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Stillwater looking to reopen Brown's Beach

Officials negotiating to buy property from developers

Wednesday, May 15, 2013
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— Brown’s Beach on Saratoga Lake may reopen to the public, but town officials are afraid to say so above a whisper.

That’s because the much-beloved swimming spot on the southeastern shore of the lake has long been a town gem, even as it’s remained closed to the public since 2007 and sought after by developers for at least the past 25 years.

Developers wanted to put condominiums there, and when that fell through they wanted to build a multimillion-dollar hotel and resort at the water’s edge. Stillwater residents questioned potential traffic and blocked views. Plans were submitted and then pulled. Ownership changed hands. Town officials promised to open the beach to the public if they could. But they never could.

Now, six years after it closed, the beach could open to the public under a plan being quietly worked out by the Stillwater Town Board and property owner DPN Saratoga LLC. If all goes well, the beach would be the only public beach on the lake.

“We have been actively pursuing with the owners to procure it back,” said town Supervisor Ed Kinowski. “You know, ever since I became town supervisor everybody keeps mentioning Brown’s Beach. My wife used to go there. Her mother used to go there. It was a fun thing to do. But I don’t want to build this whole thing up and then have it all fall down.”

On Wednesday, Kinowski planned to meet with the owner and sign a letter of intent for the town to purchase the property from DPN Saratoga LLC, which registered with the state in 2011 and is based in Greenfield Center.

Kinowski declined to discuss a purchase price, though the last time the property was listed for sale, its asking price was in seven figures.

“That’s still confidential because it allows us to negotiate further until the final contract and purchase agreement,” he said.

Brown’s Beach has attracted residents and families from throughout the Capital Region since at least 1918. In the 1950s and ’60s, an amusement park opened on the site.

“There was a Ferris wheel and a merry-go-round,” said Deputy Town Historian Linda Sanders. “I remember going up there as a kid, and you would change your clothes and put them in a little basket with a tag on it and then go out swimming in the lake.”

She spent one summer there during the late ’50s as a swimming instructor for the YMCA. If the town buys the property and opens the beach again, Sanders said it would be a sure draw around town.

“I am sure that old people like me would remember its history and probably enjoy going back for more,” she said.

The amusement park eventually shut down, and over the years the beach became home to a boat launch, RV lot, marina and repair facility, a restaurant and a bathing house.

In 1988, the owners speculated aloud about closing the beach and building condominiums in its place, according to Gazette archives.

In 2003, a group of Saratoga Springs residents purchased the beach with plans to build an $85 million hotel and resort complex on the waterfront that would include three restaurants, a 15,000-square-foot day spa and a 400-seat banquet hall. The project stalled after one of the property owners died and the town Zoning Board blocked approvals that would have moved it forward.

If the beach reopens, Kinowski said, semiconductor manufacturing giant GlobalFoundries is partially to thank.

“What it’s come down to, really, has been all the new activity going on,” he said. “With GlobalFoundries in our backyard, that’s provided the revenue source that gave us the ability to put this money in our budget and go after this beach again.”

He said it’s unlikely the beach would open in time for the summer season. The site would need to undergo an environmental quality review, and even then, many unanswered questions remain.

“Do we charge or do we not charge?” Kinowski asked. “Do we put it under a lease and let someone run it for us? Do we offer the building that was a restaurant and lease that out as a restaurant again? This place hasn’t been used in a long time.”

 
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