Adirondack Park Agency seeks more information for application
By Gwendolyn Craig
The Florida developer of a proposed luxury resort in Jay sees no obstacles to creating the residential community and told the Adirondack Explorer he’s eager to fulfill continuing needs of the Adirondack Park Agency.
About a year after the APA publicized his plans, Eric Stackman, 56, and his associate Roberta Alba, 46, sat down with the Adirondack Explorer on Sept. 28 to discuss the project and application process. The two had been on a site visit in Jay and were preparing for their return flight to Miami. They had received the APA’s second notice of incomplete application on Sept. 22 for the proposed subdivision.
The project involves building a 72-room hotel, multiple mansions, villas, townhomes and multi-use trails on 385 acres along the Ausable River, a site within a half-hour drive to Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington. The target market for the development, the application notes, are second home owners, 30 to 65 years old. It is one of the largest subdivision projects to come before the agency. It is the second project to go through the APA’s large-scale subdivision permit application created in 2018.
Stackman is a self-described “hand-shake guy,” working his way up in the construction business and proud of his accomplishments. He has worked in the business for nearly three decades, “executing close to a billion dollars worth of construction work,” his website reads. He bought property in Jay in 2006. “In this case, it’s my money, and I’m representing people who are going to buy it,” Stackman said. “I want to build something that’s successful.”
They’re used to working with various committees concerned with environmental considerations, Stackman said. During the building process in Florida, Stackman and Alba pointed to committees on turtles, birds, erosion and various levels of government that they’ve had to consult. Stackman pointed to Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and other hamlets as places in the park where “there’s a lot going on.” Alba emphasized the zoning densities of the private lands in the park, and Stackman referenced the agency’s land classifications map. Stackman and Alba said they haven’t seen any red flags that the project would not move forward.
“We’re doing everything we’re supposed to do, so there should be no reason why not,” Alba said. “We’re not looking to take anything away from the park or change anything drastically. We’re here to provide an opportunity for the town, for the area, for the community and to continue to enhance on the opportunities and things that are already there we like to enjoy about the area.”
Stackman and Alba are hoping to have all their required permits by spring or summer in 2023, though Alba laughed and crossed her fingers. Stackman is hoping to speed things up.
“We don’t know that that’s necessarily a realistic timeline,” Alba said. “We haven’t gotten a concise directive on the expectations of what the site plan approval is going to be. There’s a lot of construction documents that need to be developed in order to be able to mobilize in the proper way. We also don’t want to be starting and stopping.”
The APA asked for a host of new information from a revised proposed trail system, additional wetland delineations, consultation documents from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, confirmation on utility and water infrastructure, a forest management plan, and more.
Additional surveys and analyses may be required, the APA notice read, depending on the responses Stackman submits.
Stackman thought the APA application process was “somewhat normal right now.” APA staff members have visited the site.
Keith McKeever, spokesman for the APA, said staff are “satisfied with the process and results” of the large-scale subdivision application process.” They found the initial public comment period helpful.
Stackman resented some of the public comments. In a letter to the APA he addressed accusations “that he is a deep-pocketed developer from Miami,” and his proposal does not belong in the Adirondack Park.
“I don’t think I can control that narrative,” Stackman said in an interview. “We’re staying within the rules and regulations of the guidelines of the area. We’re not doing anything out of the ordinary. We’re team players.”
The first notice of incomplete application in December followed a first round of public comments that leaned against the project. Stackman, who is originally from Long Island but lives and works in South Florida, responded that “landowner rights are very important to residents, and I am no exception.”
To view the latest records, go to apa.ny.gov/Projects/P2021-0248/P2021_0248.htm
There has been no update on the Jay project in months, but in August, Stackman sent materials addressing some of the APA’s questions. John Burth, an environmental program specialist at the APA, alerted commissioners during their September meeting that the additions were posted on the agency’s website. The application was not yet complete, and only until it is will there be another opportunity for public comment, Burth said.
Since last year, Stackman has hired the SE Group, a Burlington, Vermont, planning and permitting design firm. The latest application materials included maps showing soils, topography and hydrological features. The project site is about 385 acres, the new application reads, though the original stated it was on 350 acres. It also shows Stackman’s lands include two significant wildlife habitats including central oak-pine forest and northern swamp. Stackman noted that the planned development was outside the swamp area. A proposed road would go through the central oak-pine forest and require tree removal over about a half-acre.
The land in Jay is also the home to pine-northern hardwood forest, considered a “significant natural community.” These communities, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, display “locations of rare or high-quality wetlands, forest, grasslands, ponds, streams, and other types of habitats, ecosystems, and ecological areas.”
Stackman estimated cutting about 4.4 acres of trees, or about 1.6% reduction of the overall community. There were 95 breeding bird species identified on the project site. The New York Natural Heritage Program documented northern long-eared bat in the vicinity, which is a both a state and federally threatened species. The heritage program also documented the state-imperiled Appalachian tiger beetle and a threatened plant called meadow horsetail.
David Gibson, managing partner of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, said the new information shows “that community-wide concerns about Stackman’s proposal are amply justified.”
In a piece in the Adirondack Almanack, the Adirondack Explorer’s online community forum, Gibson wrote that Stackman did not appear familiar with the ramifications of forest fragmentation and the radiating impacts on wildlife. He also noted that Stackman had not included alternative layouts of his project proposal that would avoid or minimize impacts to natural resources.
Gibson called on the APA to hold an adjudicatory hearing — a public hearing before a judge and the only way for commissioners to deny a permit. The agency has not held one in over a decade when it last approved an even larger proposal than Stackman’s — a 719-unit subdivision in Tupper Lake called the Adirondack Club and Resort. Developers failed to create it though it won APA approval in 2012.