This week marks the final installment of our Taking Stock of Housing series, with a look back at the high points and a bit of a look forward at what the Adirondack housing issue holds for the future.
Hopefully the park will do a better job of solving the problem over the next 30 years than it has over the past 30 — despite warning calls being voiced back then just as they are today. “…(A)ffordable housing for the middle class is a thing of the past,” wrote Assemblyman Neil Kelleher in a 1992 letter to The North Creek News Enterprise. “A moderately priced home simply can’t be built.”
Keller worried that an economy based on logging and tourism, or “chainsaws and chambermaids,” as he put it, would fail to support the basic necessities of life. Not everyone was so pessimistic. A Town of Jay comprehensive plan drawn up in 1997 felt confident housing construction was adequate to meet housing needs — barring some great upheaval that would send city dwellers scurrying to the wide open wilderness spaces. But what were the odds of that?
Two new Adirondack housing projects are in the planning phases, one in Lake Placid, the other in the adjoining towns of Schroon and North Hudson.
According to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Dakota Partners, of Waltham, Mass., is looking to build 60 apartments and 20 townhomes on 8.7 acres behind the Hanniford supermarket in Lake Placid. While the townhomes would be market rate, the apartments would be targeted toward people with lower incomes under the the New York state Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.
The project would require a small rerouting of the Jackrabbit Trail, and will fall under Adirondack Park Agency jurisdiction since the apartment building exceeds 40 feet in height.
Meanwhile, Essex County supervisors were voting this week on the sale of 28 acres in North Hudson for $150,000 to Blue Line Development to be used for rental housing to serve the low-to moderate income market.
A twin project is anticipated for the Town of Schroon that will allow the developer to effectively get credit for a full size project, while building smaller projects more tailored to the needs of the two respective communities.
The North Hudson project will be near the state’s Frontier Town campground and the Exit 29 Adirondack Gateway development, which to date includes a craft brewery and a restaurant, coffee bar and camp store. Supervisors hope the housing will attract much-needed employees for these developments to the sparsely populated area.
As a rule, the Adirondack Park does not have expansive old toxic industrial sites that go by the name of brownfields. But brownfields don’t have to be major factory sites, they can be old filling stations or garages or, under state law, anywhere there is even the perception of contamination.
And these sites are eligible for a lot of help, and potentially could be redeveloped into much-needed housing.
New use for brownfield sites
The Northern Forest Center and Adirondack North Country Association hosted a webinar on brownfields last week, in which speakers said communities with organization, planning and the determination to power through the paperwork can be successful spinning blight into assets a community can be proud of. Affordable housing is one possibility.
And the good news is that more money than ever is available for these projects, courtesy of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. “This is really a great time to strike while the iron is hot,” said Cailyn Bruno, director of environmental services for the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Technical Assistance for Brownfields program.
Sprawling old industrial sites in heavily populated areas are of course eligible, but the funding program “is very much applicable to small communities as well,” said Kylie Peck, Revitalization Specialist at New York State Department of State.
Christian Mercurio, vice president for planning and development for Mohawk Valley EDGE (Economic Development Growth Enterprises) said small communities with small populations and tax bases are typically stymied when seeking to redevelop contaminated sites. But in the Mohawk Valley, even the Village of Oriskany, population 1,360, is working to reimagine an old woolen felt mill. “Don’t let size be a liability,” Mercurio said.
Photo at top: Approximately 30 people gathered at the home of Joelle Nesbitt in Westport for the rebranding of Housing Assistance Program of Essex County to Adirondack Roots. Nesbitt’s family home was saved with a rehab grant through the organization. Photo by Eric Teed for Adirondack Roots
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