Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ticonderoga Lowe’s – Another Lesson in Poor Planning

On the heals of the Saranac Lake WalMart debacle comes the latest planning ignorance from our elected officials. Lowe’s Home Improvement will be using their immense size along with lame and out of proportion architectural [ahem] design, to further erode downtown Ticonderoga. The Plattsburg Press Republican is reporting on the Lowe’s project. Lowe’s operates over 1,225 stores in 49 states (excepting Vermont) and is number 42 on the Fortune 500 list – it’s the second largest hardware chain in the country.

Ti could have a nice downtown, which although filled with numerous abandoned shops and empty lots, still has much of its Victorian character and walkability. Unfortunately local and regional planners are eager to abandon the downtown in favor of ugly, automobile access only, strip development about a mile away. So far a Wal-Mart SuperCenter, a Super 8 Motel, a McDonald’s, a Subway and a Dunkin’ Donuts have all located on what was once farmland at the edge of town. All these businesses could have located downtown. Think of it! Imagine the ability to shop at several stores within walking distance downtown, maybe stop at the Post Office, or for coffee at a local coffee shop, maybe at the library.

Instead, Lowe’s, along with Congressman John McHugh (R-Pierrepont Manor, Vietnam draft-dodger), Ticonderoga Town Supervisor Robert C. Dedrick, and a number of other small-minded corporatist want to see Lowe’s build a 53 feet high 124,000 square foot store with, and get this, a 245 square foot sign! The standard APA park sign size is 60 square feet and the building is already designed a full story above the park limit. Apparently Lowe’s thinks that the Adirondack Park is just like any other place on earth.

Dedrick said a 60-square-foot sign was put up as a test at the proposed Lowe’s site.

“You could barely see the sign. You certainly couldn’t read the letters.”

Ah… yeah… sure Dedrick, maybe that’s because most reasonable people believe that a building and its sign shouldn’t be designed as an eyesore on purpose and that a 53 by what 2 or 3 hundred foot building is visible enough – especially when it’s designed to be entirely incongruent with its surroundings.

Dedrick said a busload of Ticonderoga citizens will be going to APA headquarters in Ray Brook for the meeting when the vote will be taken.

“We have had extreme support on this. APA, here we come.”

Supervisor Joyce Morency (R-St. Armand) said that as many members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors as possible should also attend.

Folks, take the time to counter these fools and save Ticonderoga from their lengthy tenure at destroying one of America‘s most important historic towns.

Vote them out!

Attend the public hearing on the sign variance on either July 17 or 24 at the Ticonderoga Armory Community Building (now that’s some nice scheduling work from the local officials).

UPDATE 7/13: The Press Republican accurately describes the current situation in an editorial July 11:

Ticonderoga Supervisor Robert Dedrick says the APA has assured him the process will be conducted fairly and without bias.

At this stage, that appears unlikely, for it will be difficult for the agency to rule against Lowe’s now, no matter how much sense it might make to do so. If the agency decides the store must settle for the 60 square foot sign, the charges of obstinacy and absence of fairness will fly in earnest. It will take more guts than normal to rule against the company.

In government, appearance is often more important than reality. In this case, it appears the APA has been backed into a ruling it will be hard pressed to deny.

The simple fact remains – the size of their store is a more than big enough sign. By trying to muscle the agency whose job it is to defend the character of the Adirondacks they prove themselves to be the enemy of the New York Constitution and the people its represents.

UPDATE 7/20: The Adirondack Park Agency issued a permit approving construction of a 153,000 square foot Lowe’s including a 124,051-square foot building and attached 28,829-square foot garden center, a parking lot for 441 vehicles, signage, lighting and landscaping. Municipal water supply, wastewater treatment and stormwater facilities will serve the Lowe’s Store. Once the permit is recorded in the Essex County Clerk’s Office, the developer is free to begin construction. The permit includes a condition that sign for the proposed store must conform to the size and height limitations required by the Agency’s “Standards for Signs Associated with Projects.” Agency regulations limit signs on jurisdictional projects to 40 square feet (15 square feet for luminous signs) and limit the total sign area of two signs on a project site to 60 square feet.

UPDATE 7/26: A well-organized group of ill-informed locals gave the APA a hard time at the hearing over the sign. Here’s a nice tidbit:

Moriah Town Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava is a longtime foe of the APA.

“We have suffered economic hardship in the Adirondack Park since the creation of the Adirondack Park Agency. We have been forced to live like second-class citizens.”

Sure Scozzafava – you live like a second class citizen.

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John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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