Lakeside development prompts dissent

BRANT LAKE A recent variance request made to the town Zoning Board of Appeals has sparked controversy among many residents. The plan to tear down the century-old Briarcliff Manor Hotel on Palisades Rd. and construct two multi-family townhouses on the original footprint is seen by some citizens as as an attack on the variance process itself. The property is owned by Pine Tree Property Partners, LLC of Horicon. According to town officials, Horicon zoning laws require 6.4 acres in order to construct a 12-bedroom complex as proposed by the developers. The plot where Briarcliff Manor now sits in disrepair consists of only 1.1 acres, according to ZBA documents. Each of the four units will be approximately 863 square feet in interior space. Last months ZBA meeting did not adjourn until after midnight due to public discontent and debate over the project. In the variance application submitted June 11 by Erin Hayes, a local attorney and principal of the Partners group, the property is undesirable and cost prohibitive if only a single family dwelling can be constructed. We are seeking to improve the neighborhood, Hayes said Monday. We will replace a building sitting in disrepair with a contemporary Adirondack structure. The application states that in addition to the structure, storm water and waste water systems will be installed to reduce the negative environmental impacts of the lakeside complex. The project documents suggest that Hayes is not alone in her belief that the project would be beneficial to the community. A total of 72 identical statements have been submitted by local residents to the town in support of the project. The statement of support consists of three clauses, arguing that the impact on the community and environment would not be detrimental. The statement claims that the environmental impact of the structure would be reduced because a decrease of total occupants and updated energy and waste technology additions. However, many citizens find these assertions flawed if not detrimental. If granted, this variance would set a precedent, said Palisades Rd. resident Peter Beletti. There are several other properties waiting in the wings for development, he said. Its an attack on the variance process itself. Long-time Brant Lake resident Judith Bertonneau refuted the claim that the actual occupancy would be decreased by the proposed project. Bertonneau said that she has been driving by Briarcliff on a daily basis for more than 25 years and rarely observed anyone there. They are trying to circumvent the facts by calling it a hotel, Bertonneau said of the developers. It was rarely occupied by anyone and never full. There have been more than a dozen statements submitted to the ZBA arguing against the project. Many argued that the impact on the lake itself would be detrimental to the environment, while others find the potential precedent to be a slippery slope leading to an over-developed waterfront. The Adirondack Council is among the dissenters, arguing that the occupancy would increase if the project is allowed to proceed because the current hotel has not been in use for many years. The groups statement was signed by Conservation Director John Davis. The statement said the development of Briarcliff would unnecessarily increase shoreline development and would likely lead to degradation of water quality. Hayes finds these claims to be unconvincing. Each variance request is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, she said. This would not set a precedent.

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