TUPPER LAKE - A packed crowd in the town hall broke into a round of applause as planning board Chairman Jim Larkin finished signing paperwork giving the board's approval to the first phase of the Adirondack Club and Resort Thursday night.
"I just want to say thank you on behalf of my clients," ACR attorney Bob Sweeney said after the applause died down. "This is a big move for us, and we're very happy to get this going with this approval."
Sweeney thanked the town-village planning board for putting a lot of work into the approval.
Adirondack Club and Resort attorney Bob Sweeney, center, thanks the Tupper Lake planning board — from left, board members Ben Peets and Shawn Stuart — for approval of the first phase of the development Thursday night. To Sweeney’s right, from left, are Ron LaScala and ACR developer Tom Lawson.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
The planning board unanimously approved the first phase of the resort Thursday with little discussion. The board held a public hearing on the phase in January but put off making a decision until this week as conditions were being fine tuned.
Several dozen people filled the town hall's small meeting room Thursday night for the meeting, with more people standing in the back of the room and the hallway due to the lack of room.
The first phase includes the development of all the project's large "great camp" lots and some of the small ones. A total of 22 lots will be included, with one lot dedicated to a road, three open-space lots and 18 single-family residences. It will involve 3,625 acres of the 6,235 total in the project site.
The ACR still needs to get other approvals before it can move forward. Developers are working to submit updated applications to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and they also need approval from the state Attorney General's Office. Sweeney said it was tough to estimate when the DEC application materials would be ready, but he said progress is being made.
"You know, you can't put a timeline on anything," Sweeney said. "We're moving on all fronts, and we're going to get all those permits lined up."
Sweeney said developers see the planning board's approval as a big step forward.
The Adirondack Club and Resort, proposed by a Pennsylvania-based investment group called Preserve Associates, would overhaul the Big Tupper Ski Area in Tupper Lake and build out the land around it with more than 650 luxury housing units and various amenities including a spa, a marina and an equestrian center. The project received permits from the state Adirondack Park Agency on Jan. 20, 2012, after eight years of negotiating, reworking the application and an extensive adjudicatory hearing.
In March 2012, two environmental groups and three nearby landowners filed a lawsuit to challenge the APA's decision. That suit is working its way through state courts.
In addition, the project must also obtain a number of other approvals, including from the state departments of Environmental Conservation and Health, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the local town-village planning board.
"This is a big one," Sweeney said. "This creates the lots. In order to develop the lots, we need the other permits, but this creates the lots."
As the project comes before the DEC, the AG's office and, again, the state Adirondack Park Agency, the local approval helps, Sweeney said.
"They're all interested to know that the town is moving forward with their approvals," he said. "It helps us a lot on that front."
The project was already issued a general order from the APA, but that agency still has to issue the two permits involving the great camps. Sweeney said a few items like plans have to be delivered to them for that to happen.
"It's right in the permits, what we have to do," Sweeney said.
The planning board permit includes a number of conditions, including setting up a fund that will take 7.25 percent of the gross sale price of each of the 18 lots in the first phase to be used for "operation and maintenance of and capital improvements to the Big Tupper ski area." The fund will be managed by three people: the developer or its designee, the entity operating the ski area and its designee, and the town supervisor and his or her designee.
The version that the planning board passed Thursday night added from a previously released draft of the conditions that two of the three people involved would need to sign off on any checks drawn from the fund.