TUPPER LAKE - It's been the number-one news story in Tupper Lake for many years, but the Adirondack Club and Resort moved up in the world this January when it became the largest development approved in the 40-year history of the state Adirondack Park Agency.
Its developers plan to build about 650 residential units on 6,235 acres at and around a renovated Big Tupper Ski Area. They also want to add amenities like a spa, a marina and an equestrian center.
The plan was first introduced to the APA in 2004 and went through a lengthy process of reviews, a stalled mediation period and a 19-day adjudicatory hearing spread out over three months in 2011, creating thousands of pages of hearing record. The project was then deliberated by the APA board at a series of three multi-day public meetings from November through January.
State Adirondack Park Agency Chairwoman Lani Ulrich and Executive Director Terry Martino shake hands with lead Adirondack Club and Resort developer Michael Foxman after his project won APA approval on Jan. 20. (Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
On Jan. 20, the second day of the APA's first meeting of the year, commissioners voted 10-1 in favor of approving the project. Some commissioners expressed misgivings but said the potential benefits of the ACR outweigh the possible costs. Commissioner Richard Booth was the only one to vote against it, saying there wasn't enough proof that the project can be successful to outweigh its environmental impact.
After the decision, resort supporters rejoiced for a short time, and ACR developer Tom Lawson went to work on overhauling several Park Street establishments. He couldn't start work on the ACR yet, as it still needed approval from other state and local agencies before it could begin, but he said he was looking to jump-start business in the village in the meantime.
But on March 20, Protect the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and three nearby landowners - Phyllis Thompson and Bob and Leslie Harrison - announced they had filed an Article 78 lawsuit challenging the APA's approval of the resort. They argued that the APA board didn't have enough information to give it the go-ahead. They also accused the APA board and staff members of engaging in illegal communications with developers and people from the governor's office, saying the decision was heavily influenced by politics. The APA has categorically denied all such claims.
The lawsuit had been anticipated for some time, but that didn't stop ACR boosters from public outcry as soon as it became a reality.
In late September, the group that has been running the Big Tupper Ski Area for the last three years on a nonprofit basis announced that the ski slopes wouldn't open this winter. The leadership of the group Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving Their Economy blamed the Article 78 lawsuit for ruining their plans to open, saying there were people who would have helped fund the ski slope but who backed out because of the lawsuit. Officials from the environmental groups argued that it probably had more to do with the lack of winter in the previous ski season, only letting the ski area operate 11 days.
The lawsuit is still working its way through the levels of the state court system. A recent ruling sent it back to a lower court, and motions are still being made.
ACR developers are moving forward with their applications for the other permits they need. A hearing is set to be held by the joint town and village planning board in January on approving the first portion of the project, which would build out 22 lots in all - all of the ACR's large "great camp" lots and some of the smaller ones.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.