A decision was made to place a new (additional) reservoir on Pisgah as part of the $12 million water upgrade project for the village of Saranac Lake. I am not certain why that site was selected, and I assume most of the public is uncertain as well. However, when the decision was made to locate the reservoir there, it is reasonable to assume that village officials had considered access, distribution lines and the easements to make that happen.
Recently, it has become clear to the public that site-preparation work has begun on Pisgah for the new water reservoir. Village residents have read in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that this work has begun without the village obtaining the necessary easement(s) from the American Management Association.
So, the village is desirous of an easement from the AMA. In fact, I would now say that the village REALLY desires that easement.
The village proposes to bring the main water distribution line from the new reservoir down to the main road on the AMA property (known as AMA Way) toward Park Avenue.
The AMA had prepared an easement agreement. But that easement agreement was tied to an additional agreement to annex the AMA property into the village of Saranac Lake. In the annexation agreement, the AMA requires the village to meet the following terms:
-In conjunction with the village's installation of its water lines in the bed of AMA Way, the village shall, at its expense, restore the surface of the road and make any improvements necessary so that AMA Way will satisfy the requirements to be a public road. In the event that AMA Way is subsequently dedicated to the village as a public road, then the village shall, at its expense, satisfy any further requirements for a public road.
-The village shall, at its expense, install a new underground 8-inch water line or lines, to be connected to AMA's existing fire-suppression system.
-The village shall install a new underground water lateral line to the Doctors' Inn property line. The Doctors' Inn property abuts the property but is no longer owned by AMA.
-During its work on the installation of the water distribution lines, the village will perform any sewer-related work that is reasonable at that time and particular location. Upon annexation of the property, the village shall assume all responsibility for the main sewer lines now or hereafter located under AMA Way.
-Upon annexation, the village shall assume sole responsibility for those sections of AMA's existing sanitary sewer system that are determined to be main collection lines or that are located under AMA Way. Promptly after the execution of the agreement, the village shall install sewer manholes on the west side of AMA Way, and AMA shall connect its sewer lines from its buildings on the property to those sewer manholes.
-Promptly after the execution of the agreement, the village shall amend the village land-use code by creating a planned unit development (PUD) zoning classification, for which the AMA property will be eligible. Upon the annexation of the property into the village, the village shall promptly zone the AMA property as a PUD. The village agrees that it will not oppose AMA's actions to withdraw the property from the village (if there previously was an annexation) in the event that the village is unable to zone the property as a PUD.
-Following the annexation by the village, and for as long as AMA owns the property (or a part thereof), the property (or the retained part, as the case may be) shall be exempt from the imposition of any village real estate taxes or any village payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT).
On Sept. 12, concerned village residents attended the village board meeting. During the public comment period at that meeting, Mayor Rabideau maintained that the board was not there to answer any questions or concerns, but was there only to listen. This practice only serves to frustrate residents as they seek answers so they can understand the issues and, if required, voice their concerns and beliefs to their elected representatives. Public education on the AMA agreement was further hampered by the unavailability of that agreement and appendices. It was not on the village website, or available to attendees at the meeting. Those documents can now be found at: www.slrealgov.com.
The AMA is a valued business in our community, and we are grateful for the local jobs it provides. Likewise, most of us understand that our elected village officials and village administrative staff are working on our behalf. However, it does not mean the public will always agree with their decisions or that the methods they employ are sound. It is more than a right to question these decisions and methods; it is a responsibility.
In this situation, there are many questions. I would encourage our village mayor and board to consider them and speak to the public before anyone rushes ahead further.
-Why was Mount Pisgah chosen as the site?
-How much have we invested so far in engineering and site prep for the new reservoir?
-Can the village take the main line direct to Route 3 and follow the existing village easement there?
-Can the village legally guarantee a PUD (land-use code amendment) by agreement and prior to any development plans being submitted for review?
-If a PUD is NOT granted to the property at a later date, can the village afford to turn over all those infrastructure upgrades provided to the property, when the AMA withdraws from an annexation?
-Since the village will receive no revenue in the form of taxes or a PILOT from the AMA, or until portions of the property are sold to private developers, why would we invest so much taxpayer money?
-Why have we NOT offered similar deals to other village annexations (Stevenson Lane and Dahinda Road)?
-What are the actual calculated costs for:
a. placing the water line under AMA Way
b. supplying an 8-inch line for the property's fire-suppression system
c. providing a lateral water line to the Doctor's Inn property
d. repairing and replacing water lines, laterals, sewer lines and bringing the road (AMA Way) up to current code?
When you calculate all these costs and risks, then the village taxpayers will truly understand the total cost for the proposed easement through the AMA property.
Ray Scollin lives in Saranac Lake.