Crowded Lake George votes for higher buildings

With just a couple of vacant lots left, the village of Lake George is making way for more development, allowing buildings that are as tall as six stories, up from the current limit of three.

The village’s five-member board of trustees unanimously approved the proposal during a meeting Monday night, a move that will clear the way for a chain hotel on Canada Street, the resort village’s main commercial strip.

The zoning changes will permit four-story buildings on some sections of Canada Street, and six-story building in other spots along the street.

“The village is built out. In our commercial zone there’s only two vacant lots left,” said MayorRobert Blais. “If the village is going to grow, the only solution for us to grow and be economically viable is to go up.”

The chain hotel, believed by Blais to be a Marriott, will have enough space for conferences, the mayor said, which will help local businesses succeed in every season.

The change drew wide support.

“I think that new lodging properties, new streetscapes and new opportunities will be great for the village,” said Kate Johnson, director of Warren County Tourism. “It will encourage visitation in all four seasons.”

Corey Heyman, owner of the Lake George Windsor Motel, said that big, more expensive chain hotels would cater to a different market. “Our market is for families watching their dollars.”

But Marion Sause, owner of Cramer’s Point Motel and Cottages, worried about a glut of rooms the larger hotels would bring.

“If you put (in) another 500 rooms, my motel has that much (more) competition,” Sause said. “We’re not going to have 500 more tourists.”

The village Planning Board will still need to approve any new hotel proposals, while theAdirondack Park Agency needs to approve buildings of more than three floors.

Currently, the tallest building in the village is the five-story Fort William Henry Resort, given a variance because of historical significance.

Your guide to Capital Region schools

Welcome to the 2013 online edition of The Business Review‘s Schools Report, an annual study of public school education in the Capital Region.

Included below are links to our annual and exclusive rankings of Capital Region public schools, searchable charts of data including spending per pupil, superintendent compensation, tax data, and more.

From the Schools Report sponsor

After relocating, a family seeks out top schools

Niskayuna: forced to make tough choices in slim times

2 teachers, 6 questions

3 questions for Shenendehowa superintendent Oliver Robinson

What it takes to get a job with area business leaders (slideshow)

The faces of the Schools Report (slideshow)


Find your district: get started here

Niskayuna No. 1 in 2013 school rankings (see where your district ranks, too)

Ranking methodology

Top math districts in the Capital Region

Top science districts in the Capital Region

Top English districts in the Capital Region

Top social studies districts in the Capital Region


MIddle school rankings

Elementary school rankings


Here are the Capital Region superintendent salaries

Top Capital Region median teacher salaries

Median ages of Capital Region teachers

Top districts in years of teaching experience


Top per student spending, taxes at Capital Region school districts

10-year increase in district spending per student

10-year spending increase by district


Top Capital Region college-bound graduate rates

Dropout percentage for Capital Region schools

Graduation results for Capital Region school districts

Top high schools in the Capital Region

This article is part of the 2013 Schools Report. View all articles in this section.

 Bethlehem Central High School is the top-ranked high school in a new academic ranking of 85 high schools in the 11-county Albany, NY region.

The new Business Review ranking used a formula that focused on ninth- through 12th-grade New York State assessments. The formula also factors in Regents test scores and graduation results to determine the rankings.

Other schools in the top five include Shaker High School in North Colonie, Columbia High School in East Greenbush, Burnt-Hills Ballston Lake and Niskayuna high schools.

Check out the sortable chart below to see where your district’s high school ranks on the list.

2013 High School Rankings

Click on the headings in the chart to sort.
Rank County School District ScoreDescending
1 Albany Bethlehem Central Senior High School Bethlehem 100.00%
2 Albany Shaker High School North Colonie 97.70%
3 Rensselaer Columbia High School East Greenbush 97.52%
4 Saratoga Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Senior High School Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 97.30%
5 Schenectady Niskayuna High School Niskayuna 97.25%
6 Warren Warrensburg Junior-Senior High School Warrensburg 96.12%
7 Warren Lake George Junior-Senior High School Lake George 96.06%
8 Albany Guilderland High School Guilderland 95.81%
9 Albany Clayton A Bouton High School Voorheesville 95.49%
10 Saratoga Saratoga Springs High School Saratoga Springs 95.47%
11 Washington Cambridge Junior-Senior High School Cambridge 94.82%
12 Saratoga Shenendehowa High School Shenendehowa 94.70%
13 Washington Greenwich Junior-Senior High School Greenwich 94.10%
14 Washington Salem High School Salem 93.89%
15 Greene Hunter-Tannersville Middle School High School Hunter-Tannersville 91.59%
16 Rensselaer Hoosick Falls Junior/Senior High School Hoosick Falls 91.31%
17 Schenectady Duanesburg High School Duanesburg 90.68%
18 Rensselaer Averill Park High School Averill Park 90.50%
19 Warren Glens Falls Senior High School Glens Falls 90.06%
20 Saratoga Ballston Spa Senior High School Ballston Spa 89.71%
21 Rensselaer Tamarac Middle School High School Brunswick (Brittonkill) 89.59%
22 Montgomery Fonda-Fultonville Senior High School Fonda-Fultonville 89.30%
23 Warren Bolton Central School Bolton 89.16%
24 Schenectady Scotia-Glenville Senior High School Scotia-Glenville 89.04%
25 Rensselaer Hoosic Valley Senior High School Hoosic Valley 88.95%
26 Schenectady Schalmont High School Schalmont 88.94%
27 Columbia Germantown Central School Germantown 88.91%
28 Warren North Warren Central School North Warren 88.80%
29 Rensselaer Maple Hill High School Schodack 88.75%
30 Warren Hadley-Luzerne High School Hadley-Luzerne 88.14%
 Page   of 3 Next Last
Source: State Report Card Data for the 2011-12 school year, the most recent available.
Score: The score takes into account test scores and graduation results. Find detailed methodology here.
Note: St. Johnsville and the Oppenheim-Ephratah districts have merged. Rankings are based on performance prior to the merger.

Niskayuna No. 1 in 2013 school district rankings

This article is part of the 2013 Schools Report. View all articles in this section.


Niskayuna Central Schools took the top spot in The Business Review’s 2013 School District Rankings.

The suburban district, which consistently ranks in the Top 5, climbed from No. 2 last year, and No. 3 in 2011.

The most improved district in this year’s rankings is Argyle Central. The rural Washington County district climbed 25 slots to No. 36 in our rankings.

Three other districts climbed 15 places or more: Hunter-Tannersville in Greene County; Brunswick/Brittonkill outside of Troy; and Corinth Central in Saratoga Springs.

Meanwhile, five districts fell by 15 places or more: Stillwater Central outside Saratoga Springs; Gilboa-Conesville in Schoharie County; and Johnsburg in Warren County.

To find out where your district ranks, see the sortable table below.

2013 School District Rankings

Click on the headings in the chart to sort.
Rank 2013Ascending Rank 2012 District County Score Needs / resources
1 2 Niskayuna Schenectady 100.000 6
2 1 Bethlehem Albany 99.869 6
3 3 Voorheesville Albany 98.521 6
4 4 North Colonie Albany 98.241 6
5 5 Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Saratoga 97.939 6
6 7 Guilderland Albany 97.879 6
7 6 Saratoga Springs Saratoga 97.493 5
8 8 East Greenbush Rensselaer 96.847 5
9 9 Shenendehowa Saratoga 95.612 5
10 11 Cambridge Washington 94.313 5
11 10 Greenwich Washington 92.401 5
12 17 Lake George Warren 92.145 5
13 13 Queensbury Warren 91.917 5
14 23 Averill Park Rensselaer 91.040 5
15 15 Schodack Rensselaer 90.468 5
16 20 Schalmont Schenectady 90.361 5
17 16 South Colonie Albany 89.693 5
18 14 North Warren Warren 88.981 5
19 12 Bolton Warren 88.586 6
20 29 Duanesburg Schenectady 88.553 5
21 22 Ballston Spa Saratoga 88.503 5
22 18 Fonda-Fultonville Montgomery 88.466 5
23 24 Germantown Columbia 87.959 5
24 32 Warrensburg Warren 87.609 5
25 34 Glens Falls Warren 87.573 5
26 33 South Glens Falls Saratoga 87.486 5
27 45 Hunter-Tannersville Greene 87.198 5
28 46 Brunswick (Brittonkill) Rensselaer 86.640 5
29 42 Hoosic Valley Rensselaer 86.427 5
30 25 Scotia-Glenville Schenectady 86.099 5
 Page   of 3 Next Last
Source: State Report Card Data for the 2011-12 school year, the most recent available.
Last ranked 6/22/12
Score: The overall score is a weighted tabulation that takes into account test scores and graduation results. Find detailed methodology here.
Needs-to-Resource Capacity index. It is a measure of a district’s ability to meet the needs of its students with local resources.
3=High need urban and suburban districts 4=High need rural districts 5=Average need districts 6=Low need districts
Note: St. Johnsville and the Oppenheim-Ephratah districts have merged. Rankings are based on performance prior to the merger

The Luxury Log Cabin

The new log cabin: so large, so luxe and so loaded with amenities that Daniel Boone would hardly know where to hang his coonskin hat.



The rise of the high-end log cabin: so large, so luxe and so loaded with amenities that Daniel Boone would hardly know where to hang his coonskin hat. Photo: Claudio Papapietro for The Wall Street Journal.

William Raphael spent $12.5 million on his vacation log home in New York’s Catskill Mountains. The 15,000-square-foot residence, completed in 2011, has six bedrooms with attached bathrooms and two half-baths. It includes a 3,600-square-foot playroom with a table shuffleboard, a ping-pong table, three hanging TVs, a media room and a bar. The great room has a 38-foot-tall tongue-and-groove ceiling, wide-plank, hand-hewn walnut floors and a 10-foot-wide fireplace.

Despite its size, the spaces include rustic touches: The staircase railings still have bark on them, and the treads are made of logs cut in half.

“I know it’s going to be there for 100 years,” says Mr. Raphael, a retired manufacturing executive who primarily lives in Ridgewood, N.J.

By the Lumbers


Jim McKinney’s nearly 7,000-square-foot vacation home in Jackson, Wyo., which cost about $3 million to build.


To create his dream cabin, Mr. Raphael traveled the country, taking photographs of log lodges at a number of national parks because he was enamored with the architecture. He then met with Jay Pohley, president of Pioneer Log Homes in Victor, Mont., and together, they came up with a design for the home, located in Windham, N.Y. The exterior features native stone and hand-peeled standing dead timber—trees that were killed by wildfire or disease and then harvested from their setting.

Once an icon of humble Americana, evoking images of Abe Lincoln, log homes are getting larger and more elaborate, with intricate truss work, expansive windows and even contemporary, curved elements. Instead of dark, low-slung cabins, homeowners are opting for airier, lighter versions with open layouts.

Advances in log-home building have also been driving luxury construction. The chinking, used to fill the gaps between logs, is commonly synthetic in the newer homes. The acrylic polymers adhere to wood better than the traditional sand-cement chinking, which pulled away from the wood as it expanded and contracted, allowing cold drafts, rain and bugs inside. As Mr. Pohley puts it, “synthetic chinking saved our industry.”



Some builders also use logs reinforced with steel rods to minimize sagging as the house settles over time—a common side effect of log homes. The technique also allows architects to create more complex designs.

And builders are increasingly constructing what are called hybrid homes—log homes with a traditional lumber framework that is covered by a veneer of half-logs, half-cut timbers or stone on the outside and inside. This method makes it easier to install electrical, plumbing and insulation in the home, says Ellis Nunn, an architect in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Mr. Nunn and his wife, Sharon, recently designed a 25,000-square-foot hybrid home for a client in Chattanooga, Tenn., with 10 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, staff quarters, mood lighting and automated doggy doors. The 10-acre estate includes a log sports pavilion with tennis courts and an outdoor entertainment area where the owners host charity events, and a log guesthouse.

Still, the downturn in the economy has put a dent in the log-cabin market in recent years. Murray Arnott, a log-home designer in Ontario, says he saw a steep drop in demand starting in 2009. And even with the real-estate rebound, log homes remain a niche market.

Mr. Raphael put his log home on the market for $12.5 million a year and a half ago; it has already had a price drop and is now listed at $9.75 million. He says he “put his heart and soul” into the home, but that he’s selling because he’s ready to move on to another project.

John A. Burke Jr., a broker who sells homes in New York’s Adirondacks, says there is a market for handcrafted log homes, albeit a small one. That results in more inventory than demand. “Log homes have so many unique characteristics that sometimes people say, ‘Let’s just build our own,’ ” Mr. Burke says, which compounds the surplus.

Jim McKinney, an investment banker in Chicago, worked with PFB Corp.’s PFB.T +0.99%Precision Craft Log & Timber Homes in Meridian, Idaho, on his nearly 7,000-square-foot vacation home in Jackson Hole, Wyo., which cost about $3 million. By using steel-reinforced logs, Mr. McKinney was able to get a 27-foot-wide floor-to-ceiling window framed between cedar logs, giving him sweeping views of the Grand Tetons in his great room. “It looks like the trees are coming out of the ground,” Mr. McKinney says of the logs that hold the window.

“I wanted it to be really, really old looking,” says Mr. McKinney, who built a master bath with wood reclaimed from Old Faithful Lodge at Yellowstone National Park and hung a “Bath 25¢” sign outside the steam shower.

He had the walnut floors on the main floor hand-scraped and the granite countertops in the kitchen torched and sandblasted to make them look rough. Finishing touches include a wood-paneled icebox, silver dollars imprinted in the bar with an old brass cash register sitting on top and a great room that has an 18-foot canoe perched in the corner.

Building a luxury log home takes about six to eight months longer than a traditional timber-framed home and costs 10% to 40% more because of the labor involved in hand-crafting elements of the home. Typically, the bark is hand-peeled off the logs with a drawknife to give it a rustic, uneven look. Logs often are notched, another time-consuming task, so the corners can be fitted together.

Delivery costs typically comprise 2% of the overall project cost because most handcrafted log-homes are constructed on a factory or logging site and then disassembled and numbered for shipping. For a $5 million log home recently completed in the mountains of Cyprus, Jim Banner of Precision Craft estimates the fees for 25, 40-foot-long shipping containers cost about $100,000.

Prices for logs have increased about 15% in the past five years, in part because fewer mills are logging. At the same time, the amount of standing dead timber that is available is increasing as forest fires and infestations such as pine-beetle kill become more prevalent, which has kept prices from rising faster, Mr. Pohley says.

The most popular type of log used is the Douglas fir because of its strength, followed by lodgepole pines, which are about 10% to 20% cheaper. Other high-end choices include Western red cedar and Engelmann spruce.

There are unexpected challenges. For example, Judith Carpenter was asked to decide the placement of every light switch and electrical outlet before her 9,000-square-foot farmhouse in Norwood, N.C., was completed in 2008. Unlike homes with Sheetrock over wall studs, it’s hard to cut openings in the logs and pull wiring through after the home has been assembled. Five years later, Ms. Carpenter says there are one or two places where she wished she put in outlets—particularly in the bedrooms.

Ms. Carpenter, a former state champion in trap shooting, runs the property as a retreat that includes trap shooting, a tilapia farm and a soon-to-come shrimp farm. The $3 million main home has three bedrooms and six bathrooms and includes a downstairs game room with a pool table and home theater and nearly 1,000 square feet of outdoor porches.

Ms. Carpenter wanted a log cabin because it stands apart from the brick- and vinyl-sided homes in the area. “It’s unlike anything else around here,” she says.

Log cabins can stand the test of time, lasting a century or more, with regular maintenance. Most log homes should be restained every three to five years, builders say, to prevent sun damage, and rechinked as needed to prevent air infiltration. Mr. McKinney, the Jackson Hole homeowner, is currently rechinking and touching up a few spots that have been worn down from the sun and from when the sprinklers hit the home, even though it is only a couple of years old.

Some log-cabin homeowners invoke nostalgia and childhood fantasies in their designs. Race-car driver Tony Stewart recently completed a more-than-15,000-square-foot home with six bedrooms and 12 bathrooms in Columbus, Ind., that is reminiscent of Bass Pro Shops, a company that is one of his sponsors and that uses the same supplier of logs in Mr. Stewart’s home, according to people familiar with the project. The residence has a 1,600-cubic-foot aquarium, two trout ponds and a two-lane bowling alley, according to a brochure by the home’s builder. A lower level includes a game room and two racing display cases, plus an actual Indianapolis 500 car hung on the wall. Mr. Stewart declined to comment, but people familiar with the project say the home is, as one person put it, “a far cry from a cabin.”

In the end, Mr. Raphael hopes his passion for his log home rubs off on potential buyers. He has enjoyed spending Christmas there, inviting friends over to play ping pong in the game room and gather in the kitchen to watch hockey games while food is prepped.

“Sometimes, I live there for weeks on end,” Mr. Raphael says. “It’s a great place to have hot chocolate and burn a fire.”