TUPPER LAKE - Many say they expect the state Adirondack Park Agency to issue a permit to the controversial Adirondack Club and Resort at the end of its meeting this Friday.
But if that happens, it's only the beginning of a series of permits the large-scale development project would need before Preserve Associates, the development group proposing the ACR, could break ground.
Developers have five permits to obtain from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC spokesman David Winchell said in an email. They are:
a State Pollution Discharge Elimination Systems, or SPDES, stormwater permit
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 about 700 luxury housing units and various amenities including an inn, a marina and an equestrian center. The project is under review by the state Adirondack Park Agency and, as part of that process, was studied in a 19-day adjudicatory hearing. Parties submitted closing and response briefs in the fall, and the hearing record was closed Oct. 26. The APA board is at the end of a three-month review of the project and expects to make a decision on Friday.
a SPDES wastewater permit
a Protection of Waters permit for excavation of fill-in waters and stream disturbances
a Water Supply Permit
and a Water Quality Certification, which has to be completed as part of any federal permits related to wetlands and stream disturbances that may be required.
Winchell said Preserve Associates has been informed of the permit requirements. The DEC issued the project a 19-page notice of incomplete application in October 2010, and developers haven't submitted any additional information since then.
The state Department of Health needs to give realty subdivision approval to the project.
DOH engineer Kevin Scheuer said Preserve Associates has to submit plans to the department that show the sanitary facilities that are going to be installed to provide water and wastewater service to the Big Tupper Ski Area and the new homes there.
He said any project that includes plans to put in new public water and sewer needs DEC approval; then it brings more detailed, engineered plans to the DOH.
"They're all coordinated reviews, they all work together, but there's different roles that we have to play," Scheuer said.
He said that while the review will take longer than one for a simple subdivision, he doesn't expect it to take long, since it's basically making sure developers designed things to meet DOH standards.
"By the time the Health Department gets the project, it's basically a review of the nuts and bolts of how are they going to subdivide the land, how many homes are going to be there and what are the arrangements for getting water and sewer into those homes," Scheuer said. "For our part, it's kind of nice because ... once they get their APA permit, the environmental aspects have been settled, laid to rest, and really all we're doing is an engineering review."
DOH District Director Jules Callaghan said his department has not yet seen a formal application from Preserve Associates, but "we had some preliminary submittals."
Callaghan said his staff doesn't expect any problems or issues with the review of the project.
Army Corps of Engineers
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also needs to give approval to the project. Army Corps officials didn't return a phone call seeking more information about the approval, but lead developer Michael Foxman said he believes the Army Corps has jurisdiction over the marina his group plans to redevelop, and possibly other areas of the project.
"We have submitted some material, but there's - it's a long process," Foxman said. "It's going to take, I would guess, six or seven months more, from what I recall."
After those other permits are in place, the local planning board needs to approve final plats, or maps, of the subdivisions developers want to undertake.
Attorney Kirk Gagnier, who is helping the planning board review the ACR, said he expects Preserve Associates will come to the planning board with a map of portions of the project they want to start building, rather than the entire thing at once. The project is planned in four major phases, according to its APA application, but it could be broken down further into neighborhoods for final approval from the planning board. That's up to the developers.
The seven-member planning board will have to decide if each plat fits with the local land-use code and subdivision regulations, in the context of the planned development district created for the project. The board can approve it, approve it with conditions, deny it, ask for modifications or ask for additional security, Gagnier said.
The board already held a hearing on the project and gave it preliminary approval in 2010.
Gagnier said it's possible the planning board could give approval before DOH and DEC, but it would be more streamlined to wait until after those permits are in place.
"By the time it comes back around to the planning board, there will be a lot more information available, no question about that," Gagnier said.
Franklin County IDA
Gagnier said he views the planning board approval as the final step in the process, but it's likely that would need to be in place before the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency could arrange municipal-rate bonds for developers to start building the project's infrastructure.
"Nobody would want to buy the bonds if the permits aren't in place to make the project go forward," said IDA Executive Director John Tubbs.
The IDA board gave the project preliminary approval and held a hearing on it, with a process that started in 2007. But Tubbs told the Enterprise the developers will have to update their application after they get an APA permit and see what conditions they'll be required to operate under.
After that, the IDA board - which has new members since the project was given initial approval - will again have to give the project preliminary approval then hold another public hearing.
Then the IDA and developers will begin negotiating with the local taxing entities - the town, school district and county - to work out a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program that works for everyone. The PILOT would mean ACR property owners would pay the same amount of money they normally would through taxes, but that money would first go to paying off the infrastructure bonding. Anything left over after those payments would go to the taxing entities.
Tubbs said there have been many questions about the PILOT, and he and others have been meeting with community members about it already, though they don't know much about it now.
"People aren't really sure what form the PILOT would take, but until we have one that's actually proposed by the developers, we don't either," Tubbs said.
Tubbs said he'll likely discuss the PILOT with each taxing entity individually, then meet with representatives from each all together to make sure everyone is on the same page.
"We'd like everyone to come out of the same room agreed," Tubbs said.
Once the PILOT is agreed upon and all the necessary permits are in place, the IDA would give the project final approval; then the necessary documents would be executed and the bonds would be issued, Tubbs said.
HOA and other approvals
There are several other portions of the project that need various minor approvals, including filing proposed homeowners association offering plans with the state attorney general's office and getting a transportation corporation formed to oversee some of the roads being built and improved. But Foxman said he doesn't anticipate those to be much of a problem.
In addition to the other permits, developers may need to do some work satisfying conditions of the APA permit before they can build.
Mac Crikelair, project manager for FrontStreet Development's Ski Bowl Village project in North Creek, said that although his project got initial APA approval in 2008, but his group is just this year getting to the point where it can sell units.
He said he's been busy over the last few years getting other permits, like subdivision approval and DOH and DEC permits, as well as satisfying the conditions of his APA permit, like installing infrastructure before any lots are sold or units are built.
"The APA permit is just the beginning," Crikelair said. "That's the first of many permits that need to be obtained."
For the ACR, a draft APA permit includes requirements that the developers do things like install infrastructure and study wildlife before certain things can be built.
Foxman said his group plans to attack all the other permitting requirements as soon as it gets APA approval.
"We'll pretty much do them all at once," Foxman said. "The idea is to get through all of the permits and approvals as quickly as we can."
He said he doesn't foresee any of the other steps being a problem for the project.
"It's a very, very long and complicated process," Foxman said. "The important and controversial part of it is the APA. Assuming we get the permit on Friday, everything else is more for engineers, and it's not so much judgmental as it is, I guess you'd call it, quantitative."