Supporters of the Adirondack Club & Resort project in Tupper Lake want a pair of regional green groups to excuse themselves from upcoming adjudicatory hearings.
The chairman of the community action group ARISE - Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy - and the president of the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce say the Adirondack Council and Protect the Adirondacks need to step aside as the project enters into its final review phase.
The state Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners is preparing for adjudicatory hearings on the project's application. Once those hearings are complete, commissioners will have 60 days to decide whether or not to grant the project a permit.
Developer Michael Foxman says the design for his resort - which he hopes to construct on and around Big Tupper - is more or less ready to go, noting that the project has been scaled back and altered numerous times.
But environmental groups say it's not even close and they'll continue to play an active role in the upcoming hearings.
In a release issued this week, ARISE Chairman Jim LaValley says it "amazes" him that third parties like the Adirondack Council and Protect the Adirondacks are allowed to influence the regulatory process.
ARISE and its membership has been a vocal supporter of the ACR project, noting that it could rescue a desperate economy in the Tupper Lake area.
LaValley says APA staff should be "infuriated" that outside groups are questioning and second-guessing its review of the project.
He adds that ARISE has been supportive of the "professional people" involved in the regulatory process - that includes staff at APA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, LaValley says.
"And it still puzzles me that the process allows for special interest groups to be able to influence an application to the degree that the Adirondack Council and Protect the Adirondacks can," he said.
"It creates an air of fear and doubt, all in an effort to stall and push the cost of the project right up through the roof," LaValley added. "Again, it's the arrogance of these groups that feel they are smarter than the staff and the commissioners of these regulatory agencies."
Doug Wright is president of the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce. He says a discovery request presented by Protect the Adirondacks to the park agency is "disingenuous at best."
Wright claims the 174 demands made by the green group are redundant and that much of the information they are seeking on the project is readily available. He calls it an "example of trying to stall and force the developer to incur additional cost."
Both Wright and LaValley say the two environmental organizations are working against an effort to bring economic prosperity back to Tupper Lake.
John Sheehan is spokesman for the Adirondack Council. He was straightforward in stating that the organization won't be leaving the discussion table anytime soon.
"We are grateful to get advice from our dear friends at the chamber and at ARISE, but frankly, I don't think we'll be following it," he said.
Sheehan says it's disappointing that supporters are asking interested parties to excuse themselves from the adjudicatory hearings.
"Certainly, we believe that this has an Adirondack Park-wide impact," he said. "This is far beyond just a small project that would only affect the area right around Tupper Lake - if constructed this would have an impact for most of that section of Franklin County."
"And this will have an impact on how large projects are judged in the future," Sheehan added.
John Caffry is head of conservation advocacy for Protect the Adirondacks - he also serves as legal counsel for the green group. He says the organization has every right to participate in the upcoming hearings and make its stance known.
"It's a public process," he said. "It's spelled out in the APA regulations, just like how a planning board or the DEC has to have public hearings. We've followed the rules, we filed a petition for party status, and our petition explains how we have members in the project area that would be affected by it. It's not a mystery - this happens all the time."
Caffry says his organization has no intention of withdrawing its party status to the hearings, noting the group has its own supporters in the Tupper Lake area.
Some APA commissioners are concerned that 60 days won't be enough time to parse through the seemingly endless documents pertaining to the ACR project. Developer Michael Foxman has indicated that he may grant an extension if absolutely necessary.
Additionally, commissioners have received strict instruction not to gather information about the project from media reports. Board members must limit their decision to info gathered by APA staff and supplied by the developer.