Town wants a say if Big Tupper is sold
TUPPER LAKE — The Tupper Lake town board is drafting a letter to the Franklin County Board of Legislators, letting the county know the town is interested in discussing the Big Tupper Ski Area property if the county forecloses on it this spring.
In this letter the town board will express interest in having the chance to purchase the property it used to own and run as a recreation area in 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. It is not an actual request to purchase the land. The county may foreclose on the property in the coming months, taking it from the owners for unpaid taxes, but has not started the process to do so yet.
Town Supervisor Patti Littlefield said she and Councilman John Quinn discussed drafting the letter after the Tupper Lake Business Group recent requested that the town look into buying the property.
“(It is) letting them know in writing, up front, that we would like to be at the table with the county in the event that they take title to that property,” Littlefield said.
She said the letter will likely be finished and sent to the county later this week.
Up in the air
Littlefield said there are many “what-ifs” to be answered before the town could start moving toward purchasing the ski area.
“Nothing is for sure at this time,” she said.
The owners of the property, who operate under the company name Big Tupper LLC, have time to pay off the several hundred thousand dollars in unpaid taxes they owe on the land. Developers Michael Foxman and Tom Lawson started in 2003 planning to revive the ski area and build a resort and luxury home development on it and its surrounding land, called the Adirondack Club and Resort. But after stalled state agency permits and legal battles, both with environmentalists and creditors, eventually the project ran out of momentum.
If the property is foreclosed on and the town seeks to buy it, Franklin County could just say “no” and put it up to bid if it believes it can get more money from another purchaser, Littlefield said.
The sale of the property would need to be approved by the county board.
The town built the ski area in the 1960s and ran it for two decades until it sold the property in 1987 for around half a million dollars. It kept going under local businessmen Peter Day and LeRoy Pickering until they closed it in 1999, and it fell into disrepair. Volunteers revived some parts of Big Tupper while waiting on the stalled Adirondack Club and Resort project, but it’s been six years since it was open.
The Tupper Lake Business group has asked the town to buy the property again and find a private or public entity to run the ski area. They believe the mountain is essential to giving Tupper Lake’s winter economy a jump-start.
Big Tupper LLC owes $121,000 in taxes on the ski area property, not including its 2020 taxes. Foxman and Lawson have until the day of the auction to pay these taxes in full and avoid foreclosure.
Littlefield said the original deadline to pay these back taxes was Feb. 9, but “because of COVID the governor has pushed that until at least May.”
She said this date may move again, but whenever the county is allowed and decides to foreclose on properties again, it will make a list of those properties for approval by Franklin County Judge Robert Main Jr. If Main recommends foreclosure, then the town would have a 90-day window in which it has first rights to request purchase.
Littlefield said she would like the agreement to be that the town would pay the unpaid taxes on the property — which the business group estimates is around $130,000 to $150,000 — but not the penalties on the past-due payments.
Quinn asked for a language change in a portion of the letter saying the board would like to have a seat at table at deciding the future of Big Tupper. He does not want to make it sound like the town is trying to make the county’s decision for them.
The letter Littlefield presented expressed the town’s interest in the mountain plot and the land encompassing Cranberry Pond.
Quinn said he would also like the request to include the lakeside plot which Big Tupper developers planned to be the site of a marina on Big Tupper Lake. He said the town may eventually want to pump water out of the lake at that location. Councilman Mike Dechene agreed, saying it could be used for both the snowmaking on the mountain and the sprinkler system at the nearby town-owned golf course.
Board members will submit their edits in writing to Littlefield, and the final draft will be sent to Franklin County legislators and other county officials including the manager and treasurer.
Littlefield said the final letter will be made available to the public when it is drafted.
Dechene said he was “all in favor of the letter” and likes the idea of sitting down with county officials. Councilwoman Mary Fontana said she believes the letter “makes our point.” Town Attorney Kirk Gagnier said he has reviewed this letter and did not have comment on it at the meeting.
Littlefield said she spoke with county Legislator and village Mayor Paul Maroun as well as county board Chairman Donald Dabiew, and both liked the idea.