

The contractors and subcontractors on the job refused to abide by a stop work order issued by the town on the first day of work. Their refusal was based on the assertion by attorney James Brooks that the land use code has no authority over boathouses and docks which, he argues, are largely built over navigable waters. In doing so, Mr. Brooks was following one of two recent conflicting legal decisions on who holds authority at the water’s edge.

If successful, this legal tactic would effectively throw out any claim to authority municipalities across New York state have over shoreline development. In our town and village, on Lake Placid, on Mirror Lake, on Mill Pond and the connecting river and streams the consequence would be to surrender the iconic views of our shorelines — views that attract visitors to our region — to unchecked development.

The impact on the ecology of our waters would be equally profound. We urge members of the North Elba/Lake Placid community to support the town’s efforts to fight this challenge to shoreline protection.

The Grimditch family are members in good standing of our association, so we take this stand with utmost regret. But as an organization we cannot lose sight of our primary responsibility to protect the environmental and scenic qualities of Lake Placid, not only for the entire community and its visitors, but for future generations as well.

Likewise, we recognize Mr. Brooks as an estimable attorney and member of our community. There can be no doubt that he is dogged in pursuit of his client’s interest. But with every position of power comes the burden of responsibility toward the welfare of the entire community: to weigh the ends against the means.

In this case it is clear that the declared ends of marginally improving the value of two shoreline parcels does not justify the means of overturning the critical laws that have guarded shorelines throughout our community for generations.

Mark Wilson is president of the Shore Owners’ Association

of Lake Placid



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