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Legal fight over Adirondack Club & Resort continues

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TUPPER LAKE — And the fight goes on.

Supporters of the Adirondack Club & Resort were jubilant in July when the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Third Department, ruled unanimously that the Adirondack Park Agency followed its own rules when it approved the project by a 10-1 vote in 2012.

“There was so much excitement, it was fun to watch,” said James M. LaValley, chairman of Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy.

The project, on 6,235 acres surrounding the Big Tupper Ski Area, would usher in hundreds of new homes along with roads and water and sewer lines to support them. The project would include a lakefront marina and redevelopment of the ski area.

Even those who had opposed it were relieved by the decision because they thought it was finally settled after a decade of review, said Tupper Lake Mayor Paul A. Maroun, who is also a county legislator. But relief turned to frustration when Protect the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club, and a Tupper Lake landowner asked the court to review its own decision, he said.

The return date for the motion is Monday. If the Appellate Division declines the motion, the organizations plan to make the same request to the Court of Appeals.

“It didn’t come as a surprise these folks did this,” said Mr. LaValley, whose group has operated the ski area for the past few years with volunteer labor. “It’s unfortunate. Protect and the Sierra Club should be ashamed of themselves.”

Protect does not see it that way.

“We intend to see it through,” Executive Director Peter D. Bauer said.

Mr. Bauer said the decision from the Appellate Division was weak and ripe for appeal. If Protect had won its case in Supreme Court, Mr. Bauer was sure the Adirondack Park Agency would have requested an appeal of its own.

Besides, the court process should take a relatively short period of time — about six months — to play out, he suggested.

At the same time, preparations for the development have already begun. New business is coming downtown. Buildings at the marina that will be part of the resort are being torn down. The work to procure necessary permits is continuing.

“It didn’t really cause a delay,” Mr. LaValley said.

The primary objection from Protect and Sierra Club focuses on the approval by the APA of “great camp” lots spread throughout land classified as resource management under the APA Act. Protect fears the APA’s decision could adversely affect hundreds of thousands of acres classified in the park as resource management.

Development on resource management land should be clustered, but the great camps will be spread across the property, leading to forest fragmentation, Mr. Bauer said.

“It’s a terrible model,” he said. “We just think it’s a terrible precedent that undermines the APA Act.”

The court determined that there was “substantial evidence in this extensive record to support the APA’s finding that the residential development is consistent with statutory requirements,” and that the development of a management plan would lead to a healthy working forest.

The property is not pristine land, Mr. Maroun said. It has been logged for years and has been an active ski slope.

“There is no slippery slope. I don’t see another place in the park where this could happen,” he said. “The law says they can do just what they’re doing. It gives them that kind of flexibility.”

Protect and Sierra Club could have modeled themselves after the Adirondack Council, which chose not to become an adversary but to talk about tightening up rules, Mr. LaValley said.

Mr. Bauer said his organization spent thousands of dollars on fruitless negotiations with developer Michael Foxman of Preserve Associates.

“With few exceptions, it was his way or the highway,” Mr. Bauer said.

Protect’s and the Sierra Club’s resistance means taxpayers will pay because the state attorney general is defending the APA’s decision in court, Mr. LaValley said.

Rather than looking out for the environment, Protect is using its resistance to the APA decision to line its pockets with donations from outsiders who do not understand how rigorous a review the APA conducted, Mr. LaValley said.

Such allegations are baseless, Mr. Bauer said.

“Legal action for an environmental nonprofit is always a burden. We only undertake it as a last resort,” he said. “It’s not an effective way to raise money.”

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