TUPPER LAKE - Directors of the Adirondack Public Observatory are hoping to start construction in the spring.
Keith Wells, president of the APO Executive Board, and Kurt Bedore, a Tupper Lake native who now lives in Burnt Hills and has been hired to draw up the plans for the project, gave a presentation to the planning board Wednesday night.
Wells said APO directors are trying to make sure their plans are sustainable, so they're working on a phased approach to the project.
Keith Wells, president of the Adirondack Public Observatory Executive Board, tells the Tupper Lake planning board about plans for constructing a roll-off-roof observatory.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
In the first phase, they're looking to build a roll-off-roof observatory. They just got back a draft permit on that phase from the state Adirondack Park Agency with no comments, and they are now looking for planning board approval, Bedore said.
The roll-off-roof observatory will be smaller than the planned main observatory. There will be a small heated control room for the computers, but the main observatory area will not be heated, since the telescope has to be the same temperature as the outside in order to work correctly, Wells said.
"It's pretty simple and straightforward," Bedore said.
He said his group is looking for site plan approval for phase one from the planning board, so they're hoping to schedule a public hearing soon.
Planning board members had a few questions about siding, lighting and other details, which Wells said would become clear with detailed plans which they plan to submit soon. Planning board Chairman Jim Larkin told him to do that; then planning board members could take a look at the plans and schedule a hearing.
The APO will also need a variance from the local zoning board since there's a 500-foot buffer zone required in the town code. The distance between the observatory buildings and a neighboring property is slightly less than that - maybe 475 feet, Bedore said.
Though the observatory group is not yet looking for approval for phase two, Bedore gave a brief overview of conceptual plans for that phase. It includes a state-of-the-art, 19,000-square-foot, three-story, research-grade observatory with classrooms, conference rooms, a museum and a gift shop.
On the whole site, they plan to use Adirondack rustic-style siding and decorations.
"We believe it's the right project for Tupper Lake at the right time," Bedore said.
He said the observatory is meant to complement The Wild Center. The ideal would be for people to come to Tupper Lake, visit The Wild Center, spend the night, then come to the Adirondack Public Observatory.
Bedore noted that Tupper Lake has relatively dark skies, in part because it's surrounded by mountains screening out light from nearby metropolitan areas and in part because APO founder Mark Staves has made it a goal to use cut-off lighting throughout the village.
For more information on the APO, go to www.apobservatory.org.