Lake Placid village board approves Dark Sky committee

This NASA image is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite from April 18 to Oct. 23, 2012. It shows the Northeast United States and parts of Ontario and Quebec in Canada from space at night. Bright lights from cities along the eastern seaboard, such as New York City and Boston, and Canadian cities such as Montreal and Toronto are in stark contrast to the blue chunk in northern New York, which is the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park. The brightest dots in the Park are from the Tri-Lakes villages of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake and the hamlet of Ray Brook, which has two prisons. (Provided photo — NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC)

LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Feb. 6 voted unanimously to create an official Dark Skies committee to lead the village’s effort to become a Dark Sky-certified community, a designation that could establish Lake Placid as a premier “astrotourism” destination on the East Coast.

To become a certified Dark Sky Place, light pollution must fall under a certain threshold.

This would potentially require changes to village, town, residential and Olympic venue site lighting, as well as code changes.

Mayor Art Devlin said that he wanted to look into the village’s desire for such a certification before moving forward.

“I’m not ready to say that, and I don’t believe the town is,” he said.

The board’s approval of the standing committee does not officially express the village’s desire to become a Dark Sky community, but rather gives the committee the power to take the exploration process forward.

“They’re looking to be empowered to kind of take it to the next level and see what they can do,” Trustee Marc Galvin said.

One of the biggest obstacles to achieving the designation is the state Olympic Regional Development Authority’s sites, such as the Olympic Speedskating Oval, which is brightly lit at night until it closes at 11 p.m., as well as the bobsled run, which stays lit during the night.

According to Galvin, whose wife Sarah is on the committee, the group has put in “hours and hours” of work already to explore obstacles and possibilities in seeking designation.

Devlin also expressed that he wasn’t sure how much of the village took issue with ORDA’s lighting, to which Galvin replied that many residents do.

“I’ve heard a lot more people say they don’t like it than do,” Galvin said.

Trustee Katie Brennan added that what the committee is asking for is a bit of a gray area, but that technically they want “permission to explore this.”

The board did approve a committee but tabled a second resolution to officially apply the village for Dark Sky certification, opting instead to meet with the North Elba Town Council and ORDA representatives before allowing the mayor to sign off on behalf of the village.

Public hearing

Before the board’s regular meeting, a public hearing on a local law allowing members of the Lake Placid Village Board to attend meetings via livestream got off to an unusual start Tuesday when a presentation screen in the meeting room would not stop playing the 2014 romantic comedy “They Came Together,” which delayed the hearing.

After moving upstairs and setting up a Zoom call for the public, the village board started its public hearing in earnest, which drew no public comment.

There seemed to be some misunderstanding among board members on how to interpret New York’s law, which states that if a board member is unable to attend a meeting in person due to extraordinary circumstances, such as “disability, illness, caregiving responsibilities or any other significant or unexpected factor or event,” they can attend via videoconference.

However, they must notify the mayor at least four days before the meeting so the public can be given “proper notice.”

If the board is holding a quorum, where voting on village matters takes place, remote members cannot count toward any votes unless they make their location known and open to the public. For example, if a trustee was in Albany but wanted to actively participate and vote remotely, they would need to give their address to the public and allow anyone to join them from their physical location to count. After some discussion, the board unanimously approved the law.

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