Resort approval challenged again

TUPPER LAKE – The battle to challenge the state Adirondack Park Agency’s approval of the Adirondack Club and Resort isn’t over.

Two environmental groups and one Tupper Lake landowner are now seeking to appeal a recent court decision.

On July 3, five justices with the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court announced that they unanimously agreed to dismiss allegations made by Protect the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and three local landowners. These plaintiffs had charged that the APA board failed to complete or heed its own environmental impact studies when it voted in January 2012 to issue permits to ACR developers, but the judges decided those claims didn’t hold up.

Their dismissal upheld a lower court’s ruling against Protect, the environmental group that opposed the APA’s 2012 approval of the 6,000-acre ACR project, the largest development ever to appear before that agency.

The initial lawsuit focused on the APA’s approval of 80 great camp lots spread throughout lands classified as resource management, the most restrictive private land category under the APA Act.

“The court’s decision did not examine the failure of the APA to uphold the APA Act for development of lands classified as Resource Management,” a press release issued Monday by Protect Executive Director Peter Bauer stated. “If the Appellate Court decision is upheld, it will create a ruinous precedent that will negatively impact hundreds of thousands of acres classified as Resource Management across the Adirondack Park.”

The press release also states that “the Appellate Division erred when it held that the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan of the APA Act is merely guidance to APA and is not binding on the APA, despite the plain language of the statute to the contrary. This reverses 40 years of legal practice at the APA and accords APA decision-makers with vast opportunities to issue permits with little justification.”

The appellants further allege that the five appeals court judges erred when they held that it was not arbitrary and capricious of the APA to rely on post-approval studies of adverse impacts to wetlands and wildlife, which have not yet been conducted, as grounds for approval of the project.

The press release also states that the justices did not examine the APA’s reliance on materials that illegally supplemented the hearing record to make its decision, and that the court also failed to examine ex-parte communication issues.

Jim LaValley, a Tupper Lake real estate broker and chairman of the pro-ACR Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy, told the Enterprise this morning that he is disappointed by this new development.

“It’s clear that these folks really have no interest in environmental issues,” LaValley said. “They’ve chosen to take an adversarial position instead of working together to try to make the Adirondack Park a better model. This isn’t just the people of Tupper Lake; this is the Adirondack Park. They’ve become really, what I would consider a menace.”

LaValley said the ongoing battle might slow down the ACR project, but it won’t put a halt to it.

“We know what the ultimate outcome is going to be,” LaValley said. “We know that the court will support the appellate court’s findings. The plaintiff is just attempting to continue to throw sand in the gears, and it’s not going to work. This project is going to continue to move forward. It’s a slowdown, but we’re looking forward, and we continue to look at the private investment pool, and we continue to look at ways to move this project forward.”