Tupper resort makes progress on road permits

Developers agree to tax payment plan, still face consultants' lien

From left, developer Tom Lawson, his son Tom Lawson Jr. and local real estate broker Jim LaValley pose behind a model of the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort project on July 3, 2014, in Tupper Lake. (Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)

Paperwork is beginning to fall into place for developers to build a road to the Adirondack Club and Resort’s “great camp” luxury building lots in Tupper Lake.

Pond Road, which would branch off the end of Lake Simond Road, needs permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. These agencies want to know how Preserve Associates, the development firm, would minimize and mitigate the road’s environmental impact.

The developers have been applying for these permits for more than two years, after winning a lengthy legal battle with environmentalists and a sprawling review by the state Adirondack Park Agency. The reasons for the road permit delays have not always been made clear, but now some progress is apparent.

The DEC declared the latest permit application complete after developers submitted it Wednesday, department spokesman Dave Winchell said Thursday. The DEC had declared a prior application incomplete on March 21. Now the DEC will prepare a draft permit for public review in the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, Army Corps Legal Instruments Examiner Victoria Bova said last week her agency was processing Preserve Associates’ permit application.

The Army Corps permission has to do with mitigating wetlands the road would run through. The DEC permits are for dealing with stormwater running off the road, for disturbing streams while replacing culverts along and under the road, and for certifying water quality with the wetland mitigation.

Pond Road would run 5.5 miles to 18 “great camp” lots, ending at the development’s largest parcel, the Moody Pond lot.

The 6,000-plus-acre ACR project was started in 2004 and centers around Big Tupper Ski Area, which would be rehabilitated. If built as planned, the ACR would also include ski-in-ski-out townhouses, a 60-room hotel, an equestrian center and a marina on Big Tupper Lake.

Preserve Associates recently bought about 5,800 acres of land from the Oval Wood Dish Corporation Liquidating Trust, paying $5.2 million to seal a deal initiated 13 years before. It was a huge step for the developers, who have said they have signed sales agreements for many of the lots. Once they sell them, they can pay off debts and further develop the resort property. Tupper Lake’s planning board requires that 7.5 percent of the sale price of each great camp lot goes to improve and maintain Big Tupper Ski Area.

The developers also recently paid Franklin County $100,000 toward back property taxes and entered into an agreement to pay the rest in installments of $67,430 a month for two years, according to county Treasurer Bryon Varin. That would total more than $1.6 million.

Another debt that looms over the developers is a $787,000 lien the LA Group holds against nine of its parcels. The Saratoga Springs-based consulting firm, a favorite of major Adirondack developers, claims Preserve Associates owes it more than $367,000 for unpaid labor and materials, plus more than $419,000 interest, for helping plan the resort and get it through the APA review and lawsuits. That lien is still outstanding, Franklin County Clerk Kip Cassavaugh said Thursday.

Aside from the resort, debts also hound ACR developer Tom Lawson, who lives in Tupper Lake. Community Bank is continuing a process of foreclosing on some of his business and personal properties here, according to Cassavaugh.

For the last 13 years, Tupper Lakers in general have avidly supported the ACR for the jobs and economic opportunity it would bring, as well as for its plans to upgrade and reopen the ski area.

Staff Writer Ben Gocker in Tupper Lake contributed to this report.

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