The lawsuit has been moving forward, with all sides filing legal briefs with the state Supreme Court. Brian Mann spoke about the latest developments with Martha Foley.
The Tupper Resort is the largest project to be approved by the park agency. It was under review by the APA for seven years before the park agency voted 10-1 to approve the permit earlier this year. The proposal was supported by the region’s biggest environmental group, the Adirondack Council. However, a lawsuit was filed by two environmental groups that protect the Adirondacks. They argued that the APA staff pushed through this decision without regard for the park’s environmental rules.
“It’s a complicated argument, but it boils down to this: they say the staff delivered a really biased summary of the project commissioners, one that was designed to encourage approval. They say that the park agency didn’t follow rules that were designed to protect private land zoned as resource management. That’s the most restrictive classification for private land in the park,” said Mann. He added that the environmental groups pointed to the fact that no wildlife survey was done and that the park agency might have had inappropriate communications with the developer.
Since the lawsuit was filed, state officials and developers have responded. The APA states that no communication between the park agency and developer occurred. This allegation arose after Tupper Lake Village Mayor Paul Maroun first commented on talks occurring between the developer and senior staff at the APA in a news story aired on NCPR last January.
Maroun has since claimed that his comment was taken out of context. In his original interview with Mann, the mayor said, “I’m very optimistic that it’s going to be approved. I’m still concerned a little bit about the conditions, because the conditions can make or break the project, but I do know that there have been ongoing talks between the developer and the staff, the senior staff, and I think it’s going to work out favorably for both the developer and the environmental interests. So I’m looking forward for it.” According to Maroun, he was only referring to talks between the developer and one APA attorney, Paul Van Cott, who was allowed under park agency rules to continue communications with the developer.
Controversy also exists over the Great Camp mansions and whether they should have been allowed as part of this proposal. According to Mann, the developers have described these mansions as being a key part of their business plan. However, environmental groups have argued that the mansions should not have been allowed since many of them are in areas that have the resource management land zoning regulations.
“Green groups fear that right across the Adirondack park, a lot of resource management land could eventually be converted into residential subdivisions, so they raise these concerns,” said Mann. In response, the developers quote APA staff member who said that some of the most important environmental rules for those lands are important considerations, but they’re not inflexible mandates.
As such, they function as guidelines as opposed to rules. Mann said, “If confirmed by the court, if this case locks in that standard, it’s a pretty flexible standard and would give state officials a lot of leeway when looking at projects like this one in the future.”
Community members are impatient for the controversy to be over. The next court date is on Friday, June 22, and more papers will be filed before then. The court is trying to move this forward efficiently, but a timeline for the court case is difficult to predict.