More than 50 area residents packed the usually quiet Santa Clara Town Hall for the August town board meeting. Discussion among the board focused on topics including residentially zoned property, short-term rentals, marina regulations, and the Deerwood subdivision.
A large contingency of the audience utilized the open discussion opportunity to express concerns over protecting water quality, environmental impacts, and maintaining an aesthetic and social balance of watershed uses. Attendees implored the town board to enforce its current land use codes, expressing displeasure in excessive noise, large gatherings, development, navigational concerns, and even fireworks.
Camp Iroquois: Much of the discussion focused on Camp Iroquois, once a private residence that is now being used as a private luxury resort. Advertising for the camp promotes accommodations and lodging available to sleep up to 35 people with a staff that includes boatman, chef, caterer, and housekeeping.
Those voicing objections pointed out that Camp Iroquois is located in a Land Use Zone R-1-1.3 Single Family Dwelling district and should not be used as a commercial venue. Camp Iroquois is not zoned for commercial use, and was not used for commercial use prior to 2021 (not a pre-existing commercial use). There were also concerns over wastewater and septic use with events reportedly hosting 200 plus attendees.
The realtors renting the property contended that the current use of the property constitutes nothing different than a short-term rental, and that these types of rentals are occurring currently throughout the town. Town officials disagreed with that assessment and informed the audience that a letter generated by the town’s legal council was sent to the owners of Camp Iroquois informing them to cease operation as a commercial use, specifically directing the owners not to rent the property for wedding receptions and gatherings.
Short-Term Rentals: The Planning Board has been working on a short-term rental regulation and in July submitted a draft to the board for review. Once the board and the town attorney make modifications to the proposed regulation, the draft law will be available for public comment before being voted on to become law.
Marina Regulations: Also discussed was the proposed marina regulation. Planning Board Chair Scottie Adams requested that the Planning Board be provided additional time to review the proposed regulations submitted by a special committee and a professional planning services company, the Chazen Company. The board was not made aware of comments submitted by the Upper Saranac Foundation and Upper Saranac Lake Association that their board wants to consider for their final report.
The attorney representing the Upper Saranac Lake Marina, Norfolk Law, questioned the comment submission process and requested that he be able to submit additional comments as well. The town will be providing opportunities for public comment on marina regulation at a future date.
The Planning Board intends to have a complete report and suggestions available to the Town Board by the September town meeting. A moratorium on commercial development that provided the town time to develop and enact new regulations governing marinas concludes Dec. 31, 2021.
Deerwood: Attendees of the meeting also requested that the town board dismiss the Adirondack Park Agency’s ruling that amended a pre-existing permit that would allow for an on-site septic system for Lot 9 in the Deerwood subdivision.
The Deerwood subdivision, on the north end of the lake, is a 25-acre wooded wetland complex with a pond and streams that empty on the shoreline of Lot 9. Owners of the lot are proposing to build a five-bedroom home, with a garage apartment and an on-site septic treatment system within 100 feet of the wetland.
Residents of the lake urged the board to defend Upper Saranac Lake’s water quality and support land use codes that were crafted to protect the sensitive ecosystems of the town’s resources. The town board has contracted with an environmental engineer to make an independent assessment of potential impacts from such a wastewater system on the wetland and the lake. The next Santa Clara Town Board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9 at 6 p.m.