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Planning for the future

Town of North Elba hires its first community development director

North Elba Town Hall (News photo — Matthew Turner)

LAKE PLACID — Members of the North Elba Town Council unanimously approved the hiring of Haley Breen as the town’s first-ever community development director on Tuesday evening, Feb. 9, during their monthly meeting. The next day, she was on the job.

Breen was recommended by the Lake Placid/North Elba Community Development Commission’s ad hoc Development Director Group, consisting of Community Development Commission Chairman Dean Dietrich, town Councilor Emily Politi, Lake Placid village Mayor Craig Randall, village Trustee Art Devlin, Peter Roland and Kate Thompson.

“She is a soon to be graduate of Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) with a Master of Public Affairs and a concentration in environmental policy,” Politi wrote in an email Tuesday after the vote. “She starts tomorrow and one of her first tasks will be to write a press release announcing herself.”

Breen grew up in Connecticut, graduated from Wheaton College in Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and will graduate from Cornell in May.

“I definitely wanted to live in a place like this,” Breen said Wednesday. “I grew up in a smaller, rural town. … This is the kind of community I see myself living in long-term.”

Breen said one of the first topics she is tackling is the land-use code, researching parts of it and making some recommendations, including some environmental aspects.

Her job description includes maintaining and updating the Comprehensive Plan; initiating and coordinating activities to implement the Comprehensive Plan; coordinating the publication of information for the town and the village of Lake Placid; providing advice and assistance for projects related to community development as requested by the town and village boards; and monitoring and applying for grant funding opportunities.

Typical work activities include providing administrative support to the Community Development Commission; acting as chair and providing administrative support to the Joint Community Housing Committee; acting as chair and providing administrative support to the Appearance Committee; providing support to ad hoc committees of the Community Development Commission; serving as a representative to regional and local planning efforts; and developing partnerships with relevant institutions. Breen is expected to participate in public information officer training.

The community development director is a full-time town employee with a starting salary of $50,000 plus benefits.

Events approved

Town Council members Tuesday also approved requests for four events scheduled to take place later this year: the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon on July 25; Lake Placid Marathon and Half on Sept. 12; American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walk on Sept. 19 around Mirror Lake; and the Lake Placid Classic half-marathon and 10K on Oct. 9. The Lake Placid Marathon is normally held on the second Sunday of June.

Town Supervisor Jay Rand said these events would be subject to public safety requirements during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I just want to clarify that this is not a green light for these events,” Rand said. “Certainly, if it is possible to have them, it will depend on all safety and health requirements and subject to the Essex County Health Department, state rules and regulations. … All this is basically saying, if there are no issues as we move forward, that the dates are good to go.”

Northwood Road sidewalk

Town Council members were questioned Tuesday by Peggy Dennin about the possibility of installing a sidewalk on Northwood Road, which connects Mirror Lake Drive with state Route 86 (Wilmington Road).

“I live on Cobble Hill Road and often use the Northwood Road for walking purposes,” Dennin said. “There’s a lot of traffic on Northwood Road, and there are a lot of pedestrians, especially of late.”

Dennin said her biggest concern for safety is the big hill with the curve after passing Northwood School toward Route 86.

“Are there a lot of households that you have spoken with that are interested in this?” Rand asked Dennin.

No official petition has been collected for a sidewalk on Northwood Road, and Dennin said, due to the pandemic and colder weather, she has not been out asking neighbors what they feel about having a sidewalk. Her questions to the town board were “exploratory.”

“I say it’s exploratory because I’ve experienced it personally,” Dennin said. “I’m going on what I see, mostly.”

One possibility to pay for a new sidewalk is to create a sidewalk district, town officials said. Currently there are no sidewalk districts within the town.

“All of the costs of the improvements within the district would be assessed to the properties located within the district,” town attorney Ron Briggs said.

The Town Council doesn’t need a petition from the public; it could decide on its own to create a sidewalk district to install the sidewalk, according to Briggs.

Town officials would have to consider drainage, which is on both sides of the road, and maintenance, according to Councilor Derek Doty said. Then they would have to consider whether the sidewalk could be built within the right of way or whether it would have to be built on private property.

“The whole idea of the sidewalk is to stay within the town’s right of way,” Doty said.

Construction of a sidewalk from Mirror Lake Drive to Cobble Hill Road would cost about $300,000, according to preliminary estimates, Doty said, not including ditch work, diverting water, repaving and engineering.

Honoring Natalie Leduc

Town Council members also passed a resolution honoring Saranac Lake native Natalie Leduc, who died on Dec. 8 at the age of 90. She had been living at Saranac Village at Will Rogers in Saranac Lake, which is located in the North Elba portion of Saranac Lake.

The resolution, titled “atomic energy,” said Leduc exhibited care and compassion for her fellow citizens and the well-being of the village of Saranac Lake.

“She was a ‘feisty booster’ of skiing — having competed in both Nordic and Alpine skiing, winning many races including the 1948 women’s state slalom championships, attended and skied for St. Lawrence University, was a founding member of the international skiing history association, and dedicated 40 years of her life to teaching generations of people how to ski at Mount Pisgah.”

The resolution called her a “pillar of Saranac Lake” for her dedication as a genuine promoter, having unparalleled knowledge of its history and ability to tell stories in a fascinating way that held everyone’s attention throughout her life.

“She is well remembered for her volunteer work at the Pine Ridge Cemetery having received a medal in 2018 from the Norwegian government for her care of their countrymen’s resting place,” the resolution stated. “All that knew her will remember her as a tough, hard working pioneer woman who never took no for an answer.”