ACR has letters of interest for 6 lots

TUPPER LAKE – Tom Lawson, one of the leaders behind the Adirondack Club and Resort project, gave about 40 people an update on the status of the project, and the court battle it has been embroiled in, Wednesday afternoon at the Knights of Columbus hall.

The ACR was proposed by a Pennsylvania-based investment group called Preserve Associates. It would overhaul the Big Tupper Ski Area in Tupper Lake and build out the land around it with about 650 luxury housing units and various amenities including a 60-room hotel, a spa, a marina and an equestrian center. The project received permits from the state Adirondack Park Agency on Jan. 20, 2012, after eight years, but progress stopped that March when two environmental groups and three nearby landowners sued to challenge the APA’s decision.

Even with the suit ongoing, Lawson said there are potential buyers of lots and local businesses eagerly anticipating a green light from the court.

ACR developers received Cooperative Policy Statement 1 status from the state attorney general’s office almost two weeks ago, which means they can now take reservations on the development’s wooded “great camp” lots where buyers are expected to build large homes.

“As I stand here, we have taken six reservations from five individuals,” Lawson said. “That does not include the Moody Pond Lot, which one individual has said that they want.”

The Moody Pond Lot is the largest of all, located on the Raquette River Oxbow on the ACR property’s east end, and including its namesake pond.

Lawson said those properties, including the Moody Pond lot, are worth about $20 million together.

“We’re off to a good start signing up people that are taking great camps,” Lawson said. “These people are ready to start building their homes up on the mountain.”

Big court date

The suit has been working its way through state courts, and now it appears that process might finally come to an end this spring.

“Briefs have been submitted, and we are scheduled for the week of April 28 to go before the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court for the verbal arguments,” Lawson said. “After those verbal arguments are given, we each get 15 minutes to speak. It then goes before the judges, and they render a decision. In the past, they’ve historically issued a decision in 60 days.”

Parties on the losing end of that decision would have 60 days to appeal it. The case could then go to the court of appeals, but only if the Appellate Division judges who made the initial decision deem it worthy.

“I remind everyone that in the course of almost 11 years now, we’ve won every decision,” Lawson said. “At no time has anyone ever given any indication that anything (the plaintiffs) have said had any merit to it. Tupper Lake and the surrounding communities in the Adirondacks have suffered as a result of this, and it’s time to put this behind us and move forward.”

Protect the Adirondacks, which is leading the suit along with the Sierra Club, in September submitted a lengthy brief detailing 29 allegations on how the APA violated established legal process and various parts of the APA Act when its board voted 10-1 in January 2012 to approve the ACR.

Ski area

If developers win the lawsuit, Lawson said a long process of rebuilding the ACR-owned Big Tupper Ski Area will begin. Some of the money from the sale of the great camp lots would go toward that project, which will include a new base lodge, snowmaking equipment and chairlifts.

“It’ll have to be done in stages, and it will take several years,” Lawson said. “In a perfect world we’d close the mountain down for a couple of years, but that’s not the intent. The intent is to keep the mountain open.”

Local investment

Lawson also announced that he and one of the men buying a great camp lot recently purchased the airport in Tupper Lake, which had formerly been owned by the Oval Wood Dish company.

“Several of the people who are buying great camps have private airplanes, and they want to be able to fly in and out of Tupper Lake, so we have big plans for that,” Lawson said.

Lawson said he has also been looking at taking advantage of the federal government’s EB-5 program. That program allows individuals seeking green cards to move to the front of the line in that process if they are willing to invest $500,000 into a community. That money goes into an escrow account and can be used for building and renovation projects.

“This entire area is certified for EB-5 funds,” Lawson said. “An investment group like ours can request EB-5 money. There are billions of dollars available to us at a low interest rate through this program. When their money is invested they get a green card, and two years later, when we are able to show that their funds provided at least 10 American citizens with full-time employment, they get American citizenship.”

Lawson said other big things are happening, too. The Old Northern Pub was purchased by Big Tupper Brewing Company and will become home to their brewing and bottling plant. Two buildings downtown will soon be renovated. The State Theater has a new heating and electrical system. A new restaurant, Bima’s, is opening Saturday.

“We’re all in; we’re not going anywhere,” Lawson said. “We’re seeing this project through. There’s all kinds of funding that’s available to us. There are buyers out there that want to move to Tupper Lake. They want to have homes here. There are investors who want to get involved with Tupper Lake. The EB-5 program is available to us. There’s all kinds of money out there; you just can’t get it when you’re in litigation. But Tupper Lake is on the map. It’s starting to happen, and anybody who tells you it isn’t going to happen is kidding themselves.”