In a 5-0 decision, a state appellate court today rejected environmentalists’ arguments that the Adirondack Park Agency erred in approving the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR), a massive development proposed in the town of Tupper Lake.
The decision by the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court is a major victory for the developers, Preserve Associates, as well as local residents who have supported the project, the largest housing development in the Park’s history.
Preserve Associates plans to build more than 600 vacation homes of various kinds—from condos to Great Camps—on 6,000 acres near the Big Tupper Ski Area, which the developers intend to rehabilitate.
APA Chairwoman Lani Ulrich lauded the decision in a formal statement. “We believe this project will be a transformational economic-development opportunity for Tupper Lake and the entire Adirondack Park. We now look forward to working with the community to bring this project to fruition,” she said.
Jim LaValley, the chairman of ARISE, a group of boosters who believe the ACR will jump-start Tupper Lake’s economy, said in a news release that the decision confirms that the APA conducted a thorough review before approving the project, by a 10-1 vote, in 2012. He added that he hopes those fighting the project “will accept the ruling and allow the community of Tupper Lake to move forward, without further frivolous action. The community, the ACR investors, and the region have shown that they want this project to move forward.”
Peter Bauer of Protect the Adirondacks, one of the opponents, said he was disappointed with the decision and was reviewing his options.
“This is a great loss for the Adirondack Park and the Adirondack Park Agency because it sets a precedent for forest fragmentation across the Adirondacks,” he said.
One of environmentalists’ biggest objections is that the developers plan to subdivide 4,700 acres of timberlands into large estates for 35 Great Camps and 45 other single-family homes.
The timberlands are classified as Resource Management lands, the most protective of the APA’s classifications for private property. Protect and the other plaintiffs, including the Sierra Club, contended that the subdivision of the timberlands violated guidelines for Resource Management lands, but the court disagreed.
The APA rules say homes are allowed on Resource Management lands “on substantial acreages or in small clusters on carefully selected and well-designed sites.” In a footnote, the court said it agreed with the agency that “this provision was not a mandatory rule, but a consideration to guide the APA’s exercise of its discretion.”
The court cited several facets of the development plan that are designed to safeguard the environment and maintain open space. For example, no development will be allowed within a quarter-mile of the Raquette River or with 100 feet of a wetland. All told, the court noted, about 5,400 acres will be left undeveloped. “Accordingly, there is substantial evidence in this extensive record to support the APA’s finding that the residential development is consistent with statutory requirements,” Justice Robert Rose wrote in the ruling.
Preserve Associates still needs to obtain permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation and Army Corp of Engineers.
Because of the unanimity of the judges, the plaintiffs would need permission to appeal to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.