Friday, January 15, 2010

Bolton Landing Wrestles With Ridge Line Development

From the heights of Bolton Landing, the views are of water, islands and mountains covered with forests that have not been disturbed for a century or more.

But from a boat on Lake George or from the opposite shore, the hills of Bolton Landing might remind some of a spawling suburb; houses creep along the crests and ridges, all designed with one goal in mind: to capture as much of the view as possible.

Despite the protests of groups like the Lake George Waterkeeper and The Fund for Lake George, more houses on ridge lines have been proposed.

And there appears to be little the environmental groups can do about it.

Bolton’s own comprehensive plan calls for the protection of the town’s hillsides, but that plan has yet to be translated into specific rules.

In the absence of regulations, the town’s Planning Board must work with developers to make roads and houses as unobtrusive as possible and to limit the numbers of trees that are felled.

“The challenge of the board is to allow development without changing the natural environment,” said Kathy Bozony, The Fund for Lake George’s land use co-ordinator.

One proposed development that will change the environment, representatives of the environmental protection organizations claim, includes a mile-long road up a mountainside where houses will be built.

The road and houses will be visible from the lake, the town-owned Conservation park and the Lake George Land Conservancy’s Cat Mountain preserve.

In December, for the third time in twelve months, the Planning Board reviewed the proposal.

According to Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky, the development will “become a permanent fixture of the viewshed from Cat Mountain, one of the most prominent peaks on the western shore of the lake. The clearing and disturbance is excessive and will have an impact on the resources of the community for generations to come.”

“We’re’re sensitive to viewshed preservation,” said Peter Loyola of CLA Site, the Saratoga-based architecture and design firm that planned the road and home sites. “But there’s a dilemna; the higher the home, the better the view. We want the houses to have some views of the lake.”

According to Loyola, the developers worked with the Town to create the most comprehensive and stringent program ever proposed in Bolton to mitigate the effects of tree cutting at the site, including stiff, enforceable fines for cutting trees once the houses were constructed.

“In twenty years, you won’t even see the houses,” said Loyola. Anyone violating the prohibition on tree cutting could be fined as much as $35,000 per violation, Loyola said.

But John Gaddy, a member of the Planning Board, said he questioned the efficacy of tree-cutting restrictions. “We’ve tried re-vegetation programs; they’re abused to get views. The Town won’t be a strong enforcer because it does not want to become the Tree Police,” said Gaddy. Moreover, he said, “There’s too much disturbance and the houses are in too sensitive
an area for me to support this project.”

Gaddy and another Planning Board voted against the project at the December meeting, just as they had at the two earlier meetings. With two members absent, having recused themselves, the proposal could not muster the support of a majority.

But according to lawyers for the developers, that vote does not mean the project has been denied. Instead, citing state law and local zoning codes, they argue that a stalemate constitutes “no action” rather than a denial. They assert the application must be deemed approved by default.

“We’re very disappointed the town could not reach a decision on one of its most controversial projects,” said Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky. “We’re contemplating legal challenges if the deadlock is treated as an approval.”

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror

Photo: Artist’s rendering of a proposed development on Bolton’s ridge line, after reforestation has begun. Image courtesy of Lake George Waterkeeper.

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Anthony F. Hall is the editor and publisher of the Lake George Mirror.

Anthony grew up in Warrensburg and after an education that included studying with beat poet Gregory Corso on an island in the Aegean, crewing a schooner in Hawaii, traveling through Greece and Turkey studying Byzantine art and archeology, and a stint at Lehman Brothers, he returned to the Adirondacks and took a job with legendary state senator Ron Stafford.

In 1998, Anthony and his wife Lisa acquired the Lake George Mirror, once part of a chain of weekly newspapers owned by his father Rob Hall.

Established in the 1880s, the Mirror is America’s oldest resort newspaper.





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