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I really donít want to see after four years of waiting to be told there is a time clock running and you have to fish or cut bait

After years of review, a "rush to judgment" on Tupper resort?

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The debate over the Adirondack Club and Resort proposed for Tupper Lake has been underway in various forms for nearly seven years.

Developer Michael Foxman wants to build roughly six hundred mansions, homes and condos, while also reopening the Big Tupper ski resort.

Now the process is winding to a close, with the Adirondack Park Agency expected to vote on a permit sometime later this winter.

Today and tomorrow, we will be looking at how the final steps in this process could play out.

As Brian Mann reports, some Park Agency commissioners worry that after years of debate and delay, their decision could be made in haste.

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Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

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If you charted a timeline for the state’s review of the Adirondack Club and Resort, it would involve plenty of flurries of activity, followed by long doldrums.

But in the next few weeks, an administrative law judge will schedule the final adjudicatory hearing for the Big Tupper resort, a trial-like process that could take several weeks.

When that’s done, the Park Agency will then have just sixty days in which to reach a final decision about the massive 600-unit project.

At last week’s APA meeting in Ray Brook, commissioner Cecil Wray said he was worried by the prospect of a rushed deliberation.

"I think it would be extremely unfortunate if when that time comes, we are put under any time pressure.  I really don’t want to see after four years of waiting to be told there is a time clock running and you have to fish or cut bait," Wray said.

"Given the importance of this thing, I think we need plenty of time to consider whatever is finally put before us."

That concern was echoed by commissioner Frank Mezzano, who recalled being buried with information at the last minute when voting on other large and complex projects.

 "The sheets of paper came in boxes, regular file big boxes that we had to somehow plow through," Mezzano said.

 The APA’s deliberations will be complicated by the fact that commissioners have been instructed to limit the amount of information they’re gathering from the media about the Big Tupper resort, so that their decision will be based on the official record produced by the hearing. 

They also can’t deliberate amongst themselves ahead of time. 

One more wrinkle is that many of the commissioners now on the APA board weren’t around when this project was first introduced. 

"The members at the table now are dramatically different now than the members who were here when this first came before us," observed board member Lani Ulrich.

The Park Agency’s lead attorney, John Banta, said there’s no way that briefings can begin now on the project, because new information is likely to come to light during the hearings.

 "We can’t frame that for you," Banta said.  "We don’t even know the outcome of the hearing.  There will be adequate time to examine that and consult with the committee chair and the chairman and frame an approach that will have you fully informed of the record.  No rush to judgment," he promised.

 One thing that’s clear is that APA staff will play a key role in framing and shaping the mountains of information that commissioners will review before they cast their votes.

"We will try to assemble that in a deliberate way that makes sense so that you can get yourselves around the whole picture," Banta said.

 One other possibility is that the sixty day clock required under APA regulations for a final decision could be extended.  But that could only happen with the consent of the developer, Michael Foxman, who’s seeking the permits.

 Foxman says he’s not sure whether he would agree to an extension, but he acknowledged that the time clock might make it difficult for some commissioners.

 "It seems to me that the board has the staff and the staff has total knowledge and will make a careful recommendation," Foxman argued.

"If I were a new board member, I might need more time or I might depend on the staff.  It will depend on the circumstances."

The discovery phase that led up to the adjudicatory hearing closed last Friday.  The hearing itself could begin as early as next month.  The testimony and the evidence offered into the record is expected to be highly technical and contentious.

 

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