Developers want to build hundreds of great camp mansions, condos and homes, as well as a marina and a new ski lodge.
The vast majority of those who spoke yesterday supported the project and called for the Adirondack Park Agency to allow it to go forward. Brian Mann has our story.
When the Adirondack Club and Resort was first proposed in 2004, there was a fair amount of local skepticism and doubt in Tupper Lake.
Lead developer Michael Foxman was an outsider and big resort projects had been proposed before in the Adirondacks only to fade away.
But yesterday, the mood was very different. People like Tony Mercurio, a lifelong Tupper Laker, talked about a once-bustling town that they fear is on the edge of permanent decline.
"I remember having half a dozen operating dairy farms, two dairies, two commercial bakeries, a meat packing plant, they're all gone. It was the beginning of the cycle. We had five new car dealerhips. Gone."
Mercurio recalled an era when Tupper Lake was also a mecca for visitors flooding into the Park from big cities.
"We had many stately hotels. All gone," he added.
A few year ago, before the Great Recession, locals could still rely on state jobs or jobs at the local school.
But with deep cuts to education funding in Albany and fears about the future of the Sunmount mental healthcare facility, people like Mary Sparks – the former principal at LP Quinn – say the’re afraid.
"Tupper Lake is overwhelmingly dependent on the public sector for jobs. Many of these jobs are in jeopardy. Approving the ACR project would go a long way in helping our economy," she argued.
The Adirondack Club and Resort is a huge proposition. Hundreds of new homes, roads, sewer lines, a marina, new ski facilities would be phased in over the next fourteen years.
The developers hope to tap a second home and vacation market that’s still just recovering from the economic downturn.
Neil Seymour, director of tourism in Franklin County, says the project needs to go big to survive.
"Big Tupper needs to be resurrected on the scale that is being proposed by the Adirondack Club and Resort. In my opinion, anything less than that would jeopardise the future success of the project."
That’s because operating the Big Tupper ski hill and other amenities will be costly, Seymour said.
But some environmental activists are still convinced that the project is too big, and would spread development into areas of forestland that are now used for timber harvesting.
"Let us imagine a different and less expsensive scenario that concentrates home development near the mountain and the ski center," said Dave Gibson is with a group called Adirondack Wild.
But Gibson was one of only a handful who continued to raise doubts and questions about the project.
Many others, like Tupper Lake business owner Sheila Larkin, expressed anger at green groups for their continued opposition.
She accused environmentalists of using procedural hurdles to delay the decision "again and again to stall this project."
There is widespread concern in Tupper Lake that if a permit is granted by the APA, environmental activists will sue, delaying the project even further.
But Brian Houseal, head of the Adirondack Council, says the slow review process is the fault of the developers, who often took months to submit needed information to the Park Agency.
"It certainly hasn't been the Adirondack Council that has delayed this process," Houseal said.
One other texture to this public hearing was its huge geographic footprint. People came from as far away as Massena, Malone, Plattsburgh and Queensbury to testify in favor of the project.
"Today we're all Tupper Lakers," said Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau, sparking applause. "And as a Tupper Laker today, I'm asking you to move this process along in a fair and quick manner and let's get it done."
It appears more and more likely that the APA will approve this project in something like its current form – a fact that will anger some environmentalists.
But green groups have already won significant concessions from the developers
The Adirondack Club and Resort's designers canceled plans for dozens of homes along high ridgelines, shrunk the building lots for the great camp mansions, reconfigured the sewer systems, and eliminated a proposal to build a new shooting range on the six-thousand acre property.
This adjudicatory hearing is the final phase of the APA’s review and is expected to continue through June.
Sessions resume next Tuesday at the train station building in Tupper lake.