Friday, February 26, 2010

A Lake George Subdivision Without the McMansions

It’s so conservative it appears radical (at least for Lake George): small houses on small lots. According to Mary Alice Leary, that’s her family’s vision for the 14 acre parcel at the mouth of English Brook that will be divided into 13 lots.

The sweeping lawn, tennis courts, lake front and clusters of towering trees, already mature when Albany lawyer Edward S. Rooney purchased the estate in the 1940s, will remain common areas owned by a homeowners’ association, which has yet to be created.

Five of the lots will become the properties of Rooney’s children – Leary and her four siblings; the majority of the remaining lots will probably be sold to members of the next generation.

For months, rumors have circulated around Lake George about plans to subdivide the estate, which surrounded a mansion built by E.M. Shepard in 1911 and demolished in 1961.

It was generally assumed that as many McMansions as possible would be wedged into the grounds.

To be sure, the proposal has been in front of the planning and zoning boards of Lake George Village and the Town of Lake George for months.

And at one of those meetings, Mary Alice Leary’s sister, Ellen Breslin, explained that the subdivision was conceived so that the property could remain within the family for future generations.

Nevertheless, said Leary, her family was reluctant to discuss the subdivision until all the necessary permits had been awarded.

Not all permits have been granted, but one major hurdle, a permit from the Lake George Park Commission to build docks large enough to accommodate 13 boat slips, was surmounted last fall.

In a prepared statement to the Commission, Ellen Breslin said, “The slips will not all be constructed at once. They will be built in phases as lots are sold and houses are built. It could be several years before the entire dock structure is built.”

There are no immediate plans to build the additional eight houses, Leary explained, because, as of now, only one of Edward S. Rooney’s grandchildren has expressed an interest in purchasing a lot.

But that grandchild’s interest sparked the family’s discussions about how best to protect the property, said Leary.

“You can only subdivide once, so rather than creating and selling one lot to one member of the third generation, we decided we would complete the subdivision now and sell the lots over time,” said Leary.

The property is currently owned jointly by Rooney’s children through Lochlea, LLC. (Lochlea was the name given the mansion by John English, who bought the property from Shepard’s family.)

“We currently hold the property as tenants in common, sharing expenses, and, by mutual agreement, each one of the five family members occupies a specific cabin that is considered their cabin,” the Lake George Park Commission was told by Ellen Breslin, who is the wife of State Senator Neil Breslin.

All but one of those residences – the estate’s gate house – are log cabins. One of them once served as the estate’s bath house.
Under the terms of the subdivision, each of the five families will become the sole owners of their homes, two of which are occupied year-round.

The houses will also serve as the models for any new homes that are built, said Mary Alice Leary.

“We’re envisioning Adirondack-style houses tucked into the woods with views of Lake George and English Brook,” said Leary.
Leary said the family had rejected proposals from commercial developers interested in acquiring the estate, at least in part, from a concern for Lake George.

That concern is a long-standing one, Ellen Breslin told the Park Commission, and guided the design of the subdivision.

“We have always been good stewards of the land and have done what we can to protect the waters of the lake. There has been little or no change to the property in the 60 years we have lived here. No old growth trees have ever been taken down and no fertilizers have been used on any of the lawns. Maintaining the water quality of Lake George is our highest priority. Our family expects to be in residence on the property, swimming in and enjoying Lake George, for many years to come,” said Breslin.

Lake George Mirror photo by Clea G. Hall

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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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