Thursday, April 21, 2011

Big plans, big doubts

Adirondack Club and Resort hearing, March 2011.

Tupper Lake residents fill the room at a public meeting on the Adirondack Club and Resort in March. Photo by Nancie Battaglia

 

 

While Tupper Lake looks to the Adirondack Club and Resort for economic salvation, real-estate agents question whether the developers’ ambitious business model is plausible.

By Brian Mann

For seven years, Michael Foxman, lead developer of the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake, has argued that his massive $500 million project will boost the North Country economy, with financial risks limited to himself and other private investors.

“It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime project,” he said, when first unveiling the concept in 2004. “We get a chance to make a lot of money and do a lot of really good things for the community.”

Clarence A. Petty FundYet even as the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) wraps up its review and prepares to vote on a permit application, the Adirondack Explorer found that significant doubts remain about the project’s economic viability. The business plan for the resort also remains unclear, despite years of scrutiny, public hearings, and statements by Foxman and his consultants, and there are lingering questions about its financial impacts.

The APA’s review is based in part on a detailed economic analysis submitted to the agency by Foxman last year. But in lengthy interviews, he distanced himself from that analysis. He discounted or qualified many of its assertions about bond issuances and the schedule for building homes and developing such amenities as a new ski lodge, equestrian center, and gym.

“The reason you don’t see any specificity is because we don’t know what the [real estate] market would look like,” said Foxman, a seventy-three-year-old attorney from Philadelphia.

A golf pennant reflects the popular consensus.

A golf pennant reflects the popular consensus. Photo by Nancie Battaglia

Foxman proposes building the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) over fifteen years in the vicinity of the Big Tupper Ski Area and a public golf course on Mount Morris. When completed, it would have some 650 residential units, including condos, town houses, single-family homes, and rustic mansions modeled on the Adirondack Great Camps of yesteryear. It also would have a sixty-room hotel and restaurant. The ski area—now run by volunteers—would be taken over by the developers and refurbished.

Most of ACR’s 6,235 acres would remain undeveloped and open to residents for hiking, cross-country skiing, birding, and leaf-peeping. Foxman sees the resort as unparalleled in the Northeast, a four-season blend of wilderness and civilization that will attract buyers from New York City, Toronto, and other cities.

Yet when pressed, Foxman provided only a rough outline of how ACR’s “vast infrastructure costs”—for roads, electrical lines, and wastewater treatment, among other things—would be financed. He described a mix of private borrowing and bond issuances.

He also said much of the early cash flow for the project’s construction, marketing, and operations would come from the sales of between “forty and fifty” luxury-priced land parcels and vacation homes each year. “The bulk of initial sales will be the Great Camps,” he said, referring to estates that would range from nineteen to 770 acres.

Yet Foxman hopes to make available a variety of properties, not just Great Camp lots, at any given time. The initial prices for build-ready parcels, he said, could range from $100,000 for a small home lot to $5 million for the largest Great Camp lot.

An extensive review of real-estate records in Tupper Lake and other places in the Adirondack Park found little evidence to suggest that ACR will be able to sell high-end real estate at the prices or at the pace that Foxman envisions, even once the regional housing market recovers from a painful three-year slump.

Indeed, no independent real-estate agent contacted for this story thought the company’s sales goals were realistic. Speaking anonymously, even some realtors who publicly endorsed the project expressed skepticism, saying they wanted the APA to approve the permit but questioned whether the resort’s homes or properties would find sufficient buyers.

“You’re talking about numbers that would make more sense in an area that has an established international draw, like Aspen or Vail,” said Mark Bergman, who sells vacation homes in North Creek and Lake George. “Those numbers in Tupper Lake are, to be polite, very aggressive,” he added.

Tupper Lake residents hope the resort will revitalize their downtown.

Tupper Lake residents hope the resort will revitalize their downtown. Photo by Susan Bibeau

The Adirondack Club and Resort is a politically sensitive subject in Tupper Lake. Although surrounded by beautiful mountains and waterways, the former logging town has been in economic decline for years. Its downtown is plagued by shuttered storefronts, and the former Oval Wood Dish factory closed long ago. Young people leave because they can’t find work. Most local leaders and residents regard Foxman’s project as a way to revitalize a community that lost 7 percent of its population over the last decade.

“This is one of the biggest issues any of us here will ever face,” said Mayor Mickey Desmarais at a public meeting in March. “The village has supported ACR since inception. We do look for some sort of approval [from the Park Agency].”

Nevertheless, some local government officials and business leaders in Franklin County continue to express concerns privately about ACR’s financial stability and Foxman’s capacity to realize his ambitious vision.

In researching this article, the Explorer was unable to confirm important details of how the project’s complicated financing and construction phasing would work in practice.  We also found evidence that Foxman’s investors face cash-flow difficulties. Finally, a claim about ACR’s relationship with the prestigious Orvis outdoor company appeared to be exaggerated or at least premature.

Optimistic assumptions

The LA Group, a consulting firm hired by the developers, prepared the economic analysis submitted to the APA last June. Written during a deep slump in the housing market, the detailed document nonetheless describes a relatively rapid pace of construction for many of the resort’s luxury amenities.

In the first three or four years, it envisions the building of a marina and a new ski lodge at a total cost of $7.7 million. Phase-one costs also include road installation, electric lines, construction of the first module of a sewage-treatment plant, and other infrastructure worth roughly $8.6 million, according to the document.

As recently as March, Foxman’s representatives cited the analysis to explain how the project would improve life in Tupper Lake. “We are projecting some 313 [construction] jobs created per year on average,” Jim Martin, a senior planner with the LA Group, said at a crowded public hearing.

Martin suggested that the community would see a $9.6 million boost in payroll as the project rolls out. He also predicted that a negotiated agreement for “payments in lieu of taxes” (or PILOTs) would funnel substantial dollars to local governments during the build-out, including $612,000 in annual payments to the school district. “That’s quite an impact just from phase one alone,” Martin said.

The homes would be built near the Big Tupper Ski Area on Mount Morris.

The homes would be built near the Big Tupper Ski Area on Mount Morris. Photo by Susan Bibeau

Apart from the promise of jobs and tax revenue, the community is drawn to Foxman’s plan to fix up the Big Tupper Ski Area, which closed in the 1990s. Volunteers reopened part of the mountain during the past two winters, but the ski area needs millions of dollars in repairs to become fully operational.

“Big Tupper needs to be resurrected on the scale that is being proposed by the Adirondack Club and Resort,” said Neil Seymour, director of tourism for Franklin County, an early supporter of Foxman’s project. “Anything less would jeopardize the future of the project.”

LA Group’s analysis forecast sales of $91 million worth of resort properties in phase one of the build-out. That revenue would be supplemented with a round of private borrowing and capital infusions from new investors. Foxman has also proposed an initial issuance of roughly $10 million worth of tax-free, low-interest bonds by the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency, with a total of $35 million in bonds issued over the lifetime of the project.

But in conversations with the Explorer, Foxman said the analysis now under review by the state—including the schedule for construction, job projections, and the forecast of revenues for local governments—was merely conceptual. He suggested that actual build-out would likely be much slower, with the first bond issuance closer to $3 million.

“We’re not going to go out there and spend $50 million or $100 million on amenities and infrastructure before we have sales,” he said. “We’re going to scale the project to the market. In the economy such as we’ve been experiencing, it’s only sensible to do that.”

When asked to give a more detailed picture of his strategy for financing millions of dollars in annual construction costs, salaries, marketing costs, and PILOT payments, the developer offered few specifics. He declined to describe his pool of investors and said that talks with possible bank lenders were not yet under way.

Foxman also wouldn’t say when ACR would be able to begin work on the lifts and ski lodge at Big Tupper. “I can’t tell you precisely when we will start to do what,” he said.

Asked why his account of ACR’s start-up differs so substantially from the analysis prepared by the LA Group, Foxman argued that the document was never intended as a “business plan” or fixed roadmap. “To meet the requirements for the APA [review], it was necessary to make some assumptions,” he said. “You’re dealing with a business that has to be flexible.”

Realtors skeptical

Despite these uncertainties, Foxman maintains that more investors will back his project once an APA permit is secured. (ACR will also need approvals from two other state agencies, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health, before moving forward.)  He also predicts that dozens of buyers for resort properties will be found each year—though the early buyers will have to embrace his vision of the resort before many of the recreational amenities are available.

“Will the first buyer have to be more courageous than the two hundredth buyer? Probably,” Foxman said.

But a report issued in 2006 by the Hudson Group, a consultant hired by the town, concluded that ACR’s projected sales were not based on “reasonable and substantive” data and questioned whether the resort could be “successfully marketed given the number of units and prices being proposed.”

In the years since that study was released, the Adirondack housing market has been crippled by the national recession. Even in the Park’s established resort communities, real-estate agents say luxury homes languish on the market for months. Sellers have been forced to drop their prices sharply.

The architectural drawing shows a portion of the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort.

The architectural drawing shows a portion of the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort. Courtesy of the LA Group

Another major new Adirondack resort project, the Front Street development in North Creek, has stalled. Despite receiving its APA permit three years ago and offering buyers “ski-in, ski-out” access to the popular Gore Mountain Ski Area, Front Street has failed to sell a single unit.

Meanwhile, over the last three years, only thirty properties in all of Franklin County have sold for the prices Foxman hopes to fetch—far fewer than the forty to fifty properties he plans to sell annually just in Tupper Lake. Indeed, to achieve his goals, ACR would have to sell roughly twice as many luxury properties each year as sold in 2010 in all of Essex County, which includes Lake Placid, one of the Park’s most popular destinations. Last year, only twenty-four properties in the county sold for above $500,000. Many of those were highly prized waterfront properties with homes. In contrast, ACR will be selling parcels that, with few exceptions, lack waterfront, and at least some parcels will be vacant.

Foxman acknowledged that “we would love to have more waterfront” to sell. But he maintains that there are people ready to invest in the multi-dimensional resort he plans. “We think this will work or we wouldn’t stay at it,” he said. “We’re not just dreaming this up.”

Yet a half-dozen real-estate agents contacted for this story expressed deep reservations about the marketability of Tupper Lake as a destination for wealthy buyers, especially at a time when customers remain scarce in the Park’s established resorts. They insisted on speaking anonymously because of the political sensitivity of the project.

“It will never happen,” said one broker knowledgeable about the vacation-home market in the Tri-Lakes region, referring to the prediction that forty to fifty ACR properties will sell each year. “[Foxman] doesn’t have any waterfront, and they’re in Tupper Lake, not Lake Placid. But even in Lake Placid, that number of sales would be far-fetched.”

“There’s no history to support those kinds of numbers in the Adirondacks, especially now,” agreed another prominent realtor.

However, the business community in Tupper Lake has pushed back against this kind of skepticism, with the Adirondack North Country Chamber of Commerce endorsing the project.  The Northern Adirondack Board of Realtors (NABOR) also passed a resolution supporting the resort.

Poised for discovery?

NABOR’s executive director, Laura Burns, said she doesn’t think the real-estate market is robust enough to allow ACR to sell forty to fifty homes per year “within the next few years,” but she did note that conditions are improving. “I feel this region is poised to be discovered by the rest of the world,” she added.

Jim LaValley, a Tupper Lake realtor, helped found a civic group called ARISE (Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving our Economy) to support ACR.  He described the resort’s business model as ambitious, but he said its goals are achievable if the vacation-home market continues to revive.

He suggested that sales could eventually exceed Foxman’s projections, while acknowledging that “there are going to be years when that number [of sales] won’t be met.”

Foxman contends that, as an outsider, he brings a fresh eye to the region and understands its appeal to wealthy urbanites. “I think people who know the Adirondacks and know it well are almost at a disadvantage. There has never been another resort of the type that we propose,” he said.

In promotional materials, public statements, and documents provided to the APA, Foxman has touted the resort’s relationship with Orvis, a posh outdoor-recreation company headquartered in Vermont. He has branded his resort as an “Orvis sporting lifestyle community.”

In an interview with the Explorer, however, Orvis spokesman James Hathaway downplayed his company’s ties to the project. He said that a past agreement existed to operate a fly-fishing school and a shooting school, but he said Orvis has no active involvement and no plans to invest in Tupper Lake. “It’s been sort of a dormant process,” he said. “If it comes to pass [that the resort is built] and they want to hire us and work with the Orvis company, that’s great.”

Foxman said he still expects Orvis to run a fly-fishing school at the resort, though plans for the shooting school have been dropped. “We signed those agreements with them in 2005, and everything has been put on hold,” he said. “What [Hathaway] is saying is not wrong, but once the project starts up again Orvis will be there.”

In recent weeks, ACR has also shut down its website, raising questions about the company’s ability to market the resort. When asked about the decision, Foxman said, “We don’t need [a website]. What’s it going to say?  That we’re going to build a resort some day when we get an APA permit?”

Taxes left unpaid

During extensive interviews with the Explorer, Foxman generally dismissed concerns about his resort’s viability as “irrelevant and misleading.” He characterized financial issues as scare tactics raised by environmentalists and other opponents of the project.

But doubts about ACR’s financial viability resurfaced in March when it was revealed by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Saranac Lake radio station WNBZ that Foxman and partner Tom Lawson had fallen behind by roughly $100,000 in local property-tax payments. Since 2007, the men have repeatedly failed to pay their property taxes, and they violated a repayment schedule negotiated with Franklin County.

Foxman conceded that his investors lacked the funds to make the payments and suggested that the lengthy permit-application process has strained ACR’s cash flow. “We’re no different than anyone else. We have limits and priorities. We obviously will pay our taxes with interest and any penalties,” he said.

Asked whether the delinquency should raise alarms about his company’s soundness or his capacity to finance a project of this magnitude, Foxman insisted that critics don’t understand how large-scale real-estate developments work. “There is going to be at various times about $500 million spent on this project. Do we have $500 million [on hand]? I certainly don’t. I doubt any of our investors do,” he added.

Contributing to the uncertainty is Foxman’s own background. He acknowledges that he has no direct experience as a resort builder or operator, though he says his partners, including Lawson, will provide needed know-how.  In 1979, he co-founded Sunrise Savings and Loan in Florida, which went bankrupt after making large loans to real-estate developers. The resulting federal bailout cost taxpayers $680 million. Foxman was indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges, along with several partners. Three men were later convicted, but the counts against Foxman were eventually dismissed.

Some of ACR’s fiercest critics cite the savings-and-loan case as a reason for their continued distrust of the developer. Tupper Lake attorney Jack Delahanty, speaking at an APA hearing in March, accused Foxman of having an “extremely poor fiscal-management history.” He argued that the resort’s backers should be required to post performance bonds before the resort is given the green light “to assure fiscal responsibility.”

When asked about the Sunrise bailout, Foxman described it as ancient history—the legal case ended in 1996—with no bearing on ACR or his own credibility. He pointed out that he stepped down from the bank’s board two years before it failed, and he insisted that federal prosecutors were overzealous.

Indeed, seven years after he first appeared in Tupper Lake, most community leaders interviewed for this story said they were comfortable with Foxman and his track record. His long devotion to the resort and to this mountain community has won him a small army of ardent supporters.

“I don’t know what else is out there that could even begin to bring the magnitude of benefit that this project is going to bring,” said state Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, whose district includes Tupper Lake.

What if it fails?

Understandably, local leaders and residents are hopeful about ACR’s potential.  During the March public hearing, Mary Sparks, a retired school principal and lifelong resident, argued that the project “would energize local businesses to invest and expand, as well as encourage entrepreneurs to invest and start up new businesses.”

But when the APA completes its examination of the project this fall, state officials will be required to consider the worst-case scenario. How would the resort’s failure or bankruptcy affect the community?

Foxman’s critics suggest that if the vacation homes don’t sell, the venture could collapse, leaving local governments holding substantial parts of the property or paying to maintain costly and unneeded infrastructure. “If this thing turns out a bust, who winds up owning the place?” asked APA Commissioner Cecil Wray in 2007. “Isn’t that something we should know?”

Under the proposed PILOT arrangement (which is still being negotiated with the Franklin County IDA), much of the property-tax payments would not go into the coffers of local governments. Rather, the money would pay off bonds issued by the IDA to help finance the resort. Nevertheless, Foxman says local governments will see a substantial boost in tax revenues, eventually topping $11 million per year.

But some Tupper Lakers have questioned the deal. “If there’s a large number of foreclosures, somebody has to make those payments so you can cover those taxing districts,” Fred Schuler, a local resident, said at a public hearing last year. “Is the [Franklin County] IDA responsible for those payments to the school, the town, and the county?”

John Tubbs, the IDA’s executive director, said the public agency will enter into a long relationship with ACR if the bonds are issued and a PILOT established. In exchange for those economic incentives, the IDA would be required by state law to obtain what he described as a “controlling interest” in the project. “Once the bonds are repaid, the property reverts” to private ownership, Tubbs said.

That sounds like a risky and complicated entanglement. But experts contacted by the Explorer agreed that these are fairly common economic-development tools, used frequently by county IDAs to spur private-sector growth and jobs. If structured correctly, they would pose little or no financial danger to the community—an important criterion for APA approval.

“The question arises about whether [Franklin County or its taxpayers are] on the hook for the bonds or some indebtedness,” Tubbs said. “The answer is no.” He also suggested that Franklin County would aggressively pursue ACR to make sure that its PILOT payments to local governments were made on time.

But here again, significant questions remain. Vetting the resort and its business plan to make sure that it qualifies for IDA assistance is a complicated process, involving financial and legal experts from Malone to New York City. Despite years of talks, no framework for a deal has been reached for the PILOT or the bonds.

Indeed, ACR’s most recent proposal was tentatively rejected because the company asked that parcels of land remain within the PILOT tax-diversion program even after they are sold to homebuyers. “We couldn’t find other places where [a PILOT] worked like that,” Tubbs said. “We did ask ACR’s attorney to provide us with precedents and to demonstrate how they believe that would work in practice.”

Tubbs said those talks are expected to resume once an APA permit has been issued. He also noted that the IDA would assist the project only if it moves forward as a full-scale resort. Tourism ventures that create sustainable employment are eligible for bonding and PILOT programs, but real-estate subdivisions are specifically excluded.

If the project were to fail, Foxman could try to sell the property to another developer. If he found no buyer and lenders foreclosed, then the property could be auctioned off and the various stakeholders, including those who bought the IDA bonds, would fight for their shares of the proceeds. In that event, the county and local governments presumably would go after any back taxes.

But Foxman isn’t thinking about the worst-case scenario. Despite the sour real-estate market and those he called “doubters,” he said he remained bullish about his vision for Tupper Lake.

“Sometimes it takes an outsider to see a local opportunity,” Foxman wrote in an e-mail. “With luck, we all will get a chance to see if this is one of those times. We think all the ingredients for an outstanding resort are there.”

24 Responses

  1. James Lanthier Jr. says:

    Brian,

    I pay a lot of attention to your reporting, articles, and links. The information that you are trying to expose is very misleading, and partisan. I know who your buddies are, and the way you think. The best way I can describe your form of reporting is (Propoganda).Propoganda stands for the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping (ADIRONDACK WILD),or injuring an institution (ACR), a cause or a person; or ideas facts or allegations spread deliberately to further ones cause (ADIRONDACK WILD); Also a public action having such an affect. (ADJUDICIARY HEARING).

  2. James Lanthier Jr. says:

    One more thing that I forgot to mention. Whenever I have something to say I’ll say it, and proudly sign my name to it. And what communities are these anonymous independent real-estate agents located that were contacted for this story??? (Mabe, Keene, or Balston Spa).And also you have taken a picture of a vacant building on one end of town. There is many businesses in town, and I dont think that I’ve seen a shutter on a window in town since Dr. Gachowkis building burned. And those shutters were there for safety reasons. They were removed once the building was rebuilt, other wise Dr. Gachowski would have trouble giving eye exams in the dark. The village of Tupper Lake looks great, and Mr. Lawson is doing a great job with the buildings he owns.

  3. Philly Jones says:

    Opponents of this project seem to think that this should be a 100% slam dunk, no negatives, unqualified success on all fronts. That is a very unrealistic world view. Please show me guarantees in life and business. What are they? Go ahead, name a few. Do you think Aspen and Vail were successful from day one, or rather even ahead of day one? Do you realize how far away people come from to vacation and live seasonally there? California baby, two states away, and it did not happen overnight. Is Foxman expected to build this in a day and not react to market conditions over the course of time? Of course not, that’s another unrealistic viewpoint.

    I love it when your ilk, Adirondack Wild, Protect the Adirondacks, etc. all use the same buzzwords like “massive” in describing this project. Shows how you are all in collusion. The pseudo environmental groups have had seven years to build a factual case showing how the environment would really be negatively affected. They have failed. There is no snail darter here.

  4. Philly Jones says:

    One more point. The founders of Vail/Aspen share one important trait with Michael Foxman. Vision. It is a trait the detractors sorely lack as their vision only extends unto their backyards.

  5. tedsunday says:

    Brian, are you going to do a story on the chances of the Community Store making ago of it?

  6. Kate Martin says:

    One needs to loek at resorts in places such as Utah and Colorado. These resorts and even golf courses were designed on the back of a napkin during a lunch meeting. No one complained nor tried to subterfuge the projects in these places. There were no environmental groups intent on destroying those projects. As Philly Jones said, there needs to be Vision. And that is what we have here in Messrs Foxman and Lawson – backed up by a huge desire and a quiet desperation from a community of people wishing to see a future for their town. And, remember, Tupper Lake, which has both a ski mountain and a lake, is and only will ever be, a destination resort. Let’s make it the best one!

  7. Frank says:

    not to be negative but you really can’t compare Mt Morris to the rockies

  8. Jim LaValley says:

    The most discussed aspect of the Adirondack Club revolves around the finances.  From the PILOT, to the bonds, to the money sources.  Real estate development is always ripe with financial controversy.  It often centers around whether the principals have the financial capability.  Ask Donald Trump, the Toll Brothers, and the others that do it on a large scale.  Once approved there are all types of resources available – from private investment money, government loans, EB-5 type money, etc.  This holds true for the Adirondack Club. 

    The principals of the ACR are fully invested.  That means money is tight for them – at the moment.  It doesn’t mean the project won’t happen.  I have personally seen tens of millions of dollars from private investors, inquire about the project, and leave with the understanding that some would be back when the permit is in place.  We know that the EB-5 program is getting finalized and will open up an incredible amount of private foreign money.  They are waiting.  And, there are other resources being developed.

    Real estate speculation is a risk.  The ACR investors know that.  They have done plenty of projects and they have attempted to put as many safety nets in place to move this project towards a successful development.  Don’t think for a minute that they came into this, thinking they would fail.  Their experience tells them otherwise.

    The picture Brian has painted is somewhat incomplete, and not entirely accurate.  Would Michael Foxman hold on for this long if he felt the money wasn’t there?  Would Tom Lawson continue stretching to make a better downtown?  Should Jim Treadwell have given up on Vail and Aspen because his personal finances were stretched thin?  These are incredible individuals who have a deep background in this type of development.  The risk is with them, and they have taken steps to ensure the local taxpayer is protected.  They feel Tupper Lake has an incredible opportunity.  Their viewpoint is experienced, large scale, and with an eye towards success. 

    Finally, did we think Jarden Plastics was a safe bet?  Did we think Hackett’s was a safe bet?  Do we think Sunmount is a safe bet?  Ask vendors how long they have had to wait for payment from the State Of New York.  No one is immune to financial challenges.  If not the ACR, then what is the next 100% GUARANTEED PROJECT?  I’m not seeing anyone else stepping up to offer a guaranteed solution to a struggling community.

  9. Brian Mann says:

    Mr. Lanthier:

    You’re tossing around some serious accusations.

    I think it’s fair to ask you to give a few details about what you think I got wrong.

    My report on Mr. Foxman’s project was a scrupulously reported effort to get at the facts of this proposal from a financial point of view.

    This is the kind of work that is published in the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal every day.

    Why? Because good business-people want facts about projects.

    If Mr. Foxman’s project is sound and worthy, then it will surely stand up to fair-minded scrutiny.

    And if anyone finds factual errors in my reporting, I will correct them publicly immediately.

    –Brian, NCPR

  10. Mark Moeller says:

    Brian- I was always skeptical of your reporting but I was told that you were more impartial so I gave you the benefit of the doubt. While I expect biased reporting from the Explorer, I’m sad to see you contribute to it. There is no doubt that the timing of this hit piece is to coincide with the next round of APA hearings. Your suggestion that local businesses are skeptical is very misleading as are your quotes from anonymous realtors. Local businesses are worried- worried about a future with no economic development opportunities because green groups have undue influence in this Park. Green Groups are not concerned about this project failing- they want it to fail. They are afraid of this project succeeding. The Village, Town and County support this project because the risk to them is almost nill. Instead of beating the same old enviro drum that the sky is falling and that this project is to dangerous, why not ask the question “So What?” If these investors are willing to invest millions, and they already have, and abide by APA and DEC guidelines why can’t we let them assume the risk and let them do it! What taxpayer will be hurt if they fail? More importantly, who will win if they succeed? All of us who live and work locally, that’s who.

  11. Joe P says:

    Wow, John Tubbs sounds really scary if he is the Head of the FCIDA. ” We couldn’t find other places where a PILOT worked like that” and the asked the Developers attorney to provide us with precedents? Really doing your homework up there in Franklin county John. Apparently he hasn’t read the proposed PILOT aggeement very carefully either, “He also suggested that franklin county would aggressively pursue ACR to make sure that its PILOT payments to local governments were made on time”. Thats a joke, I,ve read the proposed PILOT, in it, there isn’t even a guarantee that any payment at all will be made to local governments. The bond payments will be primary and if any money is left over it gets split between the taxing entities, and there is no mention of any timetable for those payments to be made. For Tubbs to be making these statements shows he is either woefully incompetent or purposely trying to deceive the public into thinking there is no risk to the local governments.

    • Brian Mann says:

      Joe P –

      Having spoken at great length with Mr. Tubbs, I did not come away with the sense that their scrutiny of the PILOT or bond arrangements would be superficial.

      There are currently no finished PILOT or bond arrangements. The Franklin County IDA plans to do a significant amount of diligence before any deal is signed or moves forward.

      We will report more on this aspect of the process as we get into the next phase of the project, assuming an APA permit is issued.

      –Brian, NCPR

  12. Philip Williams says:

    I’ve been a lawyer thirty years. Here are some warning signs of failure in real estate development: 1. can’t keep taxes current 2. plans shift over a period of years 3. expectation of sales at very high prices 4. not enough personal money involved 5. assumption that outside financing will materialize 6. expectation that gov’t will borrow or lend the money for water and sewer when needed, and finally, 7. – cultivating a posse of folks who ignore 1 through 6 and blame the gov’t for holding things up.

    Mr Foxman is there already.

    • TV says:

      Why are you surprised by this story? He is behind on his taxes, the economy is as bad since 1929-1938. The Real Estate market has been hardest hit. Have you been seeing alot of Cadillac Escalades pulling into town to buy up these lots? Mr Foxman knows he is facing an uphill battle financially. What is the propaganda in this story? Have you not heard about the recession? Housing bubble? You can root for the development and still be realistic in your expectations. I didn’t hear any surprises in the story to be honest.

  13. Ray says:

    Brian,

    Jim Lavalley mentions Jim Treadwell:

    “Should Jim Treadwell have given up on Vail and Aspen because his personal finances were stretched thin? These are incredible individuals who have a deep background in this type of development. ”

    When you were doing research for this article, did you find any background information on ACR investor Jim Treadwell and his development experience? I cannot find any mention of Treadwell as a developer in Vail or Aspen or anywhere else.

  14. James Lanthier Jr. says:

    Brian, to be fair, this entire article is a prime example of propoganda, and you will find another prime example on my wall on my facebook, and now you will find some more, tarnishing NCPR. (My profile photo is a blackbear eating peanuts). I will make a lot effort post and comment all of your journalism on my page. I will be one of your biggest fans.

    • TV says:

      James, stop airing your personal attacks against Brian. SO you don’t like him, the story is not propaganda. What aspects are biased? Most everyone wants the project to go forward, even the environmental groups, be it with changes. The fact is the finacial are shaky and one can see that. It’s not Mr Foxmans fault but this is a different economic world then 6 years ago. Go back to playing farmville or pull your head out of the sand.

      • James Lanthier Jr. says:

        Right now its time for everyone to stop airing personal attacks. It used to take thousands of dollars to get your point of view across. Its not cheep for columns in newspapers and magazines, or spots on the radio. This is what environmental groups raise some of thier money for. Now with the internet we have a ballance. its time for everyone to think about what they are saying. All I am doing is keeping them honest. I am attending every single hearing and I know everything that is happening. I dont see Brian at every single hearing. If he was, He’d be doing a much better job at his investigation, and be more credible and more respected. You can,t do reporting on heresay. Now when is Brian going to do a report on how this project about is going to be a great thing for Tupper Lake, and the surrounding communities. I think the people of Tupper Lake deserve something like that. That would be a fair thing to do. I also think that it is time for brian to stop putting out personal attacks on Mr. Foxman, and stop trying to dig up dirt on him. Oh, and by the way, I am glad my parents didn,t give me a name like TV.

  15. Paul says:

    “There were no environmental groups intent on destroying those projects.”

    Kate, this isn’t quite accurate. In fact environmental groups have even physically destroyed parts of resorts out west. Here is a link on the Two Elk Lodge fire at Vail.

    http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/5532156/detail.html

  16. Paul says:

    “He also noted that the IDA would assist the project only if it moves forward as a full-scale resort.”

    Won’t permit restrictions requiring phasing basically kill the project if this is true?

  17. Paul says:

    This new hearing appears to have nothing to do with financing. That must be coming later?

    Right now an Adirondack Council witness, and expert on amphibians, is describing a “600 hour several year” amphibian assessment that would be required for a a 1000 acre parcel (this one is almost 7000 acres). We won’t have a migration of “froglets” from the vernal pools until July….

    He is describing how the application is incomplete in his opinion(and should be deemed incomplete by the APA)until a more extensive biological survey of the area is done.

  18. Paul says:

    Sorry I should amend my last comment. I am not sure what group has invited the amphibian expert. A good guess is that it isn’t the developer!!

  19. John says:

    Many commenters are saying that opponents want the project to be “a 100% slam dunk, no negatives, unqualified success on all fronts.” I don’t see that at all. I see them saying that embarking on a real estate project in which there is no historical evidence that the goals will be achieved is seriously risky.

    I hear real estate types talk about “comps,” or comparable sales, all the time. Why not look at comps around the Adirondacks? 650 total units, 40-50 per year. How does that compare to other parts of the region, in the last 5 years, last ten? Is it realistic to think that ACR will outsell the Lake Placid area? So what if it doesn’t? What if sales are half what they are in Lake Placid? Basically, is there a market for his project?

    The “opponents,” or skeptics, seem to be saying there isn’t a market for such a large development. I’m skeptical about the project’s ability to fill. Isn’t there a huge downside to having a partially-completed 650-unit housing development sitting empty in Tupper Lake? The proponents of the project seem to be saying, “there is no 100%, let’s just do it,” without acknowledging the fact that no project of this scale has ever been accomplished in the Adirondacks. Is this project at this time, led by these people really poised to be the largest, most successful real estate development in the history of the Adirondacks? I’m skeptical, too.

    I’d think a more reasonable approach would be a more modest development where meeting the goals doesn’t mean smashing all-time real estate records. Wouldn’t a project a quarter the size be great for Tupper Lake? Couldn’t that project be expanded upon if the market proved there was more demand?

  20. Philly Jones says:

    I’ll clarify my “opponents” to the project. I’m speaking of the pseudo environmental groups like the Adirondack Council. The “doubters”, including experienced real estate people, etc. quoted and not in this article have legitimate concerns about expectations for the financial success of this project. Time will tell.

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