TUPPER LAKE - As the adjudicatory hearing on the Adirondack Club and Resort starts back up, parties will be taking a look at where they are on the 10 issues originally slated to be discussed in the hearing.
Everyone involved in the divisive review process can agree that at least a few of the issues are moot, but several still may mean a drawn-out fight in the hearing arena.
The project is the largest one ever proposed for the Adirondack Park in which the state Adirondack Park Agency deemed an application complete.
The renovation of the Big Tupper Ski Area is just one component of the far-reaching Adirondack Club and Resort project.
(Enterprise file photo — Brittany Proulx)
The resort has had people questioning its scope and potential impacts since the idea was introduced in 2004. In 2007, the APA board decided to examine it in detail, naming 10 issues that should be examined in greater detail in an adjudicatory hearing.
The hearing was stalled, however, just as it was getting started, and progress has been crawling at a snail's pace for the last few years.
Now things are starting to pick up. Developers submitted revised application materials at the end of June, and a pre-hearing conference is scheduled for Wednesday to work out several topics, including which of the issues are still necessary to discuss.
ADIRONDACK CLUB AND RESORT PROPOSAL
- 651 residential units in 323 residential buildings
- Includes 198 single-family homes and 453 townhouses in 125 buildings, ranging from two to four units
Big Tupper Ski Area
- Significant infrastructure improvements will be made to chairlifts, snowmaking and grooming operations
- Tubing hill will be added
- Friday night skiing will be re-instituted
- New 2,900-foot-long chairlift and 1.24 miles of ski trails available to the public proposed on the west side of the existing ski mountain for creating and accessing ski in/ski out residential units
- Sugarloaf ski trail will no longer be available for skiing since it is the location of West Slopeside ski in/ski out housing
- Existing building demolished; new, two-story building constructed
- First floor will be storage and office space
- Middle floor will be at ground level on the state Route 30 side of the building, will house marina office space and retail sales of fishing and boating supplies
- Top floor includes private clubroom and storage area for retail store
- Membership to Raquette River Club, giving access to the clubroom, will be offered to 100-150 lot owners as part of their purchases. They, their families and guests will be able to use the clubroom for meetings, lounging and small parties with limited food service for up to 50 people.
- Existing docks replaced and more added for a total of 40 boat slips, with rental boats and gasoline sales available to the public
- Not a commercial operation, nor will it host competitions. Meant for up to 10 horses to be boarded by resort residents.
- Comprised of a barn, paddock, jumping area and dressage ring and connects to resort trails
- Miles of hiking trails
- Located so hikers can access appealing areas of the property, including the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, the top of Mount Morris, around Cranberry Pond, along Hemlock Brook and along the brook and waterfall to the east of the ski area
Base Lodge area
- Actually a complex of buildings designed to evoke the rustic character of the classic Adirondack Great Camps
- Will serve as a year-round meeting place for visitors and residents, potentially hosting conferences, weddings and town- or village-oriented community activities.
- An area for recreation and large gatherings
- Coffee shop/snack bar
- Living room/library
- Interior corridor as well as autdoor walkways, decks, porches and terraces
- Food service available throughout the year through either snack bar or restaurant
- Adjoining common terrace to serve large outdoor gatherings
- Additional base area buildings include a learning center, ski services building including ski patrol offices, a gym and recreation center building and a clubhouse and spa
- Skating pond, fire pit and informal bandstand/amphitheatre
- All architecture in the Adirondack style
- Complex meant to be dominated by pedestrian circulation, with parking to be minimized at the base area and the majority of it encouraged for satellite lots, with a car drop-off and a shuttle system to transport skiers to the base area
Preserved open space
- About 86 percent of the site (5,402 acres) will remain open space
- Open space consists of recreational open space, in the form of the ski area, common open space outside of any private lands, and private open space, mostly on great camp lots (trail network is on common and recreational open space lands)
- Information provided by APA
Lead ACR developer Michael Foxman thinks many of the problems have been addressed and he called most of the issues non-issues. He said they were most likely added because once an issue was raised by an outside person, bureaucrats want to show that they are covered, even if they are the things normally examined by an APA review.
"He doesn't want anybody to be able to point to him and say, 'You ignored that,'" Foxman said.
But others are likely to disagree on the importance of the hearing issues. John Sheehan, who is spokesman for the Adirondack Council, which is a party to the mediation, said most of the changes to the application are good improvements, but there are still things to deal with in almost all the issues.
Jack Delehanty, who is party to the mediation as an adjacent property owner on Lake Simond, said he believes there are about six unresolved issues. He said that parts of the project were eliminated largely due to a lawsuit brought against the town by a group of concerned citizens, many from the Lake Simond Road area, for rezoning the land encompassing the potential project into a planned development district.
"So I'm patting myself on the back for making this a little greener project," Delehanty said.
He noted that despite the eliminations, there are still problems with the project.
"I still think it's inappropriate to chop up resource management (land), and I think it would be a real bad precedent for the Adirondack Park everywhere if that's allowed to occur," Delehanty said.
The Enterprise will examine the first five issues below, then delve into the following five in Monday's paper.
Issue 1: Layout of great camps on Resource Management lands
Is the natural resource protection implicit in the Resource Management land-use area adequately protected, and are the great camp lots substantial acreage on well-designed sites?
Foxman said he believes significant changes in the great camp layouts should make them palatable to everyone involved.
"We don't feel there should be a problem with the layout at all," Foxman said. "That doesn't mean that somebody who wants to find a problem can't, but it should not be an issue."
Developers took suggestions from the APA and the Adirondack Council to revise its original plan of scattered great camps that had lots of an average of 90 acres. The altered plans include some lots with a large amount of acreage - about 170 acres or more - and others with little, averaging around 25 acres.
"We felt that was a good definition for clustering," Foxman said.
Sheehan, however, doesn't believe the changes are enough.
He said the biggest problem is that there are too many access roads, and they should be consolidated. In the current plans, there are a number of small roads that branch off to private lots. Sheehan said the Council would like to see the buildings closer together. He said they could be screened to maintain privacy.
The Council would also like to see developers sell all the land east of Lake Simond to a land trust or transferred to public ownership, Sheehan said, which seems unlikely after developers spent the early fall fighting for a right of way to get to the landlocked area.
Issue 2: Orvis Shooting School
What are the impacts of the Orvis Shooting School?
The shooting school originally proposed for the project is probably the most cut-and-dried issue - it has been taken out of the plans and Foxman said there are no plans to ever try to get it in the future.
The Adirondack Council would prefer to see a restrictive covenant put on the project site banning it from that use. Foxman said he'd be willing to do so if it's made a condition on the APA permit.
Issue 3: High-elevation housing
What are the impacts of the proposed high-elevation housing on the existing land topography, vegetation and soils, will it cause excessive stormwater run-off, erosion and slippage, and what will be the visual impacts?
Many of the high-elevation developments were eliminated, including the entire East Ridge, 19 lots in the upper portions of West Slopeside and the eight upper townhouse units in the West Face Expansion.
"We gave up those lots, and we don't think that there's any issue remaining," Foxman said.
He said those lots were expensive concessions, since they were slated to be ski in/ski out lots, have some of the best views and were suitable for use as gated private residence clubs. These factors could bring substantially more money for the houses than it could get otherwise.
The Adirondack Council approves of what's been removed, but Sheehan said the Council is concerned about the remaining portion of the West Slopeside cluster. In order to get to the houses, developers plan to use three over- or under-passes in order to get up to the narrow ridge, and the road would be extremely visible at night. He said eliminating or drastically decreasing the number of units there would be a good idea.
Issue 4: Lake Simond Road sewage treatment plant
What impacts does the proposed on-site sewage treatment facility at Lake Simond have on neighboring water bodies?
The Lake Simond sewage treatment center has been eliminated from plans, but critics are now bringing up concerns about the treatment facility at Cranberry Pond. Sheehan said the pond has historically served as a backup water source for the village. The planned wastewater treatment site would send as much as 160,000 gallons of treated wastewater a day into the pond, rendering it unusable for a village water supply, Sheehan said.
The pond is also slated to be used as a draw for snowmaking at the ski slope.
"I don't know how many people are going to be thrilled to ski on a slope that's outflow from a sewage treatment plant," Sheehan said.
He suggested it may be wiser to incorporate all the units into the existing village sewage treatment plant.
Foxman dismissed these assertions as nonsense. He said the plant is designed to meet strict standards and has been deemed satisfactory by state Department of Conservation representatives. He said the flow from the plant will be better treated than that of the village treatment plant. He said it will first be sent through an artificial wetland area to clarify it before it flows into the pond, and that it's common to use outflow from a sewage plant to make snow.
"It won't have a negative affect, in other words, on anything," Foxman said. "There really is no legitimate complaint about that plant."
Issue 5: Fiscal impact and
What are the fiscal impacts and public vulnerability to the governmental units should any phase or section of the project not be completed?
"If you've gone beyond third grade, you understand that there's no risk to government, and that if we fail, we lose money but government doesn't, and we're going to be increasing the tax base," Foxman said.
He insists there is no vulnerability for the public in the bonding that the developers plan to do through the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency or the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes they want to negotiate.
The Adirondack Council and other environmental groups have said the project would be most fiscally secure if the phasing is changed to start with housing units around the base of the ski slope, which is supposed to be the centerpiece of the development, "so you can build infrastructure, make sure the project will have customers, before you spread roads and sewers all over the landscape," Sheehan said. He said that would keep the initial phases of the project close together so that if the project isn't fully built out, the infrastructure would be confined to a smaller area.
But Foxman said the current plan to start with the great camp lots on the outskirts of the project is more marketable now. He said there's little market for townhouses, which are most of what's clustered around the ski slope. He said the infrastructure is less bulky in those areas, so its environmentally friendlier anyway.
Foxman said the environmental groups want to change the project's phasing because they know it would make it not economically viable.
"If they can convince the APA to make that a condition, they have as good as killed the project," Foxman said.
Sheehan said he hopes the developers expect everything in the project to be marketable.
"If he believes those are the only places he's going to be able to sell then why did he propose 700 other ones?" Sheehan said.