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Reopened resort hearing seen as unlikely

January 4, 2012
By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

TUPPER LAKE - Adirondack Club and Resort developers aren't worried about an environmental group's proposal last week to reopen a hearing on the project.

Adirondack Wild, a green group that was a party to the state Adirondack Park Agency's adjudicatory hearing on the ACR, filed a motion Friday to reopen the hearing to gather more information about the project's potential impact on wildlife and possible alternative designs.

But Preserve Associates' lead developer Michael Foxman said he has no doubt the motion will be denied.

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"If they would look, they would see that they have seven years and 13,000 pages worth of information," Foxman said in a Tuesday phone interview.

Adirondack Wild argues that the APA board doesn't have enough information to make an informed decision as to whether the project's potential environmental impact is outweighed by its economic benefits, since there was no comprehensive study done of the wildlife in the area and potential alternative project designs. But Foxman said he believes there's plenty of information.

"I think they ... have had enough information for years, and if they didn't, they wouldn't have completed the application," Foxman said. "You never have all the information. You never have enough to satisfy experts who were hired to testify that you don't have enough."

He argues that people familiar with the area know enough about the local flora and fauna to know the development, which is spread out over about 6,400 acres, wouldn't be big enough to be too harmful.

"Anybody who lives in Tupper Lake knows that Bigfoot doesn't roam the OWD lands (the Oval Wood Dish lands that Preserve Associates is under contract to buy) and there's nothing unique there," Foxman said. "And frankly, even if there were something unique, we are disturbing so little of the ground that I'm sure it would just make a detour."

Kirk Gagnier, who represented the town of Tupper Lake and the local planning board in the adjudicatory hearing, said he finds Adirondack Wild's motion redundant, saying all the issues raised in it were already brought up during portions of the hearing. He said the motion "is essentially re-argument of the briefs that they've already put forward."

He noted that the motion is like a follow-up brief to the closing and reply briefs that were part of the hearing, but follow-ups were not authorized by the judge.

Gagnier said he thinks the motion was an attempt by Adirondack Wild to bring their issues to the forefront of the agency's deliberations.

Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian Houseal had a similar reaction, saying the motion has "perhaps helped focus commissioners on the critical issues that have to be decided on when they get to their January meeting."

"We appreciate Adirondack Wild's perspectives," Houseal said. "Certainly the issues they raised were similar to the issues the Adirondack Council raised in its summary statement."

The review process has been long, though, and the Adirondack Council doesn't see a need to reopen the hearing.

"Quite frankly, the issues are on the table," Houseal said. "I don't think it needs to go back to hearing."



When Adirondack Wild announced its motion, co-founder David Gibson said that since the ACR needs to obtain other permits before it can enter construction phases, reopening the hearing wouldn't have an effect on the project's timeline. Foxman disagrees.

"That's completely untrue," Foxman said. "It would make us reconsider the project. There are a lot of things that have been done and said over the years, and I think that moving it backwards at this point would not be something that would work very well for us."

APA spokesman Keith McKeever said the agency is reviewing the motion, and the agency board will rule on it in the course of its deliberation later this month. The January meeting is set to run from 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, to early afternoon that Friday, Jan. 20.



Foxman said he has no doubt that Preserve Associates will walk away from the APA meeting with a permit for the development.

He said his group is swinging into high gear, making preparations for that moment. He said they are working on putting together the information needed to complete a permit application with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, they've given the required information to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and he expects Preserve Associates attorney Bob Sweeney will touch base with the local planning board soon. He said he expects to move quickly through planning board approval.

"There will be a million details," Foxman said. "We are looking forward to completing the process."

Preserve associates also has a consultant coming to look at the Big Tupper Ski Area in the next month to examine what needs to be done to upgrade it from the mostly volunteer-run enterprise it is now to a ski area consistent with the type of resort developers want.



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