TUPPER LAKE - It's been 60 days since the Appellate Division of the New York state Supreme Court heard arguments on the Adirondack Club and Resort case, but a decision still has not been announced.
On April 28, the justices heard 15-minute verbal arguments from representatives on both sides of the lawsuit made according to Article 78 of the state constitution.
The justices announce their decisions every Thursday morning, and since they often follow a self-imposed 60-day deadline for decision making, people here eagerly awaited a verdict this Thursday, but it didn't come. That verdict could be the end of a lengthy legal battle in which the state Adirondack Park Agency and ACR developers were sued by Protect the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and three local landowners: Phyllis Thompson, Robert Harrison and Leslie Harrison.
A contractor hired by the Adirondack Club and Resort tears down buildings that comprised the vacant McDonald’s Marina on Big Tupper Lake this month. Developer Tom Lawson said construction on the new ACR marina will begin here soon.
Attorney John Caffry represents Protect, attorney Thomas Ulasewicz represents the ACR developers and Assistant Attorney General of Counsel Susan Taylor represents the APA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Caffry has centered the plaintiffs' argument around the assertion that the APA board failed to complete or heed its own environmental impact studies when it voted in January 2012 to issue permits to ACR developers. He said the APA's vote violated its own laws and set an unsavory precedent for future development in the Adirondack Park.
"We feel that we put our best case forward, and we feel it's clearly now in the hands of the judges," said Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer. "We focused the entire time on the law, and this issue is really about our contention that the law and regulations of the APA were not followed."
Parties on the losing end of the court's decision would have 60 days to appeal it. The case could then go to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, but only if the Appellate Division judges who made the initial decision deem it worthy.
ACR developer Tom Lawson said he is confident the judges will rule in the APA's favor, meaning development on the resort would soon follow.
"This case has been heard over and over again, and the result has always been the same," Lawson said. "We've always prevailed because they have no case. We've been to the local courts, we've been to trial by jury, and we've been to the (state) Supreme Court. The closest we've ever come to losing anything was the 10-1 vote with the APA."
The Tupper Lake Planning Board approved building permits for the project last year, but developers decided to wait until the lawsuit was over to begin building. That changed earlier this month, when Lawson tore down nine buildings that comprised the vacant McDonald's Marina on Big Tupper Lake. He said building on the new Adirondack Club and Resort marina will begin soon.
The ACR project includes plans to provide a valet service from the marina to the state-owned boat launch nearby. Plaintiffs say that would overcrowd the parking lot there, thus blocking non-ACR residents from using the public boat launch.
Lawson contends that the state launch is currently underutilized, and the valet service would simply drop off and pick up watercraft, not park there.
"The argument is that the APA didn't do a good job," Lawson said. "The APA spent eight years looking at this project. If it went against us, what is that saying? Is that saying that the APA, as it exists today, is incompetent? Are you telling me that the APA never had the authority or the qualifications to hear this case? Think of the ramifications of that."