Morning Read: New Adirondack resort to be investigated?

I’m in the throes of preparing an in-depth report on economic aspects of the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake.

But the headlines this week have focused on another big Adirondack project, the North Creek “Front Street” resort, which was approved by the Adirondack Park Agency a couple of years ago.

This is from Jon Alexander’s report in the Glens Falls Post Star.

The [Johnsburg] Planning Board is seeking an investigation of the Frontstreet project and alleging numerous unspecified zoning violations. The board has drafted a letter asking the town zoning enforcement officer to undertake the investigation.

“There are potentially several illegal zoning actions the Planning Board wants investigated,” town Councilman Ron Vanselow said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Johnsburg has notified Front Street developers, and the backers of another resort project called Tall Timber that their development permits have “expired.”

There continue to be high hopes in North Creek that the Front Street project will tie into the Ski Bowl area and Gore Mountain, forming a popular new destination.

Read the full article, including the developer’s response, here.  You can check out NCPR’s most recent report on Front Street’s woes here.

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22 Comments on “Morning Read: New Adirondack resort to be investigated?”

  1. Peter Hahn says:

    Life in the private sector development world is far from perfect.

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  2. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    From the PS story: “Frontstreet developers have leased or donated dozens of acres to the town, with the expectation that people who buy the 130 high-end condos or homes will have direct access to Gore Mountain ski center via the Interconnect.”

    As I remember it this wasn’t a “donation” but a land swap that enabled the ski area interconnect to go forward and for Frontstreet to get millions in government money.

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  3. verplanck says:

    what is it with adk developers and contempt for the permit process and local government? First Tupper, now this. The response “It’s just the way construction works” is not an explanation of why they didn’t renew in the six month window they were given. It wasn’t like they were really busy building condos or anything.

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  4. Paul says:

    This is a good example of where town based zoning is more effective than regional zoning through the APA. If there are violations watch how quickly they will be dealt with by the town. If this was only an APA matter first they might have never found the violations and then if they did it would turn into a lengthy legal battle.

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  5. verplanck says:

    Actually Paul, I’d say this is an example for the opposite. The previous zoning administrator said that folks looked the other way because the developer had them by the pocketbook. The APA is a bit bigger, and wouldn’t be as affected by threats of tax base loss.

    Who’s to say the developer won’t turn this into a legal battle?

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  6. oa says:

    What Verplanck says. Plenty of local zoning boards bend rules.

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  7. Paul says:

    Verplank and oa how do you figure? I have seen Ron Vanselow comment here and in other places that the APA was very ineffective in doing what needed to be done as far as zoning of this project. The council has said that the APA was basically a pushover. Why is it the town and not the APA that is raising this particular issue now?

    As far as turning into a legal battle it could. But if you look at other zoning violation cases it is clear that they are handled much more quickly in a town court than in a state court. And even if an appeal is made to the state the bar is very high and the town almost always prevails.

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  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    This project was approved by the APA without much hoopla, a fact that was not trumpeted much at the time because APA opponents want you to believe that the APA is the All Seeing Eye of Mordor. Now we are supposed to believe that the APA is useless because they are hopelessly overworked and incompetent?

    As I understand the process, the “zoning enforcement officer” is the local building inspector. The building inspector is responsible for making sure a project meets all the standards of the federal, state, and local governments. Am I missing something?

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  9. Paul says:

    Here is what the spokesman for the Adirondack Council had to say on the issue in the Press Republican in 2008:

    “”If a violator has already built an illegal structure, the Park Agency has never had the stomach to force them to tear it down,” Sheehan said. In addition, the APA is too small to effectively handle the volume of cases in such a large area, he said. “There really has to be a local partnership.”"

    And:

    “”I think this shows that the towns in the Adirondacks don’t intend to be walked on by wealthy developers any more,” said John Sheehan, spokesman for the Adirondack Council, an environmental preservation group. “Towns realize they can’t just rely on the Adirondack Park Agency; they have to defend their local zoning too. We’re very pleased to see them succeed.”"

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  10. Paul says:

    “As I understand the process, the “zoning enforcement officer” is the local building inspector. The building inspector is responsible for making sure a project meets all the standards of the federal, state, and local governments. Am I missing something?”

    One of us is. Why does the APA have an enforcement division if the town is responsible for enforcing those state laws?

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  11. Paul says:

    Local zoning officers can alert the APA (or the Feds) to suspected violations. But they can only enforce their own zoning rules. Rules which can be more strict than we see at other levels. A good example of this is boat house regulations on Lake George and what we are seeing with violations on Lake Placid.

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  12. oa says:

    Now I’m all confused. Am I supposed to hate Mordor, or feel sorry for it?
    And Paul, I wasn’t weighing in on this complaint, per se, but your generalization that local boards are always better. Just saying there’s plenty of backslapping and pressure for variances that probably oughtn’t be allowed.

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  13. verplanck says:

    Local zoning and APA review are distinctly different, though aspects do overlap. My APA experience is limited, I mostly deal with Vermont’s version of the APA (Act 250). That being said…

    The APA is responsible for a broader list of concerns than the local zoning board. Local zoning typically is concerned about whether structures meet minimum lot sizes, setbacks, zoning use, etc. The APA gets into other concerns such as wetlands, historic structures, shoreline impacts and wastewater disposal.

    I’d say that it’s right for the town to get involved in issues such as subdivision lines. If there’s a question about wetland impacts, though, the APA would be the better agency to address it. They have the expertise.

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  14. Peter Hahn says:

    My understanding is that the APA doesnt really have an enforcement arm. They can cite violators, but if the violators ignore the citation, the APA has to get the attorney general to do something about it. When the local zoning laws are not identical to the APA regulations (building height limit for example), the building inspector cant step in.

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  15. Paul says:

    verplank, what you say is good in theory but I don’t know about how it is in practice at times.

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  16. Paul says:

    Peter, the APA does have an enforcement arm. Currently they have 349 enforcement cases that are pending. They don’t have any problem opening cases. Closing them is the issue.

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  17. dave says:

    “But so far, only one model home has been built and no properties in the resort have been sold. As Brian Mann reports, local officials are questioning the project’s future.”

    A peek into Tupper Lake’s future…

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  18. Peter Hahn says:

    Maybe what I meant was that the APA enforcement arm has no teeth.

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  19. Paul says:

    When the agency was formed in the 70′s there was a real void in zoning in many parts of the Adirondacks. That void no longer exists, or is much smaller today. In the places where zoning is lax are the same places that nobody wants to develop anyway. If and when those areas experience development pressure they will have to get their acts together. Although most of these areas are being de-developed now. It sounds like the APA only permits something like 30% of all the development inside the blueline. I think that both developers and environmentalists overstate the role that the APA plays. Maybe the Adirondack Council is starting to see that and that is why they don’t care that much who is appointed to the board?

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  20. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    As a lay-person my understanding of the process and terminology is obviously faulty, so thanks all for the help. But I think you have validated my point in that the local code officer is the person on the ground who keeps an eye on a project to be sure it is complying with zoning and code issues. Some of those issues may not be within his/her jurisdiction to enforce but the code officer would pass that sort of information on to the relevant authority, right?

    Or am I still missing something?

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  21. Paul says:

    Knuck,

    That is probably accurate. But they are probably mainly familiar with their own codes. But if they knew something was up they would probably call in another agency, or two, or three….

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  22. Peter Hahn says:

    The one I know is the height limit. You can get a building permit to construct a house that is above the APA height limit, and they wont tell you that although you meet local building codes, you are afoul of the APA limits, and the building inspector wont mention it either. There presumably are other similar situations.

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