Owners of the Sears on Main Street here have closed their parking lot to the general public.

New signs posted Thursday limit the 1.5-acre parking to patrons of Sears and building tenants Edward Jones and Nori's Village Market.

Concrete barriers now block many of the empty parking spaces.

PRIME LOCATION

Phil Vivlamore and Larry Mullen, Sears franchise owners from nearby Potsdam and Malone, hold the property privately.

The businessmen have been in protracted negotiations with the Village of Saranac Lake to sell or extend lease options to continue to allow municipal parking in the village center.

The lot is located within 50 yards of the Town Hall, courts, local banks and many shops and restaurants on Main Street.

LEASE AMOUNT

The village has leased the property for the past 10 years for $150 per month and provided ongoing maintenance and upkeep.

A new lease offer from parking-lot owners this spring initially sought $2,000 per month under roughly the same maintenance terms.

The deal has languished in legal corners since, with offers and counteroffers caught between a $200,000 formal appraisal figure and a $235,000 sales offer.

Village trustees and Mayor Clyde Rabideau have said the many rights-of-way in the agreement — including one for pipes to a buried propane tank — lessen the property's value.

The municipality is bound by law to not pay more than fair market value.

NEGOTIATIONS

Sears owners moved once before, in June, to close the lot but held off, citing productive legal discussion.

"We were in the process of shutting off both entrances, but we did stop that because both sides came to the table," Vivlamore told the Press-Republican in mid-July. "We are in the midst of negotiations, and hopefully there will be a positive result

Barricades placed Thursday were a surprise to village officials, and trustees responded with a statement this morning, saying they will take a "measured approach" to the parking void.

"The Village Board answered a sales offer by the lot's owners, Phil Vivlamore and Larry Mullen, which included (an) agreement to rent the lot at $700 per month until the sale closure was completed," the statement said.

The rental offer was made more than three weeks ago through the village attorney "without a response to date."

Village Manager John Sweeney said they have been negotiating in good faith "and will continue to do so if negotiation remains an option. If negotiation is not an option, the village will exercise a methodical approach to resolving any parking issues."

ADDING SPACES

The mayor and village trustees may add parallel parking along Main Street in front of the closed parking lot and the Sears store.

But they will only do so "after consultation with local merchants and the public at large to ascertain if it fits with vehicular traffic and pedestrian flow."

Responding to public demand to take the lot by eminent domain, Sweeney said that taking is a drastic option, which "would only be done if the needs of the public are justified.

"Those needs must be accurately assessed," he said, noting that this morning — the first day of limited parking in the Sears lot — "there were plenty of parking spots along the village's main street, but that may change tomorrow."

The village will post a parking map online at: www.saranaclakeny.gov

Sweeney stressed that he, the mayor and Village Board remain open to all options.

"(We) will monitor the situation daily — and do what is right for the village."

E-mail Kim Smith Dedam at: kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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