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Conflicts of Interest

December 7, 2006
Questions raised about possible conflicts of interest

By REBECCA STEFFAN, Enterprise Staff Writer

LAKE PLACID — Some of those concerned with a proposed condominium development downtown have also warned of potential conflicts of interest between the Hilton Lake Placid, which is proposing the development, and adjoining landowners who hold positions with the local government bodies that will decide its fate.

Rob and Patricia Grant live on Signal Hill, and their property adjoins the Lake View Motel property where the proposed 46-unit condominium complex would be constructed.

Rob Grant wrote a letter to Lake Placid/North Elba Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Kenneth Jubin Monday expressing his concerns over what he said could be several conflicts of interest between ZBA members and property owners adjoining the proposed building site on Signal Hill.
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Conflict of Interest Letter

December 4th, 2006

Mr. Kenneth C. Jubin
P.O. Box 808
Lake Placid, NY 12946

CC Emily Kilburn, Jim Morganson, Charles Finley, Melissa Strack, Tim Smith, Cornelia Bonsignore, Lorraine Von Dell
Bill Hurley, Jr., Janet Bliss, Peter Roland, Jr., Jamie Rogers, Shirley Seney, Michael Clark, Jay Rand, Chuck Damp, Jack Favro,
Derek Doty

Dear Mr. Jubin,

We are writing to you and the entire Zoning Board of Appeals to express our grave concerns about apparent and very significant conflicts of interest with key members of the decision making process overseeing the review of the Hilton Redevelopment Project.

Please be advised that it has come to our attention that the Hilton Redevelopment Project and its represenatives are currently in discussions to purchase the Hurley residence on Stevens Rd. in Lake Placid. This property adjoins our property as well as the Townsend property up the street. All three properties are severly impacted by the proposed Hilton Redevelopment project.

On Friday, November 14th, my wife, Patty, and I met with Hilton represenatives at our home on 37 Swiss Rd. The purpose of this meeting was to allow the engineering firm to take digital photographs of our view and property.This group included John Dodson, General Manager of the Hilton Hotel and Edward Garrigan, Vice president of C.T. Male Associates, the engineering firm representing the Hilton Redevelopment project.

Durring our meeting my wife specifically asked John Dodson if the Hilton was negotiating to purchase the Hurley residence. Although the group was quiet, John Dodson did indicate that Janet Bliss had contacted him this past summer to discuss the fact that the Hurley home was being offered for sale.
We are now aware that the house is being appraised for a possible sale. Based on this information, we believe there is a significant conflict of interest with both Janet Bliss, who is the acting Village Attorney (Janet is the daughter of Pat & Bill Hurley Sr. who own this home) as well as Bill Hurley, Jr. (son of Pat & Bill Hurley Sr.). Bill Hurley, Jr. oversees the Joint Review Board in this decision making process. Although we have the utmost respect for these individuals, we feel it would be in the best interest of the Lake Placid community if these individuals formally excused themselves from the decision making process.

Please also note that Tim Smith is a principal partner with Janet Bliss in the firm of Bliss, Dywer & Smith. Tim is also a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals board which will oversee the critical review of this Hilton Redevelopment Project.
As such, we feel it may be in the best interests of the Lake Placid community if Tim Smith formally excuses himself from the board to avoid any percieved conflct of interest. The ZBA may also want to consider hiring independent legal counsel.
This would also mitigate any unnecessary legal risk and exposure for the members of these boards who serve as volunteers.

Finally, it has also come to our attention that Peter Roland Sr.'s home on Margaret Street in Lake Placid is currently being appraised by the Hilton Redevelopment Project. This home may also be purchased by the Hilton group given that it will be severly impacted by the redevelopment plans for the Hillcrest neighborhood area. As such, we feel it would be appropriate for Peter Roland, Jr, who is a member of the Joint Review Board, to officialy excuse himself from that board in order to avoid any possible conflict of interest.

Both Pat and I have lived and worked in the Lake Placid community for over 20 years. We have raised our children here. Lake Placid is our home. We are saddened by the growing reality that this project will be controversial and may divide this town as other large development projects have done in the past. It is certainly not our wish to turn friends against friends or neighbors against neighbors.
However, we do belive that full and open disclosure will not only serve the best interests of Lake Placid and our community but also help those members of the various boards who have so graciously volunteered their time to serve our community.


Rob & Pat Grant
Lake Placid, NY


Thursday, December 7, 2006
AM 1240
, FM Y106.3

Members of the Lake Placid-North Elba Joint Review Board issued a series of recommendations to the Joint Zoning Board of Appeals last night on the controversial Hilton condominium project.

The advice came after ZBA Chairman Ken Jubin asked for the review board’s “advisory opinion” on the Hilton’s plan for a five-story, 46-unit condo complex on the site of the existing Lake View Motel.

The project needs several variances from the ZBA before it can come to the review board, including height and residential setback variances.

Review Board Chairman Bill Hurley asked his fellow board members to limit their recommendations to the variances.

Hurley suggested the ZBA request information on what the complex would look like if it was built without the variances. “They should show what a building built to code would look like,” he said.

He also recommended the ZBA get additional pictures of the proposed structure from the lower portion of Saranac Avenue. The amount of greenspace to be lost in front of the structure was also discussed. And board vice-chair Olga Krone said a third-party should review the visual impact studies prepared by the Hilton’s consultants.

Krone wanted to get into more specific recommendations, but Hurley said it was too soon. “All the information isn’t before us yet,” he said.

Hurley will be sending a letter to the ZBA outlining their suggestions.

The ZBA has also asked the joint town and village Planning Commission for advisory opinions on the Hilton project. John Hopkinson, a commission member, told the review board they’ll be delivering their comments to the ZBA by December 13.

Meanwhile, allegations of conflict of interest surrounding those who’ll be reviewing the project were also discussed last night.

Rob and Pat Grant, who live next door to the proposed project site, wrote a letter to Ken Jubin, the ZBA chairman, describing possible conflicts because the Hilton wants to buy adjoining property owned by Bill Hurley Sr.

While he acknowledged that the Hilton has expressed an interest in his parent’s home, Bill Hurley, the review board chairman, said no offer has been made or contract signed. And the board hasn’t received an application. “At this point, bringing up recusal is very premature,” Hurley said.

Board member Peter Roland also acknowledged that the hotel company has talked with his father about buying his home. But issues of conflict of interest don’t have to be decided now, he said.

ZBA and review board attorney Tim Smith, however, notified Jubin in writing that he’s recusing himself as ZBA counsel in the Hilton case to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Smith’s law partner, Janet Bliss, is the daughter of Bill Hurley Sr.

The ZBA will hold a public hearing on the variances December 18.