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APA approves Wesvalley Road apartment complex

LAKE PLACID — The state Adirondack Park Agency board unanimously approved a project for a supposedly affordable housing complex on Wesvalley Road at its monthly meeting Thursday, Feb. 11.

MacKenzie Outlook is a proposed apartment building to be constructed by Ardsley-based Regan Development, with monthly rental rates expected to be in the range of $691 to $996 per month.

This project is on land classified as hamlet — the most lenient APA category — but APA jurisdiction was triggered for several reasons. The proposed building is over 40 feet tall, there were several public comment concerns about the project brought forward last year, and one of the board members is involved in the project, which APA board member Dan Wilt said defaults to the APA getting involved.

The land the project is on is owned by the Lake Placid Vacation Corp., a company owned by APA board member Art Lussi’s family. The company donated the land to the developers after getting the parcel rezoned from “vacant commercial/village center” to “planned development” last year. The Lussi family also owns the Crowne Plaza hotel nearby. Lussi recused himself from the discussion and vote on the project.

APA employee Devan Korn presented the project to the board, saying the agency staff recommended approval of the project, with conditions.

“The town and village have identified a need for an increase of available housing,” Korn said. “They cited factors such as an increase in short-term rentals and increased cost of living. The hope is that this project will provide long-term housing for community residents.”

He said APA staff found the project to have “no undue adverse impact on resources of the park” and that the conditions were mostly that developers follow the proposed plans exactly as written.

The development is proposed to sit on a 3.17-acre plot of currently undeveloped, forested land on the east side of Wesvalley Road, between the road and the Crowne Plaza hotel. The Olympic Center is also nearby, behind the development site.

The proposed development is a four-story, 60-unit, 18,538-square-foot, residential building that would be 317 feet long, 58 feet wide and 59 feet tall, as measured from lowest grade to highest point on the building. It would be set into the hill, creating a height of three stories in the rear.

It would consist of 40 one-bedroom units and 20 two-bedroom units with one apartment set aside for the building superintendent.

Members of an adjoining homeowners association sent the APA two letters of concern about height and location of the structure, as well as parking and traffic impacts.

Korn said the APA took these into consideration. He said a taller structure means less ground disturbance, building up instead of out, so the height was maintained. He said the development will be separated from the homes by several hundred feet of vegetation.

He said the proposed 75 parking spaces was increased to 90, meeting the land use code requirement. This includes eight handicapped parking stalls.

“A traffic study for the project found that the traffic generated from the use and development will not significantly impact area intersections,” Korn said.

APA board member Andrea Hogan asked if staff studied a possible increase in traffic on Wesvalley Road if a recent proposal to temporarily create one-way traffic on Main Street, due to a major infrastructure reconstruction project, is put into action. Korn said the APA’s traffic report was based on “as is” conditions, not potential traffic changes.

He said the North Elba-Lake Placid Joint Review Board unanimously approved the project in October 2020.

This area is served by existing village water, village sewer and village electric.

Significant grading one the street side of the building will be needed, so the APA has a condition that developers plant vegetation to account for the new slopes.

The Jackrabbit Trail from McKenzie Pond cuts through the property where it enters Lake Placid. Korn said the cross-country ski trail will need to be rerouted and regraded to avoid the project site.

APA board member Zoe Smith, whose husband Jason Smith works with the Barkeater Trails Alliance that manages the Jackrabbit Trail, said she sees this as a good thing.

“BETA is always looking for opportunities to improve their trails,” Smith said. “This is just my opinion, but I think that to be able to regrade and to relocate in a busy, kind of urban-y area like this is probably good opportunity for them.”

Regan Development is estimating the project will take $18.1 million to develop — $13 million for construction plus soft costs.

Regan Development is seeking additional funding through the state Department of Homes and Community Renewal program and a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement.