New construction proposed for the 945-acre lakeside site
By Gwendolyn Craig
Pritam Singh, a 70-year-old real estate developer from Key West, Florida with homes all over the country and a reputation for building luxury resorts and condominiums, has plans to turn Washington County’s former Crossett Lake Boy Scout Reservation in the eastern Adirondacks into a private family compound. The 945-acre site includes the 122-acre Crossett Lake, views of nearby Lake George, and frontage on Inman and Thurber ponds.
Adirondack Park Agency staff are slated to meet with Singh’s representatives on Thursday to discuss a preliminary permit application, records show. The APA oversees public and private development in the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park. S. Jeffrey Anthony, vice president of Studio A Landscape Architecture and Engineering representing Singh, said he will be applying for a class A regional project in resource management lands.
Resource management is an APA zoning classification that generally involves residential, agricultural and forestry land uses. The APA’s website also notes that “special care is taken to protect the natural open space character of these lands.”
APA spokesman Keith McKeever said should Singh submit an application, the agency has 15 days to determine if it is complete. Once complete, the APA would issue a 30-day public comment period.
In an interview with the Explorer on Tuesday, Singh said he felt a responsibility to protect the property. He had not yet discussed a conservation easement with his family, but said “everyone 100% agrees it should be protected forever.”
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Realtor Dan Davies said Singh paid $9.5 million in cash for the property, previously owned by Elizabeth Miller, a Glens Falls-area businesswoman. The property on Millers Way in the town of Fort Ann was listed for $14.9 million.
“It’s the greatest piece of property in the southern Adirondacks, in my opinion,” Davies told the Explorer on Tuesday. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Singh called the property “extraordinary” for its feeling of remote wilderness, while still in proximity to New York City, Boston, Montreal and Saratoga Springs.
Crossett Lake, also called Crossett Pond, is about 130-feet deep and is “incredibly clean water,” Davies said. There are several islands in the water body. The property is adjacent to the Lake George Wild Forest and is a stone’s throw to the Buck Mountain trailhead. It is visible from one of the vistas on Buck Mountain.
Singh was beguiled by the pristine beauty of Crossett Lake, and how its elevation and remoteness have protected its water quality. There are no roads near the lake, no runoff from development or agriculture, no public boats to worry about spreading invasive species, and Singh hopes to keep it that way.
In plans submitted to the APA, Singh wants to build three new homes and renovate an existing one on site, build a guest cottage with no cooking facilities, and erect a new lodge, arts and crafts building and maintenance barns, records show.
He also proposes to build three boat houses with docks on the west side of the lake, and replace a previously existing lakeside shelter. Singh told the Explorer he plans to have two gas-powered boats for safety reasons, but will otherwise be using electric boats or his favorite method of water travel, a rowboat.
The plans include tearing down the former Boy Scout camp dining hall, staff lodge and trading post, a lakeside gazebo and other “miscellaneous deteriorated sheds and structures,” according to a letter from Anthony to the APA the Explorer received through a Freedom of Information Law request.
“That’s a lot,” Singh said of his development project. “That still comes out to be 20,000 square-feet of buildings, but it will all be tucked on one end, very respectful of the environment. And the rest of the pond will be preserved forever.”
David Gibson, managing partner of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, was not familiar with the former Boy Scouts camp, but he was concerned about the land use classification of the property. He hoped Singh and his family would work with the Lake George Land Conservancy or another similar entity to make sure the lands were preserved and protected.
“I think eventually we’ll look at putting a conservation easement on, but right now we’re just buying the property, just going through the land planning process,” Singh said. He pointed to previous conservation efforts he has made, including preserving hundreds of acres of Tinker Island in Maine in an agreement with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. A representative of the trust confirmed that Singh’s conservation easement was established in 2001 and helped preserve the south side of the island.
Elizabeth Miller, who previously owned the property under an entity called the Crossett Lake Preserve, also used it as a private residence, records show. Miller purchased the land around 1995 from the Essex Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Many of the Scout facilities had not been maintained since 1995, Anthony wrote the APA.
Samuel J. Hall, Fort Ann town supervisor, said the area was always great for the Boy Scouts, but he thought it hadn’t seen much maintenance since the camp closed. Any projects there would have to go through the town planning board, he said, adding that short-term rentals have been an issue in the town. The town board recently passed a local law regarding short-term rentals that includes quiet hours, septic system reports, dog vaccinations and other stipulations to protect everyone’s safety and investment, Hall said.
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Singh plans for his five children and seven grandchildren to visit and hike the property, or visit local attractions while he enjoys his lake. The new property will be just under two hours from his other home in Woodstock, Vermont, a farm with horses and pastures.
“It’s an extraordinary primeval lake–that’s something I have been looking for,” Singh said. “I also have a house in Alaska, houses in Florida on the ocean. But a northern lake is just a beautiful thing. You can have three children, and every one of them are different, and you can love them all. This is just different.”
Singh was born Paul Arthur Labombard in central Massachusetts, according to his website. He changed his name in the 1970s after attending the Sikh Ashram in Massachusetts. In 1978 he moved to Portland, Maine, where he started renovating buildings and erecting housing complexes. In the mid-1980s, he helped form The Singh Company, which transformed the “the fabled Truman Annex, a 43-acre waterfront parcel located on the southernmost point of Key West.” It is now a $200 million mixed-use project comprising 525 resort units and 60,000 square feet of commercial space, according to his website.
Singh’s reputation in the development world includes a 1995 consent order and cease and desist order with the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision regarding projects in New England, California and Key West. The order required him to pay $1.2 million to Union Federal Bank. Singh was found to have participated “in improper land flip transactions that inflated the profitability of transactions and benefited himself and former Union Federal officers and directions; use of millions of dollars so disbursed construction loan funds for purposes not intended,” and other transgressions noted in a court record.
The beginnings of Singh’s development proposal in the Adirondacks come at a time when a Miami-based developer is working on his own application to create a luxury resort in Essex County. The APA said Eric Stackman’s large-scale subdivision application for 350 acres near the Au Sable River remains incomplete and will be issuing a third notice requesting more information.
Shawn Typhair says
“David Gibson, managing partner of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, was not familiar with the former Boy Scouts camp, but he was concerned about the land use classification of the property. He hoped Singh and his family would work with the Lake George Land Conservancy or another similar entity to make sure the lands were preserved and protected .”
Why would you be concerned with the land classification ? The new owner has every right to do as they please on resource management lands as long as it falls under APA guide lines. Most reasonable Adirondack park residents could care less what Adirondack Wild thinks . Is the APA going to change the classification of the property because David Gibson has concerns ?
Tom Paine says
Well said. With the bond and spend act now passed they are all lining up for their pet project purchases in Albany. It appears that the Mr Singh beat them the punch. Now let’s demonize him as an evil developer and force him off his private land. The Albany game.
Timothy Dannenhoffer says
Yeah the Adirondacks will be destroyed in no time with people with money and your mindset. The public land in the Adirondacks is not enough to keep the Adirondacks very special. People with deep pockets and the desire to develop anywhere they want will put this world on a fast track to be far less wild.
Shawn Typhair says
I am not sure if you understand the whole park concept . When the park was formed resource management land was put in the master plan for this very reason.
Why didn’t David buy it 1st? It’s been for sale. People trying to tell others what they can and can’t do on their own land is ridiculous.
Lillian Antoci says
At age 70, do you really think it is for personal use? It is just the beginning. They get their foot in the door or in this case the Adirondack and boom, a new resort or building homes.
Does it really matter? He purchased it. He can do what he wants with it. Why didn’t you buy it 1st?
Just google the articles about him. What he did while developing in the Keys etc. He is no conservationist or environmentalist. He is even known for doing a hostile takeover of an ocean conservation nonprofit. The writer did a great job of researching.