By Gwendolyn Craig
Thomas Jorling, who lives on the lake and was commissioner of the department from June 1987 to February 1994, sued the DEC, the Adirondack Park Agency and LS Marina earlier this year. Jorling argued that LS Marina’s project to expand its boat storage and services would contribute to too many boats and degradation of the lake’s water quality. The former commissioner also worried about the impact the marina’s plans would have on the enjoyment of his property. The APA signed off on LS Marina’s proposal last fall.
Acting state Supreme Court Justice Richard Meyer dismissed Jorling’s complaints in a decision on Aug. 3. Jorling is trying again, however. He filed his appeal with the Appellate Division, Third Department on Aug. 26.
Jorling’s attorney, Claudia Braymer told Adirondack Explorer they did not have a comment at this time.
Keith McKeever, spokesperson for the APA said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Matthew Norfolk, attorney for LS Marina, called Jorling’s appeal “another delay tactic,” in an email to Adirondack Explorer. “The Appellate Division will (affirm) Judge Meyer’s decision and order.”
Meyer wrote that Jorling’s initial complaints were “speculative,” and the LS Marina project was actually making improvements to the property. And as far as the concern for too many boats, Meyer said that was an argument for another day. The issue “is not ripe for judicial review,” Meyer said, a term indicating there are not enough facts for the courts to intervene.
Jorling’s complaint against too many boats –or the “carrying capacity” of the lake–is a theme the state continues to be pressured about. Carrying capacity refers to the amount of human impact an environment can handle before there are negative consequences. For lakes in the Adirondacks, that could mean the maximum number of boats the lake can handle without negative water-quality impacts.
Court records show the state has admitted it hasn’t studied carrying capacity on Lower Saranac Lake. Multiple APA and DEC-approved plans for units in the Adirondack Park reference carrying capacity studies that have never been done.
Second project stalled
Mike Damp, partner of LS Marina, is also suing the variance board for the Town of Santa Clara. Part of Damp’s expansion plans included the former Hickok’s Boat Livery on Lower Fish Creek Ponds off state Route 30 in the town. He has since renamed it Upper Saranac Marina.
Damp purchased the property in 2014. He worked with the APA for several years to get the necessary permits for his business’s expansion and renovation. In February, the town issued a moratorium on development at the site of the marina until it could update its zoning regulations, which do not address marinas currently. The town hired The Chazen Companies, an engineering and planning firm, to assist with that. The town also formed a special committee to work on the marina regulations.
Another group from the lake, the Upper Saranac Lake Association, is known for orchestrating letter-writing campaigns for and against certain projects. In addition to supporting the town’s moratorium, several of its members are currently suing the APA and a property owner on Upper Saranac Lake over new development on a subdivision’s last vacant building lot.
Norfolk, representing Damp, filed a lawsuit against the Santa Clara Variance Board in April. He argued that the board had failed to review Damp’s application. Norfolk said Damp’s variance application had been filed before the town’s moratorium law was filed and in effect with the state Department of State.
Mary Elizabeth Kissane, attorney representing the town’s variance board, responded in court records that Damp “was fully aware the town board intended to pause commercial marina development until reasonable and appropriate revisions could be made to land use law, but he submitted a variance application … apparently believing that the mere submission of an application could somehow stave off application of a fully lawful moratorium enactment.”
The town supervisor and town attorney did not respond to Adirondack Explorer’s request for comment.
The state Supreme Court in Franklin County will issue a decision, but it is not clear when.
“My client has not been able to begin the marina project because of the Town’s moratorium,” Norfolk added.
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove a line that referred to Upper Saranac Foundation’s lake manager Guy Middleton as being part of an ad hoc committee related to the Santa Clara zoning regulations.