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The Spiegel house, June 6, 2011. Photo: Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
The Spiegel house, June 6, 2011. Photo: Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Lake Placid house demolition caught in continuing dispute

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The Adirondack Park Agency is looking for closure 10 months after a judge ordered a half-built, 10,000-square foot mansion in Lake Placid demolished. The boarded-up structure, owned by Arthur and Margaret Spiegel, still stands.

Now the APA has filed a motion to find the Spiegels in contempt of court for failing to tear the building down but the Spiegels said they can't get the necessary demolition permits from the town.

As Chris Knight reports, this is just the latest chapter in what's been a six-year legal battle.

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Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

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Since the judge's order, the Spiegels have tried several times to persuade the APA to let the house remain. They've offered to reduce its height and screen it with vegetation.

In an interview this week, Arthur Spiegel, a Plattsburgh businessman, repeated claims that he's been singled-out by the APA even though there are other homes in the same subdivision with the same violations. That selective enforcement claim, however, was rejected two years ago by a federal judge.

Spiegel admits he lost the case and said he approached the town of North Elba to apply for a demolition permit but says the town's code enforcement officer, Jim Morganson, refused to give him one.

"If he had handed me a permit that day, I would have torn my house down," Spiegel said.

Spiegel said the town is concerned that granting a demolition permit would be an admission that the building permits it issued for his house, and others in the subdivision with similar APA violations, were issued improperly.

Morganson, the town's code enforcement officer, confirmed Wednesday that the town is concerned about its liability if it issues a demolition permit.

Last summer, Essex County State Supreme Court Judge Robert Muller upheld a 2005 APA enforcement action against the Spiegels. He found their house was built too close to a steep slope and was more than 20 feet taller than allowed. The decision meant the Spiegels would have to demolish the home, which sits on a ridgeline and is visible from state Route 86 and Lake Placid.

The APA hasn't backed down and is now asking the judge to find the Spiegels in contempt for failing to demolish the home.

"The agency feels this matter must be resolved," APA spokesman Keith McKeever said Monday. "It's been ongoing for six years, in an effort that's involved the agency's administrative proceeding, a federal court ruling and a New York State Supreme Court final decision. However, the structure still remains non-compliant."

The APA is also asking the judge to issue a more than $270,000 civil penalty against the Spiegels.

"It seems like financial sanctions appear to be the only way to impress upon the Spiegels that they must now comply with the New York State Supreme Court," McKeever said.

The APA wants the Spiegels to comply with the the judge's order but Spiegel said the matter is now between the town and the APA. He said he'd still like to have a home in Lake Placid.

"We want to finish the house," he said. "We'd like to live in the house but we'll do what we have to do when it's finally resolved. When its resolved, I'll abide by the rules."

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