New York: Town’s Green Gateway Project Among State’s Best
Route 9, the historic approach to Lake George from the south, is a Cubist collage of miniature golf courses, plastic palm trees, a water slide park and the country’s oldest Howard Johnson’s restaurant.
In other words, it looks like much of the rest of America, especially with the recent proliferation of brand-name hotels and retail stores.
Lake George’s Supervisor, Dennis Dickinson, envisions the entrance to Lake George as something better.
“It’s the gateway to the Adirondacks,” he says. “That should be the image we project. As of now, it’s a six-lane highway that resembles the Northway. It’s unsafe and it’s unsightly.”
For the past few years, the town has been discussing a plan to transform the Route 9 corridor into a safer, greener, more attractive highway, one befitting the gateway to the Adirondack Park and according to Dickinson, one that will control traffic by slowing it down.
The project has now won the enthusiastic support of New York State officials.
“It’s a six million to seven million dollar project, but we’re confident that it will receive substantial, significant support from New York State,” said Supervisor Dennis Dickinson.
According to Dickinson, a Department of Transportation region planning manager informed the town last week that the design phase of the project has been selected to receive immediate funding.
The town will be reimbursed for all expenses related to the design and engineering of the project, which could be as much as one million dollars, said Dickinson.
A grant worth $544,500, awarded to the town last year for a conceptual project, could possibly be used to meet the town’s initial expenses, Dickinson said, but added that town officials are still in the process of discussing that possibility with state officials.
The state’s commitment to reimburse us for the design of the project is significant, because it’s a sign that it will be with us as proceed to actual construction,” Dickinson said.
Among all projects of a similar nature across the state, Lake George’s Gateway plan best met the criteria outlined in a strategy to make the state’s highways more sustainable, said Dickinson.
“The project protects the environment, supports the economy and promotes the safety of the public. That’s the kind of project the state want to fund,” said Dickinson.
Elements likely to be incorporated into the project include a median of trees and vegetation, storm water management systems, sidewalks, bike trails and better signage.
The Town has issued state-required Requests for Proposals from firms to design the project, said Dickinson.
According to Keith Oborne, the town’s director of planning and zoning, engineering and design work are expected to be completed next year, with construction starting in 2015.
According to Dickinson, the renovation of the Route 9 corridor will coincide with the drafting of the town’s new comprehensive plan, which will promote the redevelopment of properties within the corridor.
“Our zoning has always allowed for residential development, but businesses have not been given an opportunity to grow. We’ll do our planning with an eye toward re-development in the commercial zones,” said Dickinson.
According to Dickinson, a well-crafted zoning code can not only channel development to appropriate areas and discourage ill-considered development, but provide incentives for investors.
“I want our zoning to help drive our future,” Dickinson said.
Among other things, the code can encourage developers to rebuild motels with larger units and more amenities to accommodate the tastes of modern travelers, he said.
“We’d say, you can have any configuration of units, but you have to construct green buildings, reduce your carbon footprint, create permeable parking surfaces, manage your storm water and upgrade your water and septic systems,” said Dickinson. “We’d strengthen environmental protections while making it possible for investors to realize reasonable returns.”
Dickinson said the code should also encourage the development of new businesses and activities, such as a Zip-line, which Ralph Macchio has proposed for his Wild West Ranch.
“If that’s what it takes to draw people here, I’m all for it,” said Dickinson.
Lake George Village’s Board of Trustees hopes to extend the medians and sidewalks into the village once the town’s plan is implemented, said Mayor Bob Blais.
“It will provide a smooth, visual transition into the Village, which is undergoing its own redevelopment as taller buildings are constructed and new design standards are followed,” said Blais.
Blais said that Lake George Village has already applied for a grant to improve the streetscape from McGillis Avenue south to the Town line. Plans call for new sidewalks and a median of trees and vegetation.