TUPPER LAKE - Attorneys argued Wednesday that it's misleading to argue that the Adirondack Club and Resort is less marketable than other Northeast ski resorts, because it is supposed to be a four-season attraction, not just focused on its ski area.
International developer David Norden testified Tuesday on behalf of Protect the Adirondacks that the Big Tupper Ski Area's relatively small size, lack of planned technological improvements and distance from metropolitan areas would make it difficult to meet sales goals projected for properties in the development.
But in cross-examination Wednesday, ACR attorney Thomas Ulasewicz argued that's not the best way to judge the project.
Scott Brandi, left, president of Ski Areas of New York and owner of a home in the Tupper Lake area, answers questions posed by Protect the Adirondacks attorney John Caffry Wednesday in a hearing session on the Adirondack Club and Resort at the Tupper Lake Train Depot.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
"Are you aware, Mr. Norden, that the ACR project proposal is not for a ski resort, but rather for an Adirondack resort with a ski area?" Ulasewicz asked.
Norden said the application materials he reviewed called the ski area the "centerpiece" of the project, so he assumed the ski area would be the focus. Additionally, he said sales of most of the townhouses in the project would rely on the ski area.
Scott Brandi, president of Ski Areas of New York Inc., a ski industry trade association, testified Wednesday that he believes the resort would be attractive year round. Brandi also owns a home in the Tupper Lake area. He called attention to elements like the adjoining, town-owned golf course, other amenities like an equestrian center, and the nearby Big Tupper Lake, which residents would have access to through a marina developers plan to renovate.
The Adirondack Club and Resort is a proposed project that would overhaul the Big Tupper Ski Area and build out the land around it with 651 luxury housing units and various amenities including an inn, a marina and an equestrian center. The project is under review with the state Adirondack Park Agency, and as part of that review process, it is now being studied in an adjudicatory hearing.
The eight-week hearing is broken up into three blocks based on groups of issues.
The Enterprise is live-blogging at the hearings. The live blog can be found at http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/page/blogs.listAll/display/34/Jessica-Collier.html.
He acknowledged that the town is facing hard times now, with many closed storefronts, but he called it a diamond in the rough and said the resort would merge well with the Wild Center museum and the planned Adirondack Public Observatory to rejuvenate the business community.
Brandi said he has no doubt the ACR would be a viable economic engine for the region's economy.
He also argued that it's unreasonable to compare Big Tupper with larger ski areas, saying there's a market for people who want small, family-oriented slopes.
In testimony Tuesday and his pre-filed testimony, Norden said that established brands are important to consumers in today's market. Ulasewicz questioned him about that, asking if the Adirondack Park itself is not an established brand.
"I think the Adirondack brand is a great brand," Norden said.
But when Ulasewicz asked if the Adirondacks are unique, Norden said he didn't think so. He compared it with several other mountain ranges like the Green and White mountains, and said that maybe the most unique thing about the Adirondacks is the "forever wild" Forest Preserve.
Ulasewicz also pointed out that a 2006 study, which Norden called outdated, was not used in the project's 2010 application update. Norden responded that there was no other information to go on offered by the developers, so he had to deal with that study.
Brandi's testimony stricken
Administrative Law Judge Daniel P. O'Connell decided to strike the bulk of Brandi's written testimony from the hearing record before he was cross-examined Wednesday.
Protect the Adirondacks attorney John Caffry asked where Brandi got a number of statistics included in his pre-filed testimony. Brandi told him he relied on a number of reports and surveys for the statistics.
Since Caffry had served discovery demands on Ulasewicz requesting information like this before the hearing got started, he argued that none of Brandi's testimony should be allowed into the record.
APA attorney Paul Van Cott, whose role in the hearing is mainly to ensure that the record is as complete as possible, argued that while it would be unfortunate for the hearing to be extended, he believed that it was important to have all the testimony on the record.
Several other parties to the hearing said they thought it was important for the hearing to wrap up by the end of the month, warning that delaying the testimony until the discovery demands could be met would extend the hearing.
Caffry argued that the testimony needed to be stricken to punish Ulasewicz for what he called a pattern of ignoring his duties to fulfill discovery demands. He argued that if it wasn't, parties to APA hearings in the future, and possibly even to state Department of Environmental Conservation hearings, would think it is excusable to ignore discovery demands until they get caught.
After deliberating for about 10 minutes, O'Connell announced that he would strike the parts of the testimony that relied on statistics, allowing the rest of it into the record. He gave no other comments, but in past hearing sessions has announced his distaste for problems with discovery.
"This is extremely concerning to me," O'Connell said in early May. "We need to have a fair playing field here. The only way to have that is to have fair, complete discovery about matters."