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New York DEC sides with environmentalists in Adirondack Club and Resort lawsuit

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The state of New York is siding with environmentalists in a lawsuit filed against the town of Tupper Lake. The suit challenges the town's rezoning of more than 6,000 acres of forestland surrounding the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort. Jacob Resneck has details.

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Lawyers from the Attorney General's Office say the Town of Tupper Lake's decision to rezone sixty-two hundred acres was made without taking a - quote - "hard look at the environmental impacts of its legislative action."

But Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Lori Severino insists that her agency isn't wading into the larger fight over the future of the proposed resort surrounding the former Big Tupper Ski Area.

"Our agency doesn't take a position of the merits of the development of this project but submits this brief only to convey its views with respect to the correct application of this - it's called SEQRA, which is the State Environmental Quality Review."

State officials do say that SEQR required Tupper Lake to conduct an environmental study before the rezoning was done.

Severino said her agency intervenes in local lawsuits when the application of state environmental law could be at stake.

 "It's not something that we do very often but we have done it in other cases."

The town of Tupper Lake voted in 2006 to move forward with the rezoning process without a full environmental impact statement.

That sparked a suit by environmentalists and neighbors who oppose the resort.

Dave Gibson, with the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, says his group urged the DEC to intervene.

"We were simply delighted that the department and the state found our papers, and the merits of our appeal, worthy of their involvement."

Tupper Lake Town Attorney David Johnson said he's confident that the town acted properly when it rezoned the land.

He argues that the Adirondack Park Agency's review process allows projects to legally proceed without requiring a separate environmental study.

"My point is that I'm surprised that they'd be looking for jurisdiction over a matter that the APA already has jurisdiction over. There's no question about that. They make an environmental review of the project."

A Franklin County judge agreed with that argument when he dismissed the case last year.

But green groups appealed and the case resumes next month.

In last week's brief, state lawyers argue that the case could create a dangerous precedent by inviting other Adirondack towns and villages to delegate their environmental responsibilities to the state Adirondack Park Agency.

For North Country Public Radio, I'm Jacob Resneck

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