Reviving Loon Lake?

The owners of more than 2,800 acres around Loon Lake are talking to the state Adirondack Park Agency about how they could develop the property and potentially reopen the Loon Lake Golf Course.

But if and when that could happen is still a moving target.

Representatives of Loon Gulf Inc. submitted a conceptual plan to the APA in late March. The “Loon Lake Golf Club & Resort” project would subdivide the roughly 2,800 acres in various locations around the lake into 160 residential lots and three open space lots. It also involves reopening the Loon Lake Golf Course, which has been closed since 2003.

“The concept plan envisions subdividing this property to lots for single houses,” engineer Ivan Zdrahal wrote in a March 27 letter to the APA. “Common open space areas are also proposed, which will also include the existing golf course and access to Loon Lake.”

The Enterprise obtained the maps and other documents Zdrahal provided to the APA through a Freedom of Information Law request.

No plans?

However, both a consultant who works for Loon Gulf and APA officials say the plan described in those documents isn’t actually in the works.

“We have no immediate plans to do anything,” said Richard Radice of New York City-based Tree House Consulting. “We’re just curious as to what we can do. The APA has its own restrictions, so we’re just meeting with the APA to try to understand what we’d be capable of doing.”

Asked about what’s described in the documents submitted to the agency, Radice said it’s an old plan that was just a prerequisite to sitting down with APA staff. The maps are dated July 2005.

“I don’t think you should put any credence into the plan that was submitted,” he said.

However, Radice did say Loon Gulf is interested in getting the former golf course back up and running.

“Everyone wants to see an active golf course,” he said. “That’s something we’ll always be interested in developing, and more of our conversations have focused on the golf course than anything else.”

Town’s take

Town of Franklin Supervisor Art Willman said he wasn’t aware of Loon Gulf’s meeting with the APA, or anything the company is planning. He said he plans to contact the company and ask them to keep the town in the loop.

Willman said he expects many of the seasonal residents of the Loon Lake area might object to plans from Loon Gulf to develop its property, “but in terms of the town and the area, in general, I’d welcome development that’s well done.

“Follow the APA’s guidelines, and DEC’s. Do everything right and proper,” he said. “I’d definitely like to see the golf course open, if that’s what their plan is. That would be a beautiful thing.”

Built in 1895, the 18-hole golf course was one of the oldest in the Adirondacks. It was closed by Loon Gulf in 2003 due to money woes.

Willman said it would take “serious rehabilitation” to reopen the course.

“The contours are there but you’d have to, pretty much, redo the whole thing,” he said. “It’s been overgrown and neglected. It’s a heartbreak that nothing’s been done there.”

Radice said Loon Gulf wants to keep the lines of communication with the town open.

“Any decision we decide to go forward with, we definitely want to make sure the local community has a say in it, and that it is something that’s in their best interests as well,” he said.

Taxes owed

The first thing Willman said when the Enterprise asked him about Loon Gulf is, “They better pay their taxes first.”

Loon Gulf owes a total of nearly $100,000 in unpaid 2013 town and county taxes on 14 different properties in the town, according to the Franklin County treasurer’s office. A clerk in the treasurer’s office said the company appears to wait until their local taxes roll over to the county before paying them, based on its tax records over the last four years. Loon Gulf paid its 2012 taxes in full by November, the clerk said.

Radice said he didn’t know anything about Loon Gulf’s tax issues and couldn’t answer any questions about them.

Who is Loon Gulf?

Radice said Loon Gulf is owned by private individuals whose names he declined to provide. He said they’re not from the Adirondacks, but wouldn’t say where the company is based.

Information on the New York Department of State’s Division of Corporations website shows the company was created in 1979 and has a principal office in New York City. Its CEO is listed as Jeffrey Heidings, the president of a real estate management company called Siren Management Corporation.

Willman said he thought Loon Gulf Inc. had been based in Italy, which the Enterprise had also reported in 2003 when the golf course closed. The 2005 maps provided to the APA say the company is based in Milano, Italy.

APA’s take

Speaking at last week’s APA meeting, Deputy Director Rick Weber said Loon Gulf doesn’t have a specific proposal in mind.

“They’re basically doing due diligence of what may be able to occur on the land,” Weber told agency commissioners. “They’re in the very early planning stages. They may even consider selling certain portions of the project site. We had a very good meeting, and at this point, there’s no further action with agency staff.”

APA commissioner Sherman Craig asked if the agency is ready for a project the size of what’s described in the documents, noting that the APA has recently been updating its Development in the Adirondack Park planning manual.

Weber said he is comfortable that the agency’s application process, and the dialogue with the property owners, could lead to a good “conservation design” if something is proposed.

Craig said it’s “exciting” to have that discussion before a final plan is presented. But he also said it’s unfortunate that ongoing litigation over the last large subdivision approved by the agency, the Adirondack Club and Resort, is preventing the board from talking about some “sensitive” land-use issues, which he didn’t name.

“I guess that’s what I’m getting at that is there are some lessons we’d like to have learned from ACR that I wish we could reflect on, because this is the first large subdivision I’ve seen coming down since,” Craig said.

APA commissioner Richard Booth noted that it’s not the first time a large development has been considered in the Loon Lake area. Loon Lake Estates, which involved 914 housing units on 3,500 acres, was the first project the agency reviewed when it was created in the early 1970s. The project was approved with a long list of conditions and restrictions, and it never moved forward.

“Some things do come in circles,” Booth said.