Another Legal Challenge To Adirondack Development Project Dismissed

Sep 19, 2014

Credit wikipedia commons

A New York State court has dismissed an appeal of a unanimous ruling that upheld the Adirondack Park Agency’s approval of the Adirondack Club and Resort project in Tupper Lake. Supporters of this largest-ever proposal to come before the agency say the ruling should allow the project to move forward. But the opponents that sued to block it say they have another legal option they will pursue.

More than eight years ago, developer Michael Foxman and his company, Preserve Associates, proposed the Adirondack Club and Resort project. The plan was to re-develop the Big Tupper ski area, build single and multiple family dwellings, an inn, a marina and single-family great camps. The Adirondack Park Agency issued its approval in January 2012 with conditions that included protection of open space.

The environmental advocacy group Protect the Adirondacks filed suit in March 2012 challenging the legality of the APA’s approvals.
In July the Appellate Court ruled five to zero that Protect the Adirondacks’ claims were speculative and without merit and the APA permits were legal. The group then filed a motion for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeals.

In a one sentence decision Thursday, the Appellate court denied permission. Supporters of the project say it’s a mandate that allows the development to move forward. 115th District Assemblywoman Janet Duprey is a staunch supporter of the project.  “This is huge. It’s certainly what we expected, but it’s great to see it in writing. It was highly unlikely that the Court of Appeals would overturn their own unanimous decision. I’m absolutely ecstatic about this. It’s about time that Tupper Lake is given the opportunity to move forward with this great project which will be an infusion of energy and funding and jobs and everything great  for Tupper Lake.”

Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving Their Economy - or Arise - is a group that supports the resort project. Chair Jim LaValley is more reserved in his enthusiasm, although he expected the court’s ruling.  “When you look at the fifteen page ruling that was issued back in July it was so definitive. And to go back to that same panel seeking permission to have the Court of Appeals hear the case, we knew that they really didn’t have a chance. Right now they’re playing a game. It’s really unfortunate that they don’t recognize that this project is going to happen. That the Adirondack Park Agency played by the rules, they went above and beyond and that this is a good project. It’s just really unfortunate that you have a handful of individuals who are continuing to play with the court systems at a huge cost to the New York State taxpayer,  knowing full well what the outcome is going to be on this.”

Assemblywoman Duprey hopes that this latest defeat for opponents will end their legal challenges.  “You would think with two unanimous decisions from the Court of Appeals, after all of the lower court decisions that have been made, the APA’s 10 to 1, that even these radical environmentalists, these obstructionists, would get the message that they’re finished.”

But Protect the Adirondacks does have legal options. Executive Director Peter Bauer says he expected this ruling to go against them and they will continue the legal battle.  “It was our belief that our chances were slim with the appellate courts, since it was the appellate court that had ruled against us. But this was a necessary step before the Court of Appeals. We plan to make our final appeal to the state’s highest court and we expect a decision by the end of the year.”

Bauer adds that they spent years in fruitless negotiations over the project which failed to produce significant changes.  “Eighty five percent of this project we never had objections to. It’s only the part of the project that affects resource management land. The Appellate Court decision was very disturbing because it said when it comes to resource management lands, and by virtue of that the rest of the APA Act, the Adirondack Park Agency had discretion to waive the rules and in effect allow those lands to be developed in a way that would facilitate forest fragmentation and natural resource degradation.  And that’s what hangs in the balance with this decision.”

Protect the Adirondacks will file an appeal to the Court of Appeals within the next thirty days.