Tupper Lake, and the central Adirondack region, is being forced to again endure a few more seasons of economic pain due to obstructionist legal action after the favorable 10-1 permit approval vote of the state Adirondack Park Agency in support of the Adirondack Club and Resort.
I've seen the obstructionist legal maneuver from the inside of a North Country jury box; please recall the frivolous three-day joke of The Nature Conservancy trying to legally deny access to a large parcel of land on the Raquette River by crossing an established woods-road.
They could not possibly win. New York law states that you can cross private property to reach another parcel if there is no other way to reach it, and the facts showed that this applied in the ACR case. So if those opposing private development couldn't win in court, then what advantage did they gain? They took the long view; any opportunity to cost the developers time and money worked in their favor. An important goal is to inflict so much pain and damage that even if you lose the court case, perhaps the parties you oppose will be so disgusted and dejected that they will take their development ideas and money and go someplace else. (For you history buffs, Google "Pyrrhic victory.")
And here we are again, but now the pain and damage is being felt not by the Lawsons and Mr. Foxman of the ACR, but by the hard-working people of the North Country in desperate need of jobs. And these aren't government jobs; these are skilled-labor jobs financed by private investors who have already experienced success in previous projects. And what's more, after eight years of going through the legal and lawful APA process, they earned the approval permit to begin, to start the actual spending of tens of millions of dollars on labor and supplies.
I met with Tom Lawson recently, one of the nicest guys I know, who served his country and earned his fortune through hard work, vision, risk taking and a desire to do honorable business on the basis of a handshake - his word is his bond. We had a revealing conversation. Sure, the delaying tactics of Protect the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and private owners Phyllis Thompson and Bob and Leslie Harrison (Bob is also co-chair of Protect the Adirondacks) cost the Lawsons more money to proceed, but Tom said he has the patience and resources to withstand these obstructionist attacks. He's not going anywhere. He is, however, being seduced by other people and towns outside the Blue Line, desiring his record of success and investment money by saying, 'Please look at us,' but as Tom told me, "I can't; this is my home."
Then I made Tom laugh.
"Look," I said. "You've been in this business for over 40 years. Something tells me that you're not in Tupper Lake for the profit margin; you could make a hell of a lot more money someplace else." After the laughter, he agreed wholeheartedly and mentioned several deals, some out of state, that would cost him a fraction of the money (and headaches) and return a far larger long-term profit. He talked about the development of the ACR property.
"We've made a lot of concessions. Even if I sell a lot with hundreds or thousands of acres, the buyer is limited to what they can build, the size and number of buildings - no matter how large the piece of property, they can only develop 3 acres. That makes them harder to sell, but there are buyers out there. I believe the economy will continue to improve."
Tom expects to make a profit, and rightly so, but he is investing much of that future profit back into the North Country. Tom and Susan are more than successful business people looking to make a buck; they've been our Tupper Lake neighbors for more than a decade. They could retire in sun-drenched luxury to any location in the world, even ones with white sand beaches, but they choose to live here and to give their time, energy and cash resources to improve their own hometown.
But it gets better; the Lawsons are avid environmentalists. They are pursuing full cut-off lighting to keep the Adirondack skies dark to promote stargazing, in support of the telescopes that the newly APA-approved Adirondack Public Observatory will be building here in Tupper, a project they've donated money and office space to. They want to use clean, renewable energy in the form of high-efficiency wood boilers; green energy and more local "support" jobs will be produced. I've personally met with Clarkson University's Dr. Philip Hopke, dean of the Institute for a Sustainable Environment, about a collaboration combining Clarkson's engineering excellence toward making the ACR an investment showcase for many different "green technologies" to possibly include solar panels and micro-hydro electricity generation, clean hydrogen storage (from already clean water resources) and fuel cell technology, the cost-use benefit of using local dried wood chips as a renewable fuel source, greenhouses, etc.
There is a LOT of money just waiting to be spent in pursuit of these worthy goals by individuals who value the right way over the most profitable way. Don't cut corners; instead, invest in value, invest for the long view. Tom wants to put people to work right now, but the obstructionists will not go away. It seems they do not care who they hurt in their own selfish pursuits. The private investment money will someday be released, improving the lives and futures of thousands of North Country families; that date is to be determined due to the delaying tactics of bullies going against a 10-1 APA vote.
Show support for your neighbors; come to the Community Rally on Saturday at the Big Tupper ski lodge - free chairlift rides from 9 to 10:30 a.m.
David Gardner is a Clarkson-Army scholarship winner who skied at Big Tupper as a student and then taught astronomy, meteorology, environmental science and physics in New York City before moving back to Tupper Lake to write his first book, "Whispers from the Stone Age." A speaker at The Wild Center and the North Country Energy Fair, he has just finished his second book, "The Secret BEHIND The Secret."