By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
Three sets of regulations enacted in the Town of Lake George over the last several years are paving the way for what may be a new wave of development, especially in the commercial corridor along Route 9.
This includes a potential high-impact multi-use development on the former Water Slide World property, which “has a buyer,” Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson told The Chronicle on Monday.
Separately, developer and electrical contractor Joe Gross has proposed a 99-unit apartment complex with commercial space at his former Ramada Inn and some surrounding properties.
The Water Slide World property could be a mixed-use development, potentially with what Mr. Dickinson described as “60 high-end apartments,” for year-round or long term monthly rentals.
“It would be the largest project Lake George has seen, maybe ever,” said Dan Barusch, the town Planning and Zoning Director.
The new zoning laws ease regulations on existing tourist accommodations looking to upgrade; allows greater flexibility in configuring large-scale, integrated Planned Unit Development or PUDs; and limit short term rentals such as AirBnB.
Mr. Dickinson said the Town “tweaked” its zoning laws to encourage existing motels or multi unit cottage colonies to upgrade their facilities rather than sub-divide for private homes, so long as they can upgrade stormwater and sewer or septic systems — “all the environmental bases,” he said.
The PUD regulations double density limitations in the targeted Route 9 corridor “TCA zone” — Tourist Commercial Accommodations, Mr. Barusch said.
Such development, meeting environmental requirements, is pre-approved by the Adirondack Park Agency.
“So,” Mr. Barusch says, “we are telling people to come in and develop mixed use properties in a smart growth format.”
The aim, says Mr. Dickinson: “To help aging properties to upgrade without subdividing, to maintain tourist accommodations and to keep this as a resort community.”
He points to Bolton, which has become “more of a summer bedroom community,” as what Lake George hopes to avoid.
“We want people to come here, drop their bags in the unit and go to the Great Escape, out on the boats, to dinner, then go back the next day and do something else.”
Mr. Barusch said, “Existing law did not give opportunities to existing properties to redevelop. It was leading to purchasing and conversion to residential homes and subdivisions. We are trying to mitigate that, allowing older, primarily non-compliant properties to redevelop with the same density they had.”
“Specific to new tourist accommodations,” he said, “we changed the formula” to allow, for example, multi-level development, by easing density regulations.
“This is intended to save or ameliorate the woes of aging tourist accommodations, to preserve the hotel and motel stock,” while also “fending off the sheer volume of short term rentals.”
Mr. Barusch calls Lake George’s regulation of short term rentals “very robust” and “extremely successful,” in limiting properties to commercial zones, restricting them from residential areas.
He said the goal is “equity,” for lodging endeavors that are essentially commercial but avoid regulations required of hotels and motels.
“There are also issues at the local level of maintaining housing stock, quality of life,” Mr. Barusch added. “Converting homes to short term rentals leaves dark areas. We lose heads in schools, with fewer young families.”
“We want to drive up housing and rental stock, to enhance the community character, and really make this a year-round community. The town is growing, and we are looking to grow it responsibly.
“We want people to move here, families and kids, offices, health care, places to work year-round. In a matter of 20 years, Route 9 could look quite different.”
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