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State sued over Tupper Lake resort

March 21, 2012
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

An Adirondack environmental group announced Tuesday night that it has teamed with the Sierra Club and three Tupper Lake landowners to file a lawsuit against state agencies and developers for allowing the Adirondack Club and Resort.

Protect the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club, and landowners Phyllis Thompson and Bob and Leslie Harrison have filed the suit against the state Adirondack Park Agency, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Preserve Associates LLC, Big Tupper LLC, Tupper Lake Boat Club LLC, and the Oval Wood Dish Liquidating Trust and its trustee, Nancy Hall Goodshall. Harrison is a co-chair of Protect's board of directors.

A message left for lead developer Michael Foxman was not immediately returned this morning. Tom Lawson, one of the project's other developers, also could not be reached.

Bob Glennon of Protect the Adirondacks, a former executive director of the APA and lawyer with the state attorney general's office, said in a press release that the APA needs a "backbone implant." Glennon is assisting in the lawsuit.

"When Governor Rockefeller signed the law creating the APA, he is said to have proclaimed, 'The Adirondacks are saved forever,'" Glennon said. "He was tragically wrong."

According to Glennon, the lawsuit was filed with Albany County Supreme Court and is expected to be transferred to the Appellate Division's Third Judicial Department.

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The Adirondack Club and Resort, proposed for Tupper Lake 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. It was the biggest project ever to come before the board of the state Adirondack Park Agency, which approved it in January, eight years after it was first proposed.

"The law says that if an administrative agency has had an adjudicatory hearing - in other words, a formal, courtroom-like hearing where evidence is taken - and the issue raised is the decision made was not based upon what the laws says is substantial evidence, then it's void," Glennon told the Enterprise.

Protect's lead attorney in the suit, John Caffry, said that in recent years the APA has become a "rogue agency that ignores the law for political ends." He said the APA rubber-stamped the ACR permit.

The project was given approval on Jan. 20, a decision that was celebrated by many Tupper Lakers. Paul Maroun, mayor of the village of Tupper Lake, was among the project's biggest fans. He told the Enterprise this morning that the lawsuit surprised him.

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"I thought they had more common sense than that," Maroun said.

Maroun said the people involved represent the radical side of the environmental movement. He said Glennon should be ashamed himself for participating in what Maroun called a "frivolous suit."

"We've gone though over eight years of talks with the APA, the mediation, the hearings, thousands of pages - there's nothing there that hasn't been covered," he said. "And (Glennon) knows that. I don't know what he's out for."

Thompson, an adjoining landowner who is also suing to stop the project, said in a prepared statement that she is saddened and angered that "APA statutes have not been enforced."

The groups involved in the lawsuit note that much of the project is proposed for "moderate intensity use" lands, which they say is acceptable. Their main objection focuses on nearly 5,000 acres of undeveloped land classified as resource management, where developers plan to establish lots for "great camp"-style estates.

Protect claims the APA failed to require a "four-season, comprehensive wildlife study" before approving the project. The group also argues the great camp lots are not clustered on the resource management lands in accordance with APA statutes.

The parties in the lawsuit also claim that:

APA did not seek DEC's opinion on a valet boat-launching service that utilizes a state-operated boat launch on Tupper Lake.

It is illegal for the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency to finance road, sewer, water and electric work with $36 million in bonds.

The APA violated its own regulation by allowing illegal "ex parte" contacts between developers' representatives and agency staff.

Maroun said he's "very confident" the lawsuit will fail, and he believes it will end up costing the green groups "a lot of money." He said it will be a hindrance to the people of Tupper Lake "to a project that will help them, in my opinion."

The environmental groups will brief the statewide press on the lawsuit at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Legislative Correspondents' Association room, inside the Legislative Office Building in Albany.

The state attorney general's office will defend the state in the case, but APA staff and attorneys were preparing for a possible legal challenge throughout the board's decision process.



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