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Comprehensive plan seeks to deal with aging population

September 19, 2013

LAKE PLACID - As part of the new comprehensive plan for the village of Lake Placid and the town of North Elba, organizers are looking to plan for the increasingly aging population here.

At a public meeting on a draft for the new plan Wednesday night, the heads of seven committees talked about how to deal with the changing demographics in various facets of life.

The current draft of the plan is the result of about two-and-a-half years of work. The Lake Placid North Elba Community Development Board was formed in January 2010, and by the end of the year, board members had decided it was time to update the comprehensive plan.

In 1984, the community put together one such plan to deal with the question of how to proceed in the wake of the 1980 Olympics. In the mid 1990s, organizers started working on another comprehensive plan that was adopted in 1997. It dealt with keeping development in check and making sure it was planned and of high quality.

The community development board looked at this plan when it formed, and board members decided it needed an update.

"We realized that it didn't really address some of the new issues," Dietrich said.

So they decided to update the plan, keeping in mind three main issues: older residents, advancements in technology and the environment.

"We are getting older," Dean Dietrich told the crowd as he opened the presentation Wednesday night. "That's going to generate different needs."

Seven committees were created to look at different aspects of life in the town and village, including government structure and function, economy and tourism, mobility, and housing.

Dietrich is heading up the comprehensive plan effort, and he chaired the Housing Committee. He said his committee wants to use GIS to map the town and figure out what areas currently have senior housing and which areas have other needs.

He said the town should be ready to encourage developers considering building senior housing in the area. Potential buildings should be identified, and someone local should be designated to respond right away to connect those people with potential properties and other resources.

Karen Mergenthaler, who headed up the Economy and Tourism Committee, said her group's plan includes enhancing customer service to meet changing needs in demographics. Bill Borzilleri, head of the Community Facilities Committee, said organizers should look for ways to encourage more intergenerational programs and activities.

At the end of the meeting when Dietrich asked for general comments, Paul Reiss told organizers he is glad they decided to focus on the aging population, which is ballooning due to baby boomers getting into their late 60s. The area is similar to the west coast of Florida in terms of demographics, Reiss said, but not because retirees move here, as is the case in Florida. Instead, it's because the young people leave the area and the older people are left behind, Reiss said.

That means many others won't have people to care for them, Reiss noted. He said that will be even more of a problem as institutions like the Uihlein nursing home reduce the amount of beds they have for the elderly, and more seniors choose to stay at home.

So the community has to act as a larger family and make sure these people can get care in their own homes, Reiss said. The community must also be sure to be as friendly to the elderly as possible in terms of things like sidewalks and transportation, he said.

Another attendee asked if anything was done in the plan to help encourage young families to stay in the area. Dietrich said part of the Housing Committee's concerns dealt with keeping affordable housing. He noted that a number of new teachers are now living in Jay because it's cheaper.

He also said there are some ideas to encourage young entrepreneurs and give them a boost to start up new businesses.

Other concerns addressed in the draft comprehensive plan include how to deal with traffic for large events, making the area more bicycle friendly, increasing recycling and green energy use, consolidating government services, and collaborative planning for things like marketing and grant applications.

The goal of Wednesday night's meeting was to take input on the current plan so the committees could meet and revise the plan. Dietrich said the next step after that would likely be to take it to the local municipalities to get it approved. That process will require public hearings, he said, but this is the best chance to be involved in making changes in the plan.

Dietrich said the plan will need resources and political will to carry it out. Each facet of it will need a group to keep the effort going.

"There has to be a champion," he said.

He said he hopes each committee will function as that champion.

Many of the committee heads said they need more help. Anyone interested in joining the effort should email Dietrich at

To view the draft comprehensive plan, go to



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