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Prospectus map from Front Street Mountain Development showing resort concept (Source: Front Street)
Prospectus map from Front Street Mountain Development showing resort concept (Source: Front Street)

Town "struggles" with North Creek resort

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Two years ago, the Adirondack Park Agency approved a massive new resort in North Creek. Front Street Mountain Development was meant to bring more than 130 luxury condos to the village, along with five hotels, restaurants and a riding stable. The idea was to tie the resort in with the North Creek ski bowl, offering ski-from-your door condominiums.

But so far, only one model home has been built and no properties in the resort have been sold. As Brian Mann reports, local officials are questioning the project's future.

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When the Adirondack Park Agency gave its approval to the Front Street project in April of 2008, project manager Mac Crikelair said the resort would help revitalize North Creek.

"We see this as a wonderful opportunity to be able to provide an economic engine for the community to thrive on," he said.  "Every time I go through downtown, local businesses continue to ask me, ‘What’s taking so long.  Let’s get this project going.’”

That was two and a half years go but Front Street Mountain Development – based in Connecticut – has only built a single model home, a gatehouse, and a few roads.

This summer, Johnsburg town supervisor Sterling Goodspeed began raising alarms about the project.  He penned a community newsletter in June arguing that the town could be left financially responsible for the resort’s infrastructure.

“The fiscal future of our town is at risk,” Goodspeed wrote.  “Failure on the part of the developer to complete the project may ultimately land back on the town board’s lap.” 

Reached last week, Goodspeed said he’s still worried.

"I think it’s fair to say that my concerns are certainly at that level if not slightly higher," he said.

Goodspeed points out that Front Street still doesn’t have a completed wastewater plan with permits for removing sewage from the houses it wants to build. 

There have also been lengthy and sometimes heated negotiations with the local officials over water supply and fire protection.

"We continue to struggle with the project," Goodspeed said.  

"The town is not intending to be an opponent of the project, nor is the town intending to be a supporter of the project.  But really it’s the town’s obligation to make sure that its interests are protected and that the town doesn’t get left holding the financial bag in terms of failed infrastructure and failed financial commitments" 

In an interview last week with North Country Public Radio, project manager Mac Crikelair acknowledged that Front Street had been forced to redesign the first phase of its wastewater treatment plan. 

He said permits should be in place within the next three months. 

But Crikelair said the Front Street Development is still on track.   “We still have a very positive outlook on this project," he said.

“We’re moving forward, building more roads and infrastructure.  We’re getting ready to break ground on more buildings," he added.

This resort was approved just as the national housing market was imploding in 2008.  At the time, Crikelair expressed cautious optimism.

"It certainly is an unusual market that we’re in today.  We’re going to proceed cautiously.  But we’re going to proceed nonetheless."

Speaking last week, Crikelair insised that the downturn in the housing market isn’t a major factor in delays with the resort.

But North Creek real-estate agent Mark Bergman, an early supporter of the project, points to what he describes as the “incredibly soft” market for second homes in the Adirondacks.

In an interview with NCPR, Bergman  said, “I think that when [Front Street] started, the timing was great, but they hit this horrible recession, and it kind of stinks for them.”

According to Bergman, there are already approximately sixty-five homes for sale in the North Creek area, many of them languishing on the market for nearly a year.

Still Crikelair told North Country Public Radio that his project does still have interested buyers, because the resort would offer unique ski-in-ski-out opportunities.

While wrangling continues over the Front Street project, the Olympic Regional Development Authority began construction of a new lift this summer that will connect North Creek’s ski bowl with Gore Mountain.  Again, Sterling Goodspeed. 

"It builds on our ski heritage and its going to bring thousands of skiers to our struggling main street district that otherwise have bypassed the community historically."

 While the developer and local officials continue to negotiate how the Front Street resort will move forward, one other wrinkle here is that Goodspeed praised the role of the Adirondack Park Agency in helping to deal with problems surrounding the project. 

"For a small town like Johnsburg to think that they could pull that off and safeguard a couple thousand taxpayers – that would be a great challenge.  Knowing that the APA has been there to help us with the project and the review, it’s really been of great assistance to us."

His praise comes at a time when other local officials have blasted the APA for its dealings with local governments in the Park. 

The complications in North Creek also come just as the Adirondack Park Agency prepares to take up another big resort project proposed for Tupper Lake.

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