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Council witness: Developer underestimated visual impact of resort

March 25, 2011
By JESSICA COLLIER, Enterprise Staff Writer

RAY BROOK - An expert witness for the Adirondack Council testified Thursday that Adirondack Club and Resort developers are underestimating the visual impact the project will have at full build-out.

Harry Dodson, a landscape architect based in Ashfield, Mass., argued that developers overestimated the ability of vegetation to screen the buildings, roads and other features of the resort.

He said they were remiss in not creating any visual simulations during the winter, when a lack of leaves on the trees would mean more can be seen through them and when snow can highlight roofs and lawns.

Article Photos

Landscape architect Harry Dodson, an expert witness for the Adirondack Council, points out snow on the roof of an existing building on Tupper Lake in a simulation he created to show what the Mount Morris area would look like if the Adirondack Club and Resort is built there. Dodson testified Thursday in a state Adirondack Park Agency hearing on the project.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)

"In my professional opinion, the conclusions drawn by (resort developers Preserve Associates) concerning visual impacts, especially impacts during the winter and at night, do not accurately represent the true impacts of the project with respect to the West Face, West Slopeside and the development of large lots east of Little Simond Pond," Dodson said in pre-filed testimony.

He presented two photos from Mount Snow, a ski resort in southern Vermont, which he said showed situations similar to what the ACR would look like. Slopeside buildings and the lawns around them were clearly visible in the photos, and leafless trees did little to block the views.

Dodson took buildings from those photos and manipulated them with design software to place them in simulations of the Mount Morris area to create his own winter visual simulations of the ACR.

He also created visual simulations of what he thinks various views of the development would look like at night.

He called some of these views visually offensive, comparing small points of light in a dark landscape to an ant in a bowl of soup.

"It's a small, very small part of the whole scene looking down at your soup bowl, but it's a very momentous one when you're having lunch, so just because something is small doesn't mean it's not significant," Dodson said.

In cross-examination with state Adirondack Park Agency hearing lawyer Paul Van Cott, Dodson said the APA staff's draft conditions would do a lot to minimize the visual impacts but wouldn't eliminate them completely. The only way to do that, Dodson said, would be to move the buildings to cluster them more around the ski slope.

ACR attorney Thomas Ulasewicz tried to call into question Dodson's testimony and simulations through a variety of means during cross-examination that lasted throughout Thursday morning and afternoon.

Ulasewicz pointed out that the Mount Snow photos were not Tupper Lake, questioned the use of a zoom lens in one of the photos and questioned using the Mount Snow building images in the ACR simulations.

He called into question other methodology Dodson used to create his simulations, wondering why there was snow on buildings but not trees or the ground in some cases, as well as his choice of close-up views of the resort site rather than ones farther away.

ACR engineer Kevin Franke, of the Saratoga-based LA Group, and state Adirondack Park Agency planner Colleen Parker both testified Thursday that there is no methodology for accurately estimating the visual impact of a development at night.

Parker acknowledged in her testimony that the conditions are not meant to totally eliminate the visual impact of the resort but only to mitigate them.

She also said she is confident in the APA's ability to enforce lighting and vegetation-cutting standards, which Dodson questioned in his testimony.

Developers want to overhaul the Big Tupper Ski Area and build out the land around it with 651 luxury housing units, plus various amenities like a spa, a marina and an equestrian center. The project is the largest ever to come before the APA board, and commissioners decided in 2007 to hold the adjudicatory hearing on it before making a decision on whether to issue developers a permit.

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Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or jcollier@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.

 
 

 

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