As the proposed Adirondack Club & Resort enters its final permitting phase, some opponents are questioning the project's economic viability.
Interested parties are gearing up for the upcoming adjudicatory hearings, scheduled to begin next month. Once those hearings are finished, the state Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners has 60 days to decide whether or not to grant developer Michael Foxman a permit.
Earlier this week, members of two regional environmental organizations exchanged salvos with a pair of Tupper Lake organizations that support the ACR project.
Members of ARISE and the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce said Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Council should excuse themselves from the upcoming hearings.
The green groups fired back, saying they have every right to participate in the public process.
Included in that exchange was an argument made by the Adirondack Council that the project lacks the economic footing to even get off the ground.
The group's spokesman, John Sheehan, notes that the Front Street development in North Creek has had construction permits for several years and has only built a speck house so far.
"It is clear to everybody involved that the luxury home market is very flat right now - and if anything, it's been in a period of decline for the last three years," he said. "Until something happens with the economy, the likelihood of starting to find customers for new homes on the ski hill is very, very slim."
Sheehan contends that it hasn't been in Foxman's best interest to bring the application forward more quickly.
He adds that the council tried to speed the project up by proposing a mediation session that would have "taken away" some of the issues being adjudicated at the upcoming hearings.
According to Sheehan, those sessions only lasted a couple months before the developer opted out.
"Ultimately, the delays have been the product of the applicant not bringing materials forward in a timely way," he said. "Until this hearing starts, we're still waiting to here from the applicant on a couple things that have been requested."
But ARISE Chairman Jim LaValley flatly denies that the economy has been holding up the project.
"It clearly is the green groups who have been responsible for holding this project up," he said. "When you have somebody like John Caffry from Protect the Adirondacks filing 31 pages and 171 discovery motions - of which almost all of them were previously submitted by way of the application - it's as if he never saw the information that was already filed with the APA."
"You can't tell me that they weren't intentionally creating these stalls," LaValley added.
LaValley - who is a realtor - concedes that the economy isn't "great," but he adds that by the time the project goes through hearings and is granted an application, it should hit the market at the "right time."
Meanwhile, a prominent local official says that ARISE is out of line for asking the green groups to cease their opposition to the Adirondack Club & Resort.
Jack Delahanty is chief assistant district attorney for Franklin County. He says town officials have avoided "hard questions" and it's only through the involvement of group's like Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Council that those questions will get answered.
"They've been saying 'Let the park agency do its job,' but they don't want to play by the rules of the game that have been established since 1973 in the park agency's review of the project," Delahanty said. "They want their own rules to be imposed. And those rules that they want imposed would minimize the degree of information that the project sponsor would have to provide to the agency."
Although supporters and opponents won't know the fate of the project until later this spring, developers and ARISE did gain one victory this week.
A motion filed by Protect the Adirondacks to gain access to ARISE's financial records was denied by an administrative law judge earlier this week. The judge did rule that ARISE must produce for public record a $1 lease investors signed with the community action group.
LaValley says Protect is trying to prove collusion between ARISE and Foxman. He admits he is a close friend of Tom Lawson, one of the project's developers.
"Through that friendship we were able to get at the very least the ski area up and going with volunteers without using the Adirondack Club & Resort investors at all," LaValley said.
According to LaValley, ARISE has been clear and up front with the APA in showing there's no relationship between the ski center's operation and investors. He adds that the agency is satisfied that no collusion has taken place.