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Judge rules: No size limit for boathouse

July 12, 2012

LAKE PLACID - A state Supreme Court judge in Essex County has overturned key parts of a Lake Placid-North Elba Joint Review Board determination that limited the size of a proposed boathouse on Mirror Lake.

But Judge Richard Meyer did determine the review board was acting within its scope by restricting Keith Stoltz's proposed boathouse on Mirror Lake to non-commercial use only.

Meyer's June 25 decision will let Stoltz, a Delaware-based real estate developer, move forward with a boathouse project that's been in limbo for nearly two years. Stoltz's attorney, Jim Brooks of Lake Placid, said his client is pleased with the ruling.

"He plans to go ahead with the project," Brooks said of the boathouse, which hasn't been built yet, "exactly as he proposed to do two years ago."

Ron Briggs, who acted as counsel for the town of North Elba and the Lake Placid-North Elba Code Enforcement Office, said he planned to meet with town officials and discuss Meyer's decision.

"I'll report to them what it means, and we'll discuss what the next steps are for the town, and they'll make a decision on that," Briggs said.

In September 2010, Stoltz filed an application with the review board to build a one-story boathouse on Mirror Lake behind The Alpine Meadow commercial building on Main Street, which he owns. The boathouse's design included one boat slip and a 27-foot long dry boat storage area. The proposed boathouse measured 13.75 feet high and 32 feet long. Under the joint land-use code at the time, boathouses of up to 32 feet in length were allowed on Mirror Lake.

At a Dec. 1, 2011, review board meeting, the board granted the permit but limited the length of the boathouse to 20 feet. It also limited the boathouse to non-commercial use only.

In his decision, Meyer said the primary issue before the court was "whether the JRB's conditions prohibiting commercial use of the boathouse and limiting its length are arbitrary and capricious."

On the issue of commercial use, Meyer ruled that there's "nothing in the record, including the application and evidence submitted by (Stoltz) which indicates that the project was commercial in nature.

"Thus, the condition prohibiting commercial use is not arbitrary or capricious."

Meyer ordered the 20-foot limit to be annulled from the review board's determination. He said that in determining the size of the boathouse, the board "relied upon the undisclosed evidence from the planning office consisting of alleged measurements of other boathouses on the lake."

The board said at the time that a 32-foot boathouse would be "incompatible with the size and scale of existing boathouses on Mirror Lake."

The determination also stated that the boathouse didn't fit into the surrounding landscape and would adversely impact views of the lake and Whiteface Mountain.

Meyer said those determinations were made based upon information that wasn't shared with the developer.

"This 'analysis data' was withheld from (the applicant) and its counsel, over counsel's numerous objections, until after the JRB rendered its determination," the ruling reads.

Meyer said the project applicant didn't have a chance to challenge the planning office's report, and therefore "due process rights were violated by the board's ex parte receipt and consideration" of evidence the board "had no right to consider under the circumstances presented."

Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or cmorris@



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