Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters in Ray Brook
The Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners began its look at the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort Thursday at APA Headquarters in preparation for making a decision on the project in January.
The APA Board will take most of its meeting time in November, December and January to deliberate on the resort's permit (2005-100, Preserve Associates, LLC). The project, located around the Big Tupper Ski Area in the town of Tupper Lake, is the largest development proposed in the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park's history and could be used as a precedent for future development.
During the APA's regular November Board meeting (Nov. 17-18), there is limited seating at the APA Headquarters in Ray Brook; however, people may watch the live webcast on the APA website from their computers or from two alternate locations: The Wild Center in Tupper Lake and the DEC Region 5 Headquarters in Ray Brook.
"We recognize there is tremendous public interest in this project," said APA Executive Director Terry Martino during her opening remarks.
See the agenda below for the November meeting.
Watch the meeting live at the APA website here.
Commissioner Leilani Crafts Ulrich, of Old Forge, began her first meeting as chairwoman on Thursday. She was appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Nov. 9 to replace Curt Stiles, who retired as commissioner and chairman during the summer.
"This is history," Ulrich said, explaining that she is the first female chair of the APA Board and the first commissioner from Herkimer County. In addition, she was sitting with the first female APA executive director (Martino) and the first APA commissioner from St. Lawrence County, Sherman Craig of Wanakena, who was named to the board on Nov. 9.
"For my Mother, my daughters-in-law and granddaughters – for girls and women known and unknown, I am delighted to mirror each of our aspirations and to have the privilege of building on the work I have done in the past seven years here at the Agency and now in my appointment as Chairwoman," Ulrich said.
While the focus this month is on the Tupper Lake resort project, Ulrich looked forward to a productive year in 2012.
"During the next three months, you will see a singular focus of this board as we deliberate on the ACR project," Ulrich said. "Following that, 2012 will give us other opportunities to help to write the next chapter of the Adirondack story – where the Adirondack Park Agency not only meets its regulatory duties with even greater efficiency, but works in partnership with the Adirondack Common Ground Alliance and the newly emerging Adirondack Partnership; where the APA plays a transformational role in convening, listening and encouraging greater, and even more productive dialogue for the good of all who live, work and/or play in this magnificent place; where we collectively turn the page and reach for the true potential of our region - where we can plan, work and win by sharing our mutual and shared strengths."
APA Counsel John Banta looked around the APA Board room and likened the setup to a courtroom; however, he explained that the meetings over the next three months are technically part of an "administrative adjudication," not a court proceeding. The 11-member APA Board (eight commissioners and three designees) will be reviewing the findings from the previously held adjudicatory hearings and make a decision on the resort permit based on "fact and law." Adjudication is a less formal procedure than a courtroom hearing with a judge and gives "substantial latitude in deliberation" compared to a court proceeding, Banta said.
In March and June 2011, the APA compiled evidence on the resort project during an exhaustive set of adjudicatory hearings. During the Thursday meeting, Martino listed the amount of findings Board members will use to make their decision in January: 49 parties; 23 witnesses; 4,486 pages of testimony; 12 reply statements; 17 closing statements; 288 exhibits; and 256 drawings
APA staffers set up the Board room for this month's meeting to accommodate extra for the Executive Team. In addition to Martino and Counsel John Banta, who always sit at the Board table, the team includes Deputy Director of Regulatory Programs Rick Weber; Environmental Engineer Greg Bendell; Senior Natural Resources Planner Matt Kendall; and biologist Ed Snizek. The Executive Team will provide aid and advice to the APA Board during the three-month deliberation process.
The Executive Team is separate from the APA Hearing Staff, who had reviewed the project and filed recommendations after the fact-finding adjudicatory hearings. Those staffers were Environmental Program Specialist Colleen Parker; Soil and Water Engineering Specialist Shaun LaLonde; Dan Spada, supervisor for natural resource analysis; Associate Attorney Paul Van Cott; and Senior Attorney Mitch Goroski. Skip Outcalt and Mark Sengenberger, both now retired, had also helped.
There were several speakers Thursday morning during the APA Board meeting, including Ulrich, Martino, Banta and Weber, who described the project by use of a multimedia presentation.
Weber explained Phase 1 before Banta asked the Board to affirm the rulings of three appeals from Administrative Law Judge Daniel O'Connell so they could be entered into the record. The first appeal dealt with tax records relating to individuals associated with the project sponsor; the second with a broad preclusion of testimony by the applicant's witnesses relating to the discovery process; and the third with alleged statements under oath by a principal of one of the consultants. Board members unanimously approved the motion.
"We have a full and complete record," Ulrich said.
Weber then began describing Phase 2 of the resort project before the lunch break. After lunch, the Board prepared to listen to several hearing issues ordered by Judge O'Connell.
"OK, we've got the overview, the legal context, and now it's time for the issues," Ulrich said.
Agency staff presented details of four issues to the APA Board during the Thursday meeting. Here they are, listed in the order of presentation:
Issue 3 (Bendell): What are the impacts of the proposed upper portions of the West Slopeside and the Westface development on the existing topography, vegetation and soils; will the development as proposed cause excessive stormwater run-off erosion and slippage in these areas; and what will be the visual impacts during the day and night of these proposed sections. Issue 3 is revised because applicant withdrew the East Ridge development.
Issue 4 (Bendell): Is it feasible to connect the proposed Sewer District 27 to Sewer District 23 via a pump station and associated components, taking into account design, location, impacts (such as noise, odors and visual, among others), costs (including long-term operation and maintenance costs) and any cost-sharing arrangement between Applicant, the Town and the Village, and whether all of the small eastern Great Camp lots (i.e., lots 16-31, inclusive) should be included in Sewer District 27?
Issue 7 (Snizek): What are the impacts, alternatives and appropriate conditions on the use of Forest Preserve such as State facilities in Intensive Use areas (state boat launch, valet service for McDonald’s Marina)?
Issue 1: Is the natural resource protection (including visual, forest resource, habitat and other natural resource considerations) implicit in Resource Management land use area adequately protected; are the proposed Great Camp lots “substantial acreage ... on carefully and well designed sites? Are there alternatives and, if so, what are the relative impacts on these resources? The scope of Issue 1 includes potential stormwater impacts and consideration of using Read Road as an alternative. The topics/speakers were: Open space (Weber); Forest resources/habitat/wetlands (Snizek); Soils/surface waters/groundwater (Bendell); Substantial acreage (Sarah Reynolds); Well designed sites (Reynolds); and Alternative design (Weber).
ABOUT THE PROJECT
The 2005-100 project application was filed by Preserve Associates, LLC (Sponsor), and Big Tupper, LLC, Tupper Lake Boat Club, LLC, and Oval Wood Dish Liquidating Trust (Landowners) for an Agency permit for a mixed commercial and residential development on the sites of the former Big Tupper Ski Area, former McDonald's Marina and the surrounding Oval Wood Dish lands in the Town of Tupper Lake, Franklin County. The development proposal was first announced in February 2004.
The project site is approximately 6,235± acres of property and includes lands of the former Big Tupper Ski Area, the surrounding Oval Wood Dish landholdings, and the former McDonalds Marina. Most of the site is located east of NYS Route 30, except for the marina and two other small parcels that are located west of Route 30. The site includes about 1,800± feet of frontage on Lake Simond and about 235± feet on Big Tupper Lake at the marina. The applicant proposes to develop a planned resort development with a ski center, marina, 60-unit inn, 719 single-family and multiple-family residential dwelling units (including "great camp" lots).
The applicant proposes to undertake the project in four phases over fifteen years. The Adirondack Club is being marketed as an Orvis Sporting Lifestyle Community.
As the meeting wrapped up Thursday, Banta clarified the goals of the November agenda compared to the ones for December and January.
"This Agency meeting is an opportunity to dive into the hearing record, which really has to do with the transcripts, the evidence, the exhibits as presented," he said. "Next month, we will be similarly diving into ... the draft findings and conditions that were circulated in an initial and a revised format with the hearing staff's closing statement and reply statement."
The meeting resumed at 9 a.m. today in Ray Brook.