LAKE PLACID - The Olympic Regional Development Authority gave a unanimous go-ahead May 8 on the highly touted Interconnect Project that will link Gore Mountain with the town of Johnsburg's Ski Bowl.
ORDA freed up $2.2 million in state money for the project and agreed to fund the operating costs for the Ski Bowl as long as the necessary money is available.
"This is the most significant economic event in the community's recent history," said an elated Johnsburg Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed. "This project will bring thousands of skiers directly to the business district of North Creek and create new jobs."
Last month, ORDA tabled a similar funding resolution after some commissioners argued that the project would primarily benefit the pending $250 million project of Front Street Mountain Development. This resort, residential and commercial development project is to be located on a parcel directly adjacent to the Ski Bowl. Commissioners had argued that ORDA should be seeking funding from Front Street for the interconnect.
"The Front Street project is immediately adjacent to the Ski Bowl and will most directly benefit from the project," ORDA Commissioner Chris Walsh had said before the decision. "It makes more sense to try to negotiate with Front Street now prior to building the lifts since we have more leverage."
Front Street is advertising the future development as a "ski-in, ski-out" luxury resort with direct access to the interconnect.
However, most of the ORDA board did not agree with Walsh's assessment.
"I don't think hinging our decision on any one business is either correct or appropriate," said ORDA Board of Commissioners Chairman Joe Martens. "Front Street does stand to benefit, but I think we should be talking to all the businesses - these two projects are stand-alone."
The decision frees up the remainder of a $3 million economic development appropriation secured by state Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury). Further, it agrees to supply the operating costs to the Ski Bowl, which Gore Mountain Manager Mike Pratt estimates to be around $250,000 annually.
"Although I have serious doubts about the transformative ability of the interconnect, I have heard from numerous North Creek business owners in support of the project," Walsh said. "It must be noted that at no time may funds intended for Gore Mountain be used to operate the interconnect."
A crowd of over 30 local business owners and residents made the two-hour trek to Lake Placid to show unified support for the project.
"I am absolutely thrilled," Alpine Lodge Owner Sharon Taylor said. "I think all businesses will benefit from skiers no longer bypassing the downtown - not just Front Street."
Upon passage of the resolution, the crowded meeting hall in the Olympic Center erupted with cheers from the Johnsburg contingent.
"I think this shows how important this project is - us being here," Hudson River Trading Post Owner Laurie Arnheiter said. "For small business owners, it's a lot to take a day off during the week for something like this."
ORDA President Ted Blazer said that construction will start early this summer. It is expected to take two construction seasons to complete.