Jonathan Monfiletto & Doug Buchanan
RAY BROOK — The Adirondack Park Agency nearly unanimously approved issuing permits for the 700-unit Adirondack Club and Resort project in Tupper Lake Friday.
The project, proposed by Pennsylvania-based investment group Preserve Associates, has been seven years in the making and would overhaul the Big Tupper Ski Area and develop the land around it.
The parcel will include about 700 luxury housing units, including 24 great camps each situated on a 50-acre plot, and various amenities that include a revamped ski hill and ski lodge, an inn a marina, and an equestrian center.
Plans for the project call for a construction timeline that will develop the resort in four phases over a period of approximately 15 years.
Rather than one overall permit, the agency decided to approve 14 different permits for separate parts of the estimated $260 million construction project with a set of conditions that must be met before the permits are officially issued.
The final vote tally was 10-1, with Commissioner Richard Booth of Ithaca the sole dissenting vote. Booth said he was against the project because of the negative environmental impact he felt it presented.
"This project is not compatible with the purpose of resource management," he said, citing his opinion of the lack of a proper study on the effects of the project on the wildlife and natural resources in the Adirondack Park.
Other members of the agency's board of commissioners, however, felt the project which covers only about a quarter of the land purchased by developers and leaves the rest as protected forest lessens its environmental impact while boosting the North Country's economy.
"I see great environmental benefits and great economic benefits," said Jennifer McCormick, the agency's state Department of Economic Development designee. "It's what we want to see in this region."
McCormick noted that about 4,600 acres of the 6,400-acre parcel will become protected land that was once used for logging and past development.
Other members pointed to the agency's process that concluded with the approval of the permits and involved both lengthy consideration of the project by the agency and much public input throughout the process. While explaining their votes, several members applauded the review process.
"It does not rise to the level of adverse impact," said Commissioner Frank Mezzano of Speculator, echoing the conclusion the agency came to after its review of the project. "I can't see a better use for this property than to do some orderly development."
Tupper Lake Mayor Paul Maroun, also Tupper Lake's representative on the Franklin County Board of Legislators and a longtime supporter of the project as a means of creating private sector jobs, praised the agency for its thumbs-up of the permits and told board members he would make sure the developments follow conditions set for the issuance of permits.
"I want Mr. Booth especially to be assured that as long as I'm the mayor of Tupper Lake ... I will do all I can to make sure that we will carry out the mandates you've set forth to make this a project we can all be proud of, not just in Tupper Lake, but in the surrounding towns and counties and throughout the state of New York," Maroun said.
The recently elected mayor also gave assurances that the ACR developers and municipal leaders will work diligently with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the state Department of Health, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and any other involved state agencies to make sure all environmental requirements are adhered to.
The agency voted on the project after a three-month review of the project that included a 19-day adjudicatory hearing process. The vote after on the third day of the boardıs regular monthly meeting.
The project, while embraced by Tupper Lake officials and surrounding municipalities, has been vehemently opposed by the Adirondack Council, which has predicted that it will fragment backcountry open spaces and discharge chemically treated wastewater into nearby Cranberry Pond on a daily basis.
Proponents of the project have said it will provide a badly needed economic shot in the arm for Tupper Lake and the surrounding areas as well as protect thousands of acres within the proposed project area.
In addition to providing jobs, the resort is expected to bring in tourist dollars from outside the area as well as new residents who will have an appreciation for the "forever wild" concept that is central to the Adirondack Park Agency's mission.