SARANAC LAKE - The state Adirondack Park Agency has approved the town of Harrietstown's plan to replace a retaining wall behind the town hall that was damaged during the spring 2011 flood.
APA commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to grant the town a variance, which was needed because the project is located along the Saranac River and because the town plans to increase the height of the retaining wall by 3 to 4 feet.
Agency planner Tracy Darrah told commissioners that the wall is being built higher due to state building code requirements and the need to improve flood protection behind the town hall. She showed the board pictures of the spring 2011 floods, when the river, fueled by a combination of heavy rains and snowmelt, climbed over its banks, flooded the adjacent River Walk and eroded portions of the existing stone and concrete retaining wall.
A worker stands on a retaining wall behind the Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake on April 27, 2011, during the flooding of the Saranac River that spring. The retaining wall was damaged in the floods and the town received a variance from the APA Thursday to replace it.
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Knight)
The current, 100-year-old retaining wall will be replaced with one made of Redi-Rock, similar to the blocks used in new retaining walls along Old Military Road in Lake Placid. The town also plans to add a 15-foot-long section of concrete wall at the south end of the current retaining wall, connecting it to the LaPan Highway bridge abutment, build a concrete ramp to provide access to the existing sidewalk and add 400 feet of stone riprap at the base of the new retaining wall.
Darrah said a public hearing was held on the variance application on Sept. 24, and no comments were received. The agency received no letters about the project, she added.
APA Commissioner Sherman Craig asked if the need for a variance delayed the town's construction timeline.
"We worked very closely with the town in terms of coordinating our review and getting it to the board as quick as possible," Darrah said. "This is probably the quickest variance I've ever brought to the board."
Craig noted that crews have been working to repair retaining walls damaged in the same floods on the other side of the highway, in the village's Hydro Point Park. He asked if that work required a variance. Darrah said it didn't because the construction is taking place in the same footprint, and no height increase in the existing retaining walls is planned.
Construction of the new retaining wall behind the town hall is expected to take place next spring. The town is still awaiting approvals from the state Transportation and Environmental Conservation departments, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
North Woods Engineering has estimated the project could cost $365,000. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to cover a small portion of that cost, and town officials have talked about borrowing money to pay for the rest.
In other business Thursday, APA commissioners approved a proposal from AT&T to locate a cell panel array on the roof of the Crowne Plaza hotel in Lake Placid.
AT&T's array, which will include nine panels, each 8 feet tall, hidden behind a series of gables that will be built on the roof. The gables will also hide a Verizon cell panel array that the agency approved in March 2011 but has yet to be installed.
There was little discussion about the project. It was brought to the board because APA Commissioner Arthur Lussi's family owns the Crowne Plaza.
"The only reason we're looking at this is in the interest of transparency," said APA Chairwoman Lani Ulrich. "Anything that involves a board member or a staff member comes before the board."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.