Wal-Mart is a two time loser in this tourist community in the scenic Adirondack Mountains on New York state. On Feb. 5th, the State Appellate Court in Albany upheld a January, 1996 decision by the neighboring town of North Elba to reject an 80,000 s.f. Wal-Mart store. The town had argued that the Wal-Mart proposal, which began as a 102,000 s.f. store in October, 1994, violated the provisions for a conditional use permit because it would have an “adverse impact upon nearby properties” and “result in a clearly adverse aesthetic impact”. The town also acted to protect the “social and economic resources” of the town. The Court ruled that is was appropriate for the town to consider the “economic effect the proposed store would be expected to have upon other local businesses…in the context of assessing the probability and extent of the chance it would work upon the overall character of the community, as a result of an incr! eased vacancy rate among commercial properties in the downtown area.” The Court also said it “was appropriate…to place great weight on the visual effect of this large development”. North Elba was permitted to rule that even though the land was zoned commercially, “the use, though permitted, is not desirable at the particular location.” Wal-Mart is not gone yet, however, as they now want to build a 58,000 s.f. store here. Wal-Mart says the smaller store “should be a shoe-in”, but opponents believe that Wal-Mart is heading towards strike three in Lake Placid.
To learn more about the court decision, or to obtain a copy of the town’s new zoning ordinance, which limits the size of shopping centers to 68,000 s.f., or a single retail building to 40,000 s.f., contact Bob Trostle at 518-523-1757. This court case helps validate the concept of using community character, aesthetic impact, and economic impact as arguments against a store even when land is zoned commercially. In this case, a conditional use permit was still needed.