TUPPER LAKE-The L.P. Quinn Elementary School cafeteria was packed the afternoon of March 16 during a public hearing over the proposed Adirondack Club & Resort project in Tupper Lake.
Dozens of community members, business owners, politicians and other leaders from throughout the Adirondacks spoke during the afternoon and evening hearings. The overwhelming majority were in support of the Adirondack Club and Resort project proposed for the Big Tupper Ski Area.
Melissa McManus of the Tupper Lake Revitalization Committee asked the state Adirondack Park Agency to send a message that "appropriate development can happen here, that Adirondacks are still open for business and that there is in fact hope for Adirondack communities like Tupper Lake."
APA Chairman Curt Stiles and several commissioners attended the meeting, as did lead developer Michael Foxman and his partners.
Many of the speakers at the hearing cited the economic woes in Tupper Lake, including the lack of jobs, the decline of once thriving industries and the closure of many local businesses in their appeal for a speedy APA approval of the project.
Supporters argued that the resort, which would include a revamped ski area and a subdivision, would bring in hundreds of jobs and reverse Tupper Lake's declining economic trends.
Others speakers emphasized the need for increased private sector investment in the region to replace government jobs that have or will be slashed as a result of the state's fiscal problems.
Ricky Dattola, a speaker who said he was in favor of the resort proposal, asked everyone who supported the project to stand up. Nearly everyone who was seated rose to their feet.
Dozens of ACR supporters wore homemade signs on their shirts that read, "Yes ACR," while others brandished homemade posters and flags in a show of support.
Mary Sparks is a former principal of L.P. Quinn Elementary and a lifelong resident of Tupper Lake.
"I've seen many, many changes over the years," she said. "Tupper Lake thrived when I was a child. But now more businesses are closing, and more youth are leaving to find jobs elsewhere. 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 and the economies of the surrounding areas."
Scott Bombard is sales manager at Greymont, a building materials company from the Tri-Lakes that employs some 40 workers and independent haulers.
He said development is vital to their success, noting that the ACR project would be "essential to our ability to sustain our business."
Sheila Larkin is a business owner from Tupper Lake.
"I believe there have been good questions brought up and good compromises made over the years," she said. "Now, the APA knows what they need to know and should not be appealed at every step of the way, again and again, to stall this project."
The few criticisms of the project came from the park's environmental leaders. Dave Gibson of Adirondack Wild said there's still an opportunity to redesign the project "without landscape fragmentation and without violating resource management guidelines."
Several speakers insisted that the environmental groups were standing in the way of progress.