SARANAC LAKE - The village planning board may be moving closer to a decision on North Country Community College's proposed Lake Flower Avenue Welcome Center.
At a special meeting last week, the board seemed satisfied that college officials and representatives of Cedar Ridge Holdings, a company owned by village Mayor Clyde Rabideau, had answered questions about two key issues surrounding the project: the architectural design of the 4,200-square-foot building and a plan to set it back from the road on a pair of lots Cedar Ridge is under contract to purchase.
Those issues had first been raised at a June pre-application meeting and were the subject of more discussion during the board's first formal public hearing on the project in July.
Susan Rdzanek presents a design sketch of the proposed Welcome Center for North Country Community College at a June meeting of the Saranac Lake Planning Board.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
Planning board members have said the Welcome Center, which would house the college's admissions, financial aid, registration and bursar's offices, would be more visible and more consistent with other Lake Flower Avenue buildings if it was closer to the road with parking behind or next to it, instead of in front of it.
Susan Rdzanek, who has represented Cedar Ridge Holdings at the meetings, has said re-orienting the building is difficult because of setback limits and the dimensions of a proposed road that would run through the properties, connecting Lake Flower and Santanoni avenues. NCCC President Steve Tyrell has said that having the building set back from the road and facing Lake Flower would "create an impression," while putting it along the road would make it look like "another building in a long line of buildings."
"The orientation of the building is critical to their hoped programming for the building, obviously oriented to the lake," village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans said at the board's Aug. 7 meeting. "The second-floor layout has a small conference room proposed toward the front, which would be used for a variety of purposes, and the idea is to take advantage of the lake view."
The college and Cedar Ridge plan to keep the road through the property to village specifications, roughly 50 feet wide, even though the village board recently turned down their request to consider the road as a village street. The planning board had suggested designing the road to narrower private road standards, which would leave more room to reorient the building, but Evans said last week that still won't work unless the building is scaled back.
"Quite frankly, I think they are out of options," he said. "I looked at it various ways with a ruler and standing on the site, and I'm out of options, too. With the constraints of the site and the programmatic needs of the college, it reduces our options."
The architectural design of the Welcome Center was also an issue. Planning board members had questioned the neo-Alpine or modern Adirondack style of the building, which would be light brown or tan with a green roof. They suggested a style and color that would fit in better with neighboring buildings on Lake Flower Avenue.
Evans noted last week, however, that there's a "hodgepodge" of different styles in the village's commercial areas.
"There are plenty of examples of buildings of this proposed color around the village that seem to blend in pretty well," he said.
Evans said the college is considering putting cedar shake siding in the building's gable areas. He said that could help it blend in more with cottages around the village.
Tyrell has said the college plans a series of renovations to its buildings, and this would be the first of many uses of this architectural style and color. He said the color of the Welcome Center would be darker than what is depicted in its initial designs.
Leslie Karasin, chairwoman of the planning board, suggested the college reduce the 13 parking spaces planned in front of the building and put some of them elsewhere on the property. Having the parking lot in front of the building, "in my mind, detracts from the grandeur it seems like the college is going for," Karasin said.
"We certainly can take that under consideration," Tyrell said. "We'd love to do less parking and more green on the front end."
Evans said 13 parking spaces is "not sufficient for the size of the building as an institutional use," although the college may provide additional parking for the facility off-site on its campus.
Planning board member Molly Hann said she was concerned about employees walking down the steep grade of Santanoni Avenue in the winter if there is off-site parking for the facility on the college campus.
Tyrell said the college wants to work with the village to put a sidewalk on that section of Santanoni.
Tyrell said the back-and-forth with the board was beneficial.
"Both conversations really stepped things forward for us tonight," he said.
A public hearing on the project will resume at the board's next meeting, 7 p.m. Aug. 21 in the village offices on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall, 39 Main St.
Rdzanek said she's hopeful a decision will be made.
"We're looking to get it through next time," she said.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.