It was like the scene from the movie “Jaws” when you knew the shark was going to emerge and chomp down on whatever it could, you just didn’t know when.
So was the case last week, when Protect the Adirondacks! and the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the Adirondack Park Agency, Department of Environmental Conservation and developers over the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) in Tupper Lake. Everyone knew a challenge was coming. Now we know who filed it, when and where.
Along with the two “green” organizations, three adjacent landowners, Dr. Phyllis Thompson and Bob and Leslie Harrison, have joined the suit, which was filed under the argument that the APA did not do its job in the handling of the permitting process for the ACR.
The real reason behind the lawsuit was later stated by Protect attorney John Caffry when he said, “Yes, we would like to kill it.”
The facts are that the Adirondack Club and Resort project has been one of the most scrutinized developments ever to come before the APA board, including when Protect member and former APA Executive Director John Glennon served. The decision was not made easily or without sacrifice on both sides, which is what is needed for true compromise.
However, as Caffry stated, that is not enough for his group. They want to kill a project that would boost the local economy and help a once thriving town return to its former glory, much like the shark that feeds off unguarded swimmers in the movie.
This is a project that has been backed by every local official both in economics and politics. It has been a rallying point for the community and for the region.
To its credit, another green group, the Adirondack Council, after the hearings were completed, said the following:
“We commend the Park Agency for its hard work and serious evaluation,” Executive Director Brian Houseal said. “There are adequate protections to avoid habitat fragmentation in the backcountry ... Tupper Lake needs economic development. We hope the ski slope will be a success. We don’t see any reason to pursue legal action.”
We applaud the Council for sticking to that and not becoming party to this action. Sure, they had concerns just like the organizations who are suing did, but they saw the value in the APA process and the work that went into the decision. They saw that there was some compromise, creating a proposal that will both be good for the community and the Adirondacks.
We also found the timing and location of the announcement of this lawsuit troubling. The e-mails and releases announcing that the suit was going to be filed came late in the evening March 20, probably with hopes that it would be breaking news for many 11 p.m. television newscasts, but too late for coverage by the majority of the media. In any case, they met the 60-day deadline to file a challenge from the time of the APA’s decision on Jan. 20.
Also, the press conference announcing the lawsuit was held two days later in Albany.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Two organizations that claim to have the best interests of Tupper Lake and other Adirondack communities at heart host a press conference denouncing the ACR project — in Albany?
Why was it not held in Tupper Lake? How about in front of the APA offices in Ray Brook? Why not in a place that is relevant to the case? Are they really showing care and concern for the region when they plead their case to people in Albany and not to the people of the North Country? In the end, the only true media contact that occurred locally happened through phone calls, Internet communication and press releases.
The way it looks from here, these groups care more about their Albany-based membership than the people actually impacted by the project.
Now the game is officially on, and the shark has surfaced. Hopefully, this game will end the same way it did in the movie, with those defending themselves defeating the shark.
And hopefully, there will be no sequels.
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