Trustees mull future of Sears parking lot

The Saranac Lake Village Board of Trustees staged a public hearing on short notice last night to discuss the future of the Sears parking lot on Main Street.

Saranac Lake businessman Paolo Magro is finalizing a deal this week with the current owners of the Sears building and adjacent parking lot - Phil Vivlamore and Larry Mullen.

Magro told WNBZ he'll pay $885,000 when all is said and done.

The current owners are selling the building and lot after lengthy negotiations with the village fell through last year. Vivlamore and Mullen hoped to strike a new deal with the village regarding the parking lot, which had been open to public use for decades.

But the village balked at an offer to purchase the lot for some $265,000 after their own appraisal assessed its value at just $200,000. Municipalities are bound by law not to pay more than fair market value for properties.

The village also turned down a new lease agreement.

Earlier this year, Magro - who owns the Little Italy pizzeria and the Nonna Fina restaurant - began talks to purchase the Sears property. Now, he says that deal is nearly finished, but he needs help to make the parking lot available to public use.

At Monday's meeting, Magro said his tax payments on the property will reach about $21,000 annually.

Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau says a variety of options are on the table to help Magro, including a new lease agreement, metered parking, or a new taxing district supported by merchants and landowners near the Sears lot.

Trustees are split, however. Some are opposed to creating a new taxing district, while others have questions about installing Lake Placid-style parking meters.

Magro says he's in no hurry to strike a deal, but adds that he'd like to see some progress on the talks in the coming weeks.

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