If you build it, they will come.
The “Field of Dreams” quote is Kevin Sanvidge’s new saying for tourism development in Chautauqua County.
Sanvidge, executive director of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency, and other county officials have repeatedly mentioned how tourism is a major part of future growth and economic development in the area.
Sanvidge also spoke highly of a proposed hotel project on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in Mayville, for which zoning variances have been requested by land owner James Webb.
The hotel would be located near Lakeside Park and the former Pennsylvania Railroad Station.
Webb spoke of the possibility of a 60-foot-tall building with a restaurant and five floors of cabin-like rooms.
“The fact that the Webb family wants to invest a substantial amount of money and create many, many jobs is fantastic for our area,” Sanvidge said.
Residents have been skeptical of the project, citing concerns of noise, traffic, a blocked view of the lake and potential ecological harm.
They made their opinions known at a recent Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.
Mayville Mayor Martin Bova said there has been a mix of opinions, and there will be more to come in awaiting the approval of the Chautauqua County Planning Board.
“I understand the concerns of residents, but in reality we have to face the facts – Mayville is a tourist community,” Bova said. “Tourism is the bread and butter for almost all of our industry. Tourism and sales tax revenue – those are things that play into the wellness of our community.”
James Webb’s son Benjamin explained that a driving force behind the project was how important it would be to the area’s economy.
In terms of ecological impact, John Jablonski of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, said lakefront development causes concern in terms of making sure projects are designed and staged properly during construction.
“Generally, on any site on or near the lake, the conservancy is concerned about potential impacts from stormwater carrying soil erosion into the lake,” he said.
Secondly, he said it’s important to make sure that stormwater is soaked into the ground as much as possible rather than running down a pipe and into the lake’s already nutrient-rich waters.
“The conservancy has been in contact with the Webb family and they’ve assured us they’re going to be implementing stormwater pollution controls as part of the project,” Jablonski said.
Bova said a State Environmental Quality Review Act must be performed on the site before it moves forward.
“We still have to wait for the county Planning Board to come back with their recommendations as well,” he said. “And then of course, after all that, is the project going to fly?”
The Webbs’ project wouldn’t be the first on Chautauqua Lake not to come to fruition.
Another hotel project in the area of Stow’s Bootey Bay failed to succeed after land owner John McGraw put his more than 29 acres of shoreline property near the Chautauqua County Veterans Bridge up for sale in 2010.
The 10-story hotel would have been located off of Route 394, near Exit 8.
“There has been no further discussion of development of that land,” said Sally Carlson, North Harmony town supervisor. “The real problem is that we don’t have sewers, and without significant infrastructure I don’t think we’re going to see development here in Stow.”
Aging septic systems around the lake contribute to the issue of blue-green algae. Forming a continuous sewer system around the lake has been a major topic of discussion in improving its water quality.
One area of the lake which has seen significant growth is the village of Bemus Point.
In 2008, two condominium buildings were constructed on Lakeside Drive, consisting of 20 apartments per building. Six are still for sale.
“Bemus Point is a great example of what they’ve accomplished there as far as tourism goes,” Sanvidge said, adding that the Bemus Bay Pops concert series drew thousands of visitors from all over the region this summer. “There were tens of thousands of people there this weekend from all over. It just shows you, if you build it, they will come.”
Sanvidge added that another potential development site is possible in the village of Celoron.
“A very well-known contractor has bought a portion of land there, and there is speculation of waterfront development there,” he said.