Recap: April 26 Saranac Lake Village Board Meeting

The village board met on April 26 at 5:30 p.m. for a regularly scheduled board meeting. Village Trustee Tom Catillaz was absent. The full meeting packet, which includes the agenda, can be found here.

The Big News

The board unanimously approved Bill 24, which authorized the purchase of a RentalScape subscription. The bill was amended to only authorize the purchase of the RentalScape system setup, which will give the village accurate and up-to-date information on short-term rentals within village boundaries. This will cost the village $3,500 for the first year.

Originally, Bill 24 called for the purchase of three RentalScape modules—System Setup, Public Outreach & Education, Tracking of Licensing & Permit Status—for a first-year cost of $7,500.

Our Takeaways

  • Four members of the public used the public comment period to voice their opinions on short-term rental regulation. Three urged caution and called for more public input before the village makes a decision. One speaker proposed instituting a cap on short-term rental permits the village issues.
  • Village Trustee Melinda Little said the board received several comments from members of the public, but their correspondence was not included in the agenda packet on the village website because they were not received before noon on Thursday, April 22.
  • It is unclear when the village will revisit the issue of short-term rental permits. There is a public input session on short-term rentals scheduled at the Harrietstown town hall on Wednesday, April 28, from 5–6:30 p.m.
  • Rabideau recused himself from voting on Bill 24, as he is part-owner of a short-term rental property.
  • While he did recuse himself, Rabideau dominated much of the discussion on Bill 24. His comments included a prolonged statement about Freedom Of Information Law (FOIL) requests and how the village conducts business. We recommend readers watch this portion of the meeting, as his comments are difficult to characterize with the written word.
  • Rabideau asked Community Development Director Jamie Konkoski to read an email into the public record during the discussion portion of Bill 24. The email claimed AirDNA.co would not provide the village with sufficient information on short-term rentals.

Housing Working Group Update

  • Rabideau asked Little to provide information about the village’s Housing Working Group, which was established in December 2018.
  • Little stated that the working group has prepared several strategies and recommendations for the village board, which will be made publicly available in June.
  • Mayor Rabideau appeared to be unaware that the Housing Working Group does not meet publicly, as he assumed information about the Housing Working Group’s next meeting would be available on the village website.
  • The Housing Working Group’s next meeting will be held at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 28, on Zoom. Little said the working group has “always been welcoming” and invited members of the public to join the call.
  • While members of the public have been invited to participate in Wednesday’s called, Little suggested members of the public might be better off waiting until June to participate as the Working Group is “pretty far” into the discussion.
  • Rabideau compared the Housing Working Group to ad hoc committees like the Downtown Advisory Board; however, unlike other village ad hoc committees, the Housing Working Group meeting agendas, meetings, and other information have never been published on the village website.

Beyond Short-Term Rentals

  • One member of the public used the public comment period to raise awareness about a COVID-19 vaccination clinic happening this Thursday, April 29, from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Their goal is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
  • One member of the public asked what the village was doing about a portion of the Riverwalk near the Dorsey Street parking lot that has been removed and blocked off by a private landowner.
  • Bills 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30 passed unanimously.
  • Before voting on Bill 28, the village board acknowledged that there was no money in the budget designated for the bronze Saranac Lake Walk Of Fame plaque. It is unclear how the plaque honoring Leslie Hoffman will be paid for.

New Business

  • Village Trustee Rich Shapiro raised three items in the new business portion of the meeting.
  • His first item was a thank you to the Department of Public Works for replacing a speed limit sign on Kiwassa Road.
  • His second item was to ask about moving forward with one or two stop signs on Kiwassa Road to slow down traffic. Village Manager John Sweeney said he would follow up with the DPW about new stop signs.
  • His third and most contentious item centered around parking and traffic issues at Moody Pond and the Mount Baker trailhead. Shapiro proposed forming an ad hoc committee with representatives from the village of Saranac Lake, town of St. Armand, Department of Environmental Conservation, and residents of the neighborhood.
  • Rabideau lauded Trustee Shapiro’s “noble intent” but stated he was hesitant to get involved with matters outside the village line. He emphasized the need for there to be “shared responsibility” and appeared to imply the village was taking on more responsibility than other stakeholders, citing that village residents living in St. Armand pay taxes to St. Armand. Rabideau claimed the village pays to have all of Forest Hill Road cleaned and plowed, even portions of the road outside of village limits.
  • Little supported the formation of the ad hoc committee.