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Adirondack Park Agency approves Lake Placid housing complex

LAKE PLACID — The state Adirondack Park Agency Board unanimously approved the subdivision of a property on Wesvalley Road for a housing complex on Thursday, July 15.

The decision moves the construction of Fawn Valley one more step closer to execution. It is one of three new housing developments planned in Lake Placid.

Residents near the site are concerned the development will hurt the wetlands and old growth trees there. The developers submitted plans that the APA found satisfactory in minimizing the impact on both natural resources.

APA staff recommend the board approve the project, because they found it would have, “no undue adverse impact on resources of the Park,” according to APA staff member Devan Korn, who presented the project to the board.

Approval came with several conditions on lighting, signage, colors, vegetation removal and planting, plus restrictions on hours of construction.

Developers must stick to their proposed plans for parking, shoreline constraints and wetlands protection, according to the APA’s decision.

There is a brook nearby, an outlet of Lake Placid leading into the Chubb River.

The developers must also control erosion through stormwater and wastewater management, according to the APA’s decision.

The development is across the road from Nash and Acorn streets.

The project

Developers plan to build six single-family homes and four apartment buildings, with four units each — a total of 22 units in all.

The single-family homes will each have a footprint of 781 square feet, be between 26 and 32 feet tall — 1.5 stories — and have two to three bedrooms.

The multi-family apartments will each have a footprint of 1,792 square feet, be between 33 and 42 feet tall — two stories — and have four units with two bedrooms each.

Reason for development

Fawn Ridge LLC is the landowner and Homestead Development Corporation is the developing applicant.

The HDC is a nonprofit organization led by local construction manager Steve Sama, North Elba town Councilwoman Emily Politi, Realtor Whit Bissell, former Lake Placid mayor Jamie Rogers and accountant John Huttlinger Jr. It’s one of three housing developments currently in the works in Lake Placid, and the second planned on Wesvalley Road.

The developers have said they hope this complex will increase available housing for Lake Placid’s service industry workers.

The developer’s target price for the condos is $155,000, or $185,000 for the single-family homes, according to their project application to the town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid’s Joint Review Board.

The town and village joint land use code requires at least three of the Fawn Valley condos to be set aside as low-income housing. “Low income” in this case is defined as a condo with a mortgage that is less than 30% the income of a family of four earning 80% of the area’s median household income, about $45,000 in Essex County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

APA jurisdiction

The APA has jurisdiction for several reasons.

It is a subdivision with wetlands nearby. Some of the structures will be over 40 feet in height. It is partially in a hamlet, the least restrictive land type in the Adirondack Park, but also partially in a moderate intensity use area. The subdivision would also be dense enough in a small lot size to trigger APA jurisdiction.

Wetlands

Wetlands on the southern end of the property have been evaluated by the APA as Class 2 wetlands, the second most protected.

Cathleen Mulvihill on Wesvalley Road wrote a letter to the APA expressing concern that the project will damage wetlands. She said the project site itself is all wetlands and that loons, bears, fox and deer live in the area. She also questioned if the development was needed at all.

“I really do not understand why this Wesvally complex is needed or it justifies development with so many other low income homes are about to be built,” she said.

The developers are planning to keep a vegetative buffer between the project and wetlands. The closest these two would come is 82 feet.

Korn said the developers would control stormwater through the use of pervious pavement, which allows water to flow through it.

An access road and bus shelter would be built in the hamlet portion of the property. A homeowner’s association would be responsible for maintaining parking lots and common spaces. Developers are planning for 1.5 parking spaces per unit, a total of 33 spaces.

APA Board Member Andrea Hogan asked if the HOA will restrict the use of road salt in the parking lot. She expressed concern that the salt will run off with stormwater into the surrounding wetlands and damage them.

Korn said the APA does not have the HOA’s draft documents for maintenance plans. The road leading into the complex will be maintained by the town and treated like all its other roads.

Don Dew Jr., who lives on nearby Chickadee Lane, worried about the traffic impact of the project, saying the road has already gotten busy in recent years. He asked for a traffic study to be done first.

Trees

The project will maintain 22.06 acres of currently vacant forest land and subdivide a 3.09 acre lot for development.

The project will require clearing trees, including old growth white pines. Korn said the developers are trying to save as many as possible and plan to plant more after work is done.

Carol Pinney, who lives at an adjacent home on Chickadee Lane, wrote a letter to the APA asking for developers to spare specific white pines, some of which she said are over 100 years old.

She believes the project as a whole “will change the character and quality of our property.”

HDC agreed to spare the trees Pinney highlighted.

“We don’t want to remove any more trees than absolutely necessary for the development,” Stephen Sama, with HDC, wrote in a response.

The town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid’s Joint Review Board approved the project in March.

The project is exempt from review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The state departments of Conservation, Health and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation still need to review the project.