By Gwendolyn Craig
Saranac Lake Marina’s expansion project is temporarily on hold again, after an Essex County judge signed a restraining order on Jan. 6 preventing any work. The project could be on hold indefinitely, depending on the outcome of a new lawsuit.
After approximately seven years of working on applications and responding to other litigation, LS Marina received final Adirondack Park Agency approvals from the board during a September meeting. The marina was moving ahead on its plans to increase boat storage capacity from 219 to 292 boats, add covered dock slips, provide additional rentals and tour opportunities and expand marina services.
Thomas Jorling, former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, sued marina owners LS Marina, the Adirondack Park Agency and the DEC for “many legal errors” in the approval of the expansion. Barbara Rottier, former legal counsel for the APA, provided testimony in favor of Jorling’s suit.
The two former state officials argued that the APA failed to consider adverse impacts to the Adirondack Park; failed to consider required criteria for issuing a shoreline setback variance; failed to conduct a boat carrying capacity study of Lower Saranac Lake as required in a management plan; failed to consider wetlands impacts; and approved an illegal project on the state forest preserve. Jorling also owns property on Lower Saranac Lake.
Matthew Norfolk, attorney for the marina owners, called the proceeding “frivolous” and “egregious.”
“I’m confident they’re going to stand up and defend DEC’s and APA’s determination,” Norfolk said about the attorney general’s office. “They spent a lot of resources reviewing this,” he added of APA and DEC.
Spokespeople for both state agencies said Thursday they do not comment on pending litigation.
“I was excited to find a way to bring a historic Saranac Lake landmark into the modern age creating a cleaner, greener and user-friendly access for the people to fully enjoy a beautiful chain of lakes,” Mike Damp, principal of LS Marina, said in a news release. “It’s sad that someone looking to improve commercial property or create a business in the Tri-Lakes area sees such opposition.”
Judge Richard Meyer signed the temporary restraining order on Jan. 6, with a court date on the preliminary injunction slated for Feb. 10.
Claudia Braymer, attorney for Jorling, said they hope the court will award a preliminary injunction. This would forbid the marina owners from any construction while the case moves forward.
“The expansion of the marina threatens the ‘forever wild’ protection given to Lower Saranac Lake, much of which is owned by the State and is part of the Forest Preserve, and the project should not have been approved by APA,” Braymer said in an email.
Jorling’s lawsuit reflects similar sentiments he made during a public comment process on the expansion project. While the majority of public comments made about the project were in its favor, environmental nonprofits and some retired state officials spoke against the approval process. Some called for a special hearing so remaining questions could be answered.
For example, Jorling’s suit is also looking for the court to declare that the bed and waters of Lower Saranac Lake are classified as wild forest under the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. That could impact many development projects on water bodies in the Adirondacks.
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Jorling and others, too, had said APA’s approval of the marina expansion would set a precedent and “impact private shoreline property on waterways throughout the Adirondack Park.”
The precedent concerns led APA counsel to conduct a presentation about how it did not have jurisdiction over marinas, though based on affidavits from Jorling and Rottier, they still don’t agree.
Jorling submitted comments about the project to the APA, and provided them to the Adirondack Almanack, a public forum owned by the Adirondack Explorer that publishes commentary. Jorling’s comments, at times, referenced figures from outdated LS Marina application documents.
LS Marina sued Jorling at the end of September for defamation, seeking no less than $5 million in damages. Court records show the marina owners believed Jorling’s comments misled the public and encouraged people to submit comments against the proposed expansion.
Jorling countersued in December, denying the charges and arguing the defamation suit was meant to harass and intimidate him. Norfolk declined to comment on that lawsuit.
Jorling isn’t the only one LS Marina is suing for speaking out against the project. Records show LS Marina is suing William and Patricia Curran, Judith Landes, Frederick Roedel, Charles Wilson and Acme of Saranac. Those individuals were part of a separate lawsuit regarding who owned land at the bottom of the lake, and LS Marina is arguing that a settlement prevents them from commenting against the marina expansion.
Norfolk said the temporary restraining order Braymer and Jorling have secured does hurt his client and the project, but he’s hopeful the court will rule in LS Marina’s favor.
“If there is some sort of injunction, we are going to demand that Mr. Jorling issue a bond or an undertaking with the court so when we win this Article 78, the damages we sustain for this delay will be recovered,” Norfolk said. “It’s going to be substantial numbers.”
Article 78 refers to a court proceeding where a state body or officer’s decision is reviewed.
Jorling is optimistic, too. He hopes the court will “send the matter back to APA for more meaningful consideration of the project’s impacts and how to minimize those impacts.”
The lawsuit comes just weeks after APA Board member Chad Dawson resigned over what he viewed as the agency’s lack of discussion over development projects and their long-term impacts on the environment.
Alan Latourelle says
January 8, 2021
Response to Thomas Jorlings restraining order against The APA and LS Marina, LLC
Lower Saranac Lake encompasses 2285 acres with one marina and about 30 boathouses along the shoreline. It’s neighbor Lake Placid encompasses 2173 acres with three marinas with over 150 boathouses and an estimated 300 boat docks/slips along its shoreline. We don’t hear of any adverse environmental problems or impacts on Lake Placid. I think its safe to safe the impacts to Lower Saranac Lake will be minimal.
“The Adirondack Almanack has removed the commentary by Tom Jorling “Weighing in on Saranac Lake Marina plans” because it contained inaccuracies.” – Adirondack Almanack
Mr. Jorling is now petitioning the court to stop the approved Saranac Lake Marina. I don’t know Mr. Jorling only what I’ve read online about his work on environmental policy. I’m sure he’s worked hard over the years to be blessed to own a beautiful summer home on Lower Saranac Lake. I’m sure he loves spending his time on the lake as we who keep our boats at the marina do.
My appeal to Mr. Jorling is to please consider what the consequences of your lawsuit and actions are on your summer neighbors, who also work hard so they to can have access to the lake for much needed rest, relaxation and recreational time. The hospital workers, utility workers, contractors, restaurant owners and staff, etc. that provide services to you and your family when your visiting the area.
These people care about the quality of the lake and the environmental impact they have on the lake. For the most part we go to one spot on the lake and spend the day there to relax and enjoy the beauty of the lake. We care about our lake!
For you to assume the Saranac Lake Marina project is going to degrade and impact the lake enough to warrant expensive lawsuits and hope we go away is appalling. Especially since without us you wouldn’t have services you enjoy when you visit the area.
I’ve been docking my boat at the marina, both in Ampersand bay and currently at the main marina in Crescent bay for over a decade. I have watched the transformation the new owners have made in cleaning up both sites. Their commitment to the environment and concern for the lake quality shows in this massive and costly undertaking. They completed the removal of the old wooden boat houses and foundations along the shoreline in preparation for new docks and slips.
Mr. Jorling’s Lawsuit is frivolous, some excerpts are as follows:
“largest marina projects ever reviewed or approved by APA pursuant to the APA Act”
Fact: Saranac Lake Marina is an existing marina dating back to 1924.
“Project is proposed to be constructed on two sites”
Fact: The marina always had docks and boathouses at the two sites-nothing new here.
Main Marina “increase the number of boat slips/moorings there from 124 to 178.”
Fact: Increase of 54 slips. Site had old wooden boathouses along shore since been removed.
Annex Site: Project would increase the number of boat slips/moorings there from 95 to 114.
Fact: Increase of 19 slips. Site had old wooden boathouses along shore since been removed.
“APA failed to consider whether the Project would have an undue adverse impact upon the resources of the Adirondack Park;”
The Adirondack Park encompasses 6 million acres of which 2.6 million acres is owned by The People of the State of New York. I highly doubt an additional 73 boat slips will adversely imapct the resources of the Adirondack Park.
“Thus, the Project will greatly impact the use and enjoyment of Petitioner’s property, such that he is entitled to maintain this combined proceeding and action.”
I have to say that I don’t believe adding 19 boat slips across from Mr. Jorlings property will adversely impact his enjoyment. And further more the marina was in existance when Mr. Jorling purchased his waterfront property. Furthermore, very few people that keep their boats at the main marina venture into Ampersand Bay where Mr. Jorling maintains a summer home. Apparently, he feels he should have exclusive use of the lake. Can anyone say “NIMBY”, Shame on you Mr. Jorling this is an insult to the hard working people who currently or would like to rent a slip at the marina.
“APA cannot permit a project that allows private use or commercial use of the Forest Preserve;”
“Jorling and others, too, had said APA’s approval of the marina expansion would set a precedent and “impact private shoreline property on waterways throughout the Adirondack Park.” – Adirondack Explorer
Law States “All persons have a right to use the navigable waters of a state” Marinas are a means to provide access to said navigable waters.
So you want to take away our navigable rights because you own property on lake?
“APA’s decision to issue the Order was arbitrary and capricious because it did not obtain the necessary information, and it has not undertaken the study regarding the carrying capacity of Lower Saranac Lake”
Once again 73 new boat slips on a 2285 acre lake isn’t going to adversely impact the lake. Most likely the 73 slips that get rented are from people who trailer their boat to the state boat launch. I use the marina regularly and most of the boats remain in the slips.
“APA’s decision to issue the Order was arbitrary and capricious because it failed to properly consider wetlands impacts of the Project”
“APA Staff believe that the proposal will reduce adverse impacts to the resources of the Park compared to the pre-existing conditions.”
This is a ridiculous attack on The Marina and the owner’s ,s who have done everything asked of them legally and responsibly, We Hope that the public comes out in your support of you and for the community to be able to enjoy the Marina and all the beautiful renovations you want to complete,
It’s just another attack on the people,
Dave MacDougall says
Thank you Mr. Latourelle for your well written comment. I can’t improve on it but wish to note a couple points. As Mr. Latourelle said “The Adirondack Almanack has removed the commentary by Tom Jorling “Weighing in on Saranac Lake Marina plans” because it contained inaccuracies.” – Adirondack Almanack. This is a repeat of tactics practiced by the handful of landowners of lakefront property who oppose the SL Marina. I attended nearly all the meetings of the Harriettstown board that was considering the project. I heard lies about congestion on the lake. I knew they were lies because I was on the lake nearly every nice day that summer and never saw the number of boats that was alleged. I also heard false speculations about the visual impact from the top of Baker Mountain. Again I knew they were false because I have been to the top of that mountain many times and the marina is not at all visible and would not be with the proposed extension. It became clear very quickly that those who wished to restrict access to what they seem to view as “their lake” would say anything to further their cause.
Mr. Jorling would have us believe that due to his laudatory efforts on behalf of clean air and water he should be trusted that he has only the best interests of the environment in mind with his nuisance law suit. It’s worth bearing in mind the following from an article in the NY Times. The background is that Mr. Jorling resigned his position in 1994 as APA commissioner to take a job with International Paper
From the NY Times article: “Mr. Jorling was also involved in two decisions involving International Paper that some environmentalists questioned. One was a 1992 decision by the state to give the company a water pollution permit for its paper mill on Lake Champlain without requiring it to study ways to reduce chlorine emissions. The study was not required under New York law but had been requested by Vermont environmental officials.
The second matter involved fines the state imposed in 1992 against a division of International Paper for releasing potentially carcinogenic chemicals into the air and groundwater around a Binghamton plant. Though the state hailed the final agreement, environmentalists said the penalties were substantially lower than could have been obtained under state law.
Mr. Jorling said today that his role in all those decision provided a model for how environmental agencies can work hand in hand with businesses to protect the environment without costing jobs. He said he made his decisions without prompting from International Paper and well before he had begun conversations with company officials about a job. He said they began wooing him in December.
“These groups have a kind of cynicism about my performance — their real concerns are not environmental but Nimby,” he said, referring to the “not in my backyard” point of view.
Given Mr. Jorling’s attempts to stymie work at a marina near where he has a summer home on the lake it seems he is not above taking a Nimby stance himself.
Allen Williams says
I spent my teen years growing up on Algonquin Ave in Saranac Lake and regrettably when I left to go to college in 1960 I knew that I would never be able to make a living in the area. My youth was spent using the boat house on Ampersand Bay where my dad kept our inexpensive wooden boat with an archaic Evenrude motor. I rented canoes from Duso’s on Crescent Bay to explore the lake as well. At that time much of the shore line of the lake and islands was occupied by tent platform camps. In fact Kate Smith kept her boat in the slot next to ours on Ampersand Bay and she used that boat to access her tent platform camp.
When I was younger I made many trips to the Saranac Lakes by canoe and power boat. We camped on islands and at Tom’s Rock. Boat traffic was never a problem in all those years and I cannot imagine the few berths being created at Crescent and Ampersand Bay would change that.
I still think of and call Saranac Lake as my home town. I watched Tupper Lake struggle to create a viable ski resort at big Tupper only to be stopped by a few NIMBY people. Shame on you, stop it. The State owned property is meant for everyone, not a few. If you want an old style mansion in the woods with thousands of acres of wood land and lakes,go and buy one when it comes on the market as was done in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Do not deprive the economic benefits of a modern marina.
Ann E Snow says
I fully support the SLM and all they are trying to do to rebuild a hundred year old marina, that had fallen into complete decay. They have spent over seven years trying to comply with multiple agencies, the APA, DEC, town board etc. Now a new attack by someone who is dissatisfied with the decisions made by these agencies.
I am a lifelong local resident, as were my parents and the marina has played an important part in my ability to enjoy the lake and all that it has to offer, boating, swimming, waterskiing, camping and fishing. SLM will insure access for future generations, locals and tourists, to enjoy, without damage to the environment and the shore front home owners.
I have attended town meetings, written letters of support and am saddened and angry the litigations continue to harass SLM. They have spent countless amounts of money and shown strong endurance these past years, despite the hardships caused by legal harassment without due cause.
SLM has hired local youth to work, deal with tourists, teach boater safety and just develop lifelong work skills. For many residents, who frequent the marina, this is their only access to the lake. While they enjoy this beautiful asset, they also put out campfires left by careless campers, pick up trash, tow tourists back when they run out of fuel and direct people, unfamiliar with the lake, how to reach the river or a campsite. We were raised to respect the lake as we enjoy its beauty.
SLM is a new name on an old business. They need the opportunity to revive the business, improve access and protect this asset for future generations. Continuous litigations brought by private persons, for personal reasons, should not hamper this goal any longer.
Please give your editorial skills to fully support the Saranac Lake Marina.
Ann E Snow
John F LaHart says
Wonderful letter by Mr. Latourelle. I support the Saranac Lake Marina and all the great work they have undertaken to provide an environmentally sound place for the people of tri Lakes enjoy our great lakes.
Mr. Jorling is once again attempting to disrupt the rightful use of the lake, by not only the Saranac Lake Marina, but by default all the customers, local and tourist who use those facilities. It is time to move on and allow the APA, DEC and Town approved plans to reach fruition.
I can only hope that Judge Myers can see through all this legal bull
Colleen and Bob Farmer says
The Marina is Vital to Saranac Lake Livelihood
We are writing to express our extreme disappointment in the all to familiar tactic of those that don’t want to see development and progress in the Adirondacks. As you Mr. Jorling have called it before NIMBY. (Not in my backyard) NIMBY and your tactic of just keep swinging until they go away or go bankrupt seems simply wrong. The people of Saranac Lake deserve better!
Seven years ago when the Saranac Lake Marina first started the process of renewing the marina it seemed the neighbors were on board for this change as the boathouses were referred to as unsafe and an eyesore. They were dilapidated and falling down. The marina has wanted to make improvements that are badly needed and they have sought to balance environmental preservation while keeping the lake accessible to generations of families that have grown up here. Keeping the lake accessible is a vital part of doing something to help keep our town alive or there won’t be anyone here. It seems environmental nonprofits and some mostly retired state officials are the ones speaking out against the approval. Why is it so many environmental groups are buying up property in the Adirondack Park with the intentions of selling it to the government? Who is profiting from that and what is the expense to those of us who live and are trying to make a living here?
The Saranac Lake Marina has gone above and beyond working on these processes with the zoning board of Harrietstown, the APA and the DEC enduring seven years of expensive and complicated zoning regulations and their bureaucratic review processes. Seven years is a ridiculous amount of time when a small local business is trying to get by, follow the rules, and do something that will benefit our community and all those who live, work and love this area. The marina has jumped through hoops to come up with a state of the art attractive, green-based design marina that uses a solar power, will have a boat washing station to clean boats of invasive species as well as a hiring a local company to manage the invasive milfoil species annually and more.
Your lawsuit states you hope, “the court will send the matter back to the APA for more meaningful consideration of the project’s impacts and how to minimize those impacts.” You had the opportunity to speak and submit comments at the last public forum. Evidently a number of your comments were misleading because your “submitted comments about the project to the APA” that were “provided to the Adirondack Almanack” have been removed “because it contained inaccuracies…”
The lawsuit states, “The project will greatly impact the use and enjoyment of the petitioner’s property.” Is it about the environment really? Or NIMBY? Mr.Jorling you have lost your credibility.
The Saranac Lake marina has balanced preserving our environment along with helping to preserve a part of history that will help our community survive and thrive. The Adirondack Park is the largest publicly protected park in the lower 48 states encompassing 6 million acres, with over 3,000 lakes and 30,000 miles of rivers and streams. One of the main reasons sited in the establishment of the park in 1892 was that is was for “the free use of all the people for health and pleasure…”
Mr Jorling, we hope and ask you to please drop your lawsuit and allow this project to move forward. Please consider the livelihood and love of the Adirondacks many neighbors share, but feel after seven years balance in this project has been found.