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Experience Outdoors seeks plan approval, responds to complaints

Entrance to Experience Outdoors on state Route 73 near Lake Placid (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — The owners of Experience Outdoors, a zip line and team building course on Cascade Road, are seeking permission to host live music events at night. Neighbors aren’t happy.

Experience Outdoors owners Marc Doering and Bill Walton have submitted an application to the Lake Placid-North Elba Joint Review Board seeking authorization to host special events three days a month, from May to October. They’re expecting the events to last until 10 p.m. At least one of those events may include the use of the business’s high ropes course, according to the project application, so Doering and Walton have also asked permission to extend the business’s operating hours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. during special events.

As of Thursday, July 8, the review board had received 13 letters from neighbors about Doering and Walton’s request, nearly all of them asking the board to deny it. At a public hearing on the application on Wednesday, July 7, six neighbors complained about the business as it already stands and asked that the application be denied. The majority of the neighbors’ complaints were either related to noise pollution, or what they see as existing code violations.

Doering has denied all allegations of code violations. He said on Tuesday, July 13 that his business has not violated any laws. The review board authorized the business for its current use years ago. Code Enforcement Officer Michael Orticelle said the building department has never received complaints about the property.

Miriam Hadden, an attorney who lives close by, likened Experience Outdoors to a theme park and said it has been a “constant annoyance” over the years. Screaming and ATV noise on the property can be heard from her home “on a daily basis,” she said.

“My husband and I moved to North Elba and chose to purchase a home in North Elba’s Rural Countryside zoning district about seven years ago, because we wanted to live and raise our children in a peaceful, natural environment within a reasonable driving distance of the community, where we could enjoy more urban culture when we chose to,” she said. “We specifically chose not to reside closer to or within the village of Lake Placid so that we could avoid the noise disturbances of the village environment.”

Doering said he wants to work with neighbors.

“We’re not here to make your lives difficult and to keep you up all the time,” he said during the review board’s meeting. “We want to work with you, and we’re trying the best we can. If someone is going down the zip line and they scream, we can’t control that.”

Doering offered to cut down the number of nights the business will host live music to twice or once a month. He also said he’d be willing to only host music on weekends, if neighbors would prefer that.

“Very few of you have ever come over to us and asked, ‘Hey, can you please keep it down?’ You haven’t done that, so we don’t know,” he said. “We can’t read your minds.”

Review Board Chairman Rick Thompson suggested the board table its discussion about the business’s application and consider it at the next review board meeting. Ultimately, that’s what happened. The next review board meeting is on Wednesday, July 21.

Noise complaints

Hadden, both in person on July 7 and in a letter submitted to the review board, said that over the past few years, there have been “multiple occasions” when Experience Outdoors held special events onsite that involved live music until late into the night.

“The music was so loud that it kept my family, including my two very young children, awake late into the night, hours past our usual bedtime,” Hadden said July 7. “This was extremely frustrating.

“I know from these experiences that allowing Experience Outdoors to expand its operations as proposed will significantly disrupt our lives and those of our neighbors,” she added.

Doering said on July 7 that past events have gotten approval from the town. He said on July 13 that his business has only hosted two events ever, both got approval from the town and both were over by 10 p.m. He said his business doesn’t operate for the public past 6 p.m., and if there are people on the property after that, “it’s not in a business capacity, it’s for friends and family.”

David Gomlak, who owns the TMax-n-Topos hostel down the road, said that he’s heard live music from Experience Outdoors at night. Gomlak said he’s concerned about the impact on neighbors.

Gomlak added that he’s received requests for his hostel to host weddings. He wondered if the Experience Outdoors application would set a precedent.

“Would we be allowed to have nighttime events and weddings?” he said.

Neighbors allege code violations

In letters to the board, multiple neighbors alleged that Experience Outdoors has already violated the local land use code. Doering has denied all the allegations.

One neighbor, David Hunter, alleged that the business owners had cut more trees and vegetation on their property than their permit from the Adirondack Park Agency allowed, and in places where they weren’t allowed to cut from. Charles “Chip” Marshall, who sold the Experience Outdoors property to its current owners, wrote the same in his letter to the board.

Doering denied that on July 7.

Hunter also wrote that the business has operated later than allowed. He said neighbors have complained to the APA. Doering has denied operating later than allowed.

Marshall wrote that he was “assured that the land would be used to help kids at risk and not be a commercial operation.”

“My reading of APA codes assured me that both the pristine land and neighborhood would be protected and minimally impacted,” he wrote. “Just the opposite has happened.

“Noise levels were not to be any greater than made by road traffic,” he added. “This once quiet neighborhood now sounds like a major music festival.”

In his letter, Marshall apologized to his neighbors “for how badly this has turned out” and for the way the land is being used.

“I don’t believe that this is what the beautiful Adirondack Park is all about,” he wrote.

Doering said July 13 that Marshall had access to the business’s site plans and knew what they were planning to do.

Hadden said she believes the business’s application, if approved, would violate several provisions of the land use code — even with the business falling under the “open space recreational” conditional use, which the business was granted in 2017. She pointed to a section of the definition of that conditional use, “non-intrusive structures and uses,” as something that stood out to her in relation to this business.

“Nothing about that definition suggests activities involving amplified/live music, or the noise of screaming and ATVs all day long and into the night, which Experience Outdoors’ neighbors have had to tolerate,” she said.

The review board, after reviewing the code, approved the business under the open space recreational conditional use years ago.

Hadden also expressed concern that alcohol would be used at these special events, and said zip lining is already “an inherently dangerous activity to begin with, and perhaps a deadly one when combined with alcohol.”

Doering said July 13 that his business doesn’t allow any sort of alcohol or drug use ever, and it says that on the business’s website.

Hadden also questioned whether the review board could be impartial in rendering its opinion because two of its board members, Experience Outdoors co-owner Bill Walton and Bob Rafferty, had recused themselves from making a decision on this application.

She also pointed out that the business is already advertising itself as a wedding venue on its website. Orticelle, the code enforcement officer, said “there’s no such thing as a wedding permit.”