Anyone reading this page regularly in recent weeks knows the debate over the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort has gotten hot, aggressive and personal.
That should be expected, given that the big hearing is coming up - the last step before the state Adirondack Park Agency board decides whether to give the massive resort a permit. On Thursday, it was finally announced that two legislative hearings, which will let members of the public comment on the resort for the record, will kick off the adjudicatory hearing at 3:30 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 16 in the cafeteria of the L.P. Quinn Elementary School in Tupper Lake.
The Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce and an even more influential Tupper Lake business-advocacy group, Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy, are urging all Tupper Lakers to attend this hearing and let it be known that they support the resort.
We also think the APA should permit this project: It would have a huge positive economic impact on Tupper Lake's desperately drained economy, and its environmental impact is within reasonable levels and has already been curtailed through the permit process. Therefore, we, too, recommend that anyone who supports this project show up at one of these hearings and say so, if only, "My name is _____, and I think this project should be approved."
ARISE and the chamber certainly are not underplaying this hearing's importance. Barring unforeseen developments, this is the big one.
But we aren't fans of the public-relations strategy undertaken these last few weeks by the Tupper Lake business community and lead developer Michael Foxman, fought mainly with opinion articles in newspapers like this one. The goal has been to paint Adirondack environmental groups as a ruthless enemy and ostensibly seek to block them from speaking at the adjudicatory hearing.
That's not going to happen, of course. Environmental advocates have as much right to speak as anyone else - the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensures that. Plus, any serious legal challenge to their right to speak at this hearing should have been undertaken months ago, not now, so soon before it all goes down.
ARISE's effort appears to be populism, plain and simple. It isn't so much intended to influence the public proceedings as to influence the public: both to get the people of Tupper Lake fired up to fight for this resort and to bait the environmental groups into getting fired up, too, to escalate the fight. Nothing unites like a common enemy. The APA made the most convenient straw man around these parts for decades, but Tupper business advocates have decided that, this time, green groups fit the bill better.
Environmentalists took the bait, hook, line and sinker, especially the Adirondack Council, the Park's biggest green group. But it doesn't matter whether the Council stands on its rights or appeals to a sense of neighborliness by having two former Tupper Lakers on its staff write a letter. It is not going to win over any significant number of Tupper Lake people. They remember the prison project of the 1990s and how the Council fought that and won. They have seen the Council's letters to its members, which contain a very different tone than its appeals to Tupper Lakers - more "We'll fight the developers who would destroy the pristine Adirondack Park" than "We want to help guide this resort, not hurt it."
The Council is more amenable to the project than any other green group, yet it would not be satisfied until the resort was shrunk smaller than the developer says he can go. Is that ground worth fighting for? Well, the Council is still in it, presumably to win it.
It was only too easy for green groups to come out looking two-faced and one-sided, at least in locals' eyes. Tupper Lake business advocates' angry missiles hit their marks and did some damage, but they also made the aggressors look like bullies. Yes, we support their plea for local people to support the resort at the hearing, but ARISE's request that supporters identify themselves with U.S. flags seems like a mean ploy to make anyone else look un-American.
These things could backfire if they make APA commissioners sympathize with the environmentalists. If advocates please their base but turn off the true jury in the case - the APA board - their strategy will be proven unwise.
Let's calm down and, instead of fighting each other out of bounds, focus on the big decision at hand and who is making it. Let's discuss this project's merits, not each other's.
Both sides' readiness to fight comes from passion for what they deeply believe in. We respect that and hope others do, too. Having everyone get through this decision without hating each other will help keep this fight from dragging on for generations.