Green groups, neighbors sue “rogue” APA over Adirondack Club and Resort decision

A "rogue" Adirondack Park Agency?

In  a press release first published on the Adirondack Almanack blog, two green groups have announced plans to sue New York state to block the Adirondack Club and Resort project in Tupper Lake.

“In the last few years APA has become a rogue agency that ignores the law for political ends” said John Caffry of PROTECT!, the lead attorney in the case. “Its rubber-stamp approval of this project, the largest ever to come before it, is only the latest example of this unfortunate trend.”

Protect and the Sierra Club say they’ll file the suit challenging the APA commission’s 10-to-1 vote, along with two neighbors of the massive project.

Some other green leaders, including the Adirondack Council’s Brian Houseal, have questioned whether a suit is appropriate or likely to succeed, noting that the APA spent roughly 7 years reviewing the project.

The move is also certain to spark ire from local government leaders, some state officials, and from lead developers Tom Lawson and Michael Foxman.

But the activists who filed the suit say they can prove that the APA’s review didn’t meet state requirements.

PROTECT!, the Sierra Club and the co-petitioners charge that the APA violated…components of its legal mandate. For example, despite having formally asked the developer to prepare a four-season, comprehensive wildlife study no less than four times, the Agency approved the fragmentation of the undeveloped forest lands without ever having received it. Even more puzzling is the Agency’s approval of the project on the condition that more studies of impacts to wildlife would be done after that approval, rather than beforehand.

NCPR will have more on this story Wednesday during the 8 O’clock Hour.  Green groups say they plan to brief the media on their suit Thursday morning at 11 am.

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39 Comments on “Green groups, neighbors sue “rogue” APA over Adirondack Club and Resort decision”

  1. don dew says:

    It appears from the press release that this lawsuit is originating with the Albany County Supreme Court and then will be transferred to the Appelate Division Third Department. Just wondering why it is not originating in Essex County Supreme Court (county where APA Headquarters is located) or Franklin County. (where the ACR project is located)

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  2. tootightmike says:

    Maybe th Adirondack Club and Resort could broaden its appeal by including a casino!

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  3. It's Still All Bush's Fault says:

    Will the addition of a casino to the development take another seven years to work through the system?

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  4. Pete Klein says:

    The only rogues I see here are the stupid environmental groups and their lawyer bringing the lawsuit.
    This is an old and boring story, and these people need to get a life.
    The story belongs in the obits.

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  5. Nodrog says:

    This comes as no surprise, someone was bound to challenge it especially since the APA ignored the evidence in the Hearing record and based their decision on some last minute evidence fabricated(again) by the developers.

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  6. Paul says:

    I think the plaintiffs are going to lose in court and in the court of public opinion. My guess is that they are going to lose big time. The wording in this press release is not the stuff of legal briefs. They are just upset that it didn’t go their way. This looks like the same attorney that these guys use all the time. It is time for them to consider new counsel.

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  7. Paul says:

    One issue seems to be with a Wildlife Survey. In the brief they say that the agency “asked” for a survey and never received one. That may be true but that doesn’t mean that it is legally required for a permit. There is a big difference. This agency, by nature of the legislation, has a lot of leeway in making it’s determinations. In the past this has been to the great ire of the agencies critics. The tables here have kind of turned.

    Just the fact that the suit is announced in a press release shows how these things are more “political” than anything else.

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  8. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    They should save their time, effort, and money as the financial side of this project will doom it to failure anyway. Even during the boom years of real estate back in the late 90′s and early to mid 2,000′s asking the kind of money they are to live in a glorified development would have been a hard sell. Skipping ahead to the current market, while improving, it just doesn’t bode well for the prices they’re asking for these homes given the surplus of other, more desirable properties directly on waterfront that are currently on the market all around the Tupper Lake area (relatively speaking). I’ll be surprised if even phase 1 is actually constructed. And if it is, it’ll remain vacant and that will be the end of the idea.

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  9. Paul says:

    Clapton, I agree but building infrastructure and abandoning it would probably have the most negative impact of the environment. If they don’t build out and do all the plantings and other remediation it could be a problem.

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  10. mervel says:

    They (green groups) I think are doing what they are supposed to do. They will likely lose, but certainly the case is not some sort of wild long shot.

    As far as public opinion goes, how much of the green groups donations come from local residents of Tupper Lake? Who are their stakeholders? They may have had more to lose from NOT suing.

    I mean what kind of a green group are you if you can stop crummy little cell phone towers from going up, but can’t stop a massive housing development in the middle of the park?

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  11. mervel says:

    I think the point of a green advocacy group is not to get along, that is what the chamber of commerce is for, the point of these guys is to protect the wilderness, period.

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  12. Peter Hahn says:

    I would add to Mervel’s comments that the green advocacy groups are not supposed to be concerned with economic development in the park or the economic health of Tupper Lake. That the APA is currently taking economic concerns more into consideration is probably to the APA’s credit, but it all the more reason for the green advocacy groups to follow through on their advocacy role. But Paul is probably right too. they will most likely lose.

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  13. Bob S says:

    I ask myself why are they doing this? They have no chance; zip;zero;nada. How can they justify such a waste of funds to their contributors?

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  14. Paul says:

    Bob, I think this could be about positioning. This will most likely not go much beyond a complaint (although stranger things have happened) not that expensive yet. Given that the idea of positioning yourself as the no-holes-barred “protector” of the environment in the eyes of potential donors could make more money than it costs them. Like I said this was quickly followed by a “press release” and a “press conference” tomorrow in Albany. I heard a great quote from a colleague yesterday. It is very difficult to beat and emotional argument with a rational argument. Here the value is in simply making the emotional argument.

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  15. Dewey says:

    Bob S, Why do you say they have no chance? I am not an attorney. Seems there is some legal merit.

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  16. Pete Klein says:

    There was a time when the Adirondackers were accused of “rather fight than win.” No it appears the same holds true for some of the most extreme environmental groups.
    In an odd sort of way, they remind me of holier than thou Rick Santorum. Let’s knit pick everything to death and get paid for not having a real job.

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  17. Phil Brown says:

    @don dew … the suit was filed in Albany, because that is the seat of state government and the APA is a state agency.

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  18. Paul says:

    Phil, that doesn’t matter. You can bring suit in any venue that you choose. In the work that I have been involved with we chose Delaware state courts since the judges often seem intrigued by the subject matter. Those cases had nothing to do with Delaware. Often the venue is chosen to make it as expensive as possible for the defendant (as in far away). The complaint should be filed wherever you think you have the best chance at winning. In this case there could be PR and political motivations for selecting this particular venue.

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  19. Nature says:

    The suit may have been file in Albany because Bob Glennon would have a clear conflict of interest in a North Coutry Court. Until recently he was the assistant attorney general in charge of Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties (not to mention his work for the APA).
    It is interesting that “Adirondack Wild” has been left out of this. They may be saving them for a little comic relief when the proceedings are through.
    These groups remind me of Fox News with their continued outrage.
    I also have to wonder how the three adjoining landowners can sleep at night knowing that their houses may have also had an undue environmental impact on all the amphibians that might be living there?

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  20. don dew says:

    Thanks Phil, So does the past record of litigation against the APA reflect that all cases we filed in Albany County?

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  21. Gary says:

    There is an old saying “pick your battles carefully”. This is not a battle the tree hugers should pick. Not only will they lose in court but they stand to lose future public support and respect. Like someone has already said, accept the decision and move on.

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  22. Snowflake says:

    I’ve already had 3 big Protect supporters tell me they are against this and they are withdrawing their support and they don’t even live in Tupper. Total waste of Taxpayers funds and totally unnecessary. The reasons are more to support changing the rules than to stop the development. That can be done with lobbying and no lawsuit. So much for the ADK’s being open for business according to the new APA slogan. this is sending future investors a message load and clear. Stay out of our park! Are you listening governor?

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  23. don dew says:

    Phil Brown, I just read the Lawsuit Pettion on Protects website and they claim the venue for this matter is Albany County due to the fact that that is DEC headquarters and DEC is one of the groups they are suing. Any thoughts? My sense is at the very least a motion for change of venue is warrented. I see this as an APA challenge with the DEC thown in and therefore should be initially challenged in Essex County, headquarters of APA.

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  24. Paul says:

    Essex county, Albany county.. I don’t think there is much difference. If it were to ever get to a jury maybe but they could ask for a change later if it ever got that far. Right now I don’t think the AG will want to fool around with asking for a venue change. An Albany county judge can dismiss the complaint based on the facts and the law just as easily as an Essex county judge can.

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  25. don dew says:

    Thanks Paul, Good point.

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  26. mervel says:

    I think a green group who’s mission to protect the wilderness; would certainly be sending the message that indeed the Park is NOT open for business and if you as a business were considering coming to the Park you should re-consider, look at all of the legal hassles you will face.

    If nothing else it is a slow moving campaign of harassment of developers hoping they eventually just give up. Even if they lose the court case they might win the war. That wold be my strategy.

    I mean if I was head of one of these Green groups I would not want in 30 years someone to look at a giant housing development in the middle of the park; and say where were the so called environmentalists when this thing was approved?

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  27. ADLrealist says:

    I think it is a sad next step for this saga to take. That fact that adjoining property owners are party to the suit strikes me as “not in my backyard” behavior. There are two possible outcomes:

    One is it kills Protect! Most people now view the residents as a feature of the Park, not a group to be driven out and ground into the lowest economic status. They may have overstepped here which is perhaps why you don’t see ADK Wild or the ADK Council in it. Protect!’s funding sources may bolt just like Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers. They won’t want to be associated with killing and ADK town.

    The other is this kills the project just by delaying it, even if they lose the law suit. A long trail of animosity will freshly plowed.

    Halting this project will certainly kill Tupper Lake. What does Protect! suggest Tupper Lake’s alternative is to doing something with this former industrial land (hardly the stuff of forever wild)?

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  28. dave says:

    The environmental groups I am familiar with… including the ones involved in this lawsuit… are absolutely for business in the park. What they are against is anything – business or otherwise – that promotes sprawl or otherwise goes against what they feel is in the best interest of the park’s environment and aesthetic nature.

    If Foxman or anyone else came in and proposed investing money to revitalize Tupper Lake’s downtown, for example, I assure you there would be no opposition from environmental groups… no lawsuits.

    So, anyone who implies that these groups are anti-business is grossly misstating their position and over simplifying these issues.

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  29. Paul says:

    Dave, you don’t get to pick and choose where the economic opportunities are going to come from or where they are going to go. People don’t want to revitalize some small downtown area like you suggest or build their retirement home in a crowded neighborhood. They want to build on the waters and develop the areas that are unique to the Adirondacks. There are rundown towns all over the place no reason to got to Tupper Lake if you are looking for that? Perhaps unfortunately developing those unique areas is the business that the park can hope for at this stage, and these groups are opposed to it. If that is the business that is available and you are opposed to it, that is anti-business. That is not an over simplification just a fact.

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  30. Snowflake says:

    If you want downtowns to be revitalized then you need development in appropriate areas that are desirable to the people who are willing to buy them. You cannot invest in downtown areas in a vacuum. There needs to be people to support downtown venues and without development and the jobs that it brings you cannot support the investment. Protect just doesn’t like the development in what they determine is the backcountry. Ms Thompson just doesn’t want it in her backyard(literally). Harrison’s out on an island in Tupper. Who knows? Probably doesn’t want to look out and see lights on the mountain. Anyway this so called backcountry is in very close proximity to an already developed area and municipal utility access. Where it is appropriate to have development, around a golf course and ski hill. Where else do they suggest. I understand the big problem is the so called great camp lots but now you are messing with the developers business plan for success. FYI the developers have started with the renovations to businesses in the town already. They realize that it is an important part of the big picture. Let it go.

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  31. dave says:

    “Dave, you don’t get to pick and choose where the economic opportunities are going to come from or where they are going to go. ”

    That is EXACTLY what zoning does.

    It lets you pick and choose where your economic opportunities will take place.

    Snowflake, which downtown businesses has Foxman invested in? I honestly missed this part of the equation. (and I sure hope you are not talking about that ski hill)

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  32. dave says:

    This notion that first you build the expensive houses… and THEN the businesses will come… is about the worst case of backwards thinking I’ve heard in a long time.

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  33. Bob S says:

    I find it hard to believe that a developer who has endured over seven years of hearings and scrutiny is now going to be deterred by an obviously ridiculous lawsuit. The burden of proof needed to overturn a decision of a quasi-judicial state agency is so far out of reach here as to be laughable and the developer surley knows that.

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  34. don dew says:

    Oh, and lets not forget one of the petitioners in this lawsuit Bob Glennons comments about reentering the “Adirondack Wars” I guess the Battle of Ray Brook did not go as he wanted so now we have the Battle of Albany County. The war analogy should give some insight in to the credabilty of this litigation.

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  35. Paul says:

    Dave, the ACR falls well within what we would call the “zoning” as it is defined in the APA Act for this project. In fact like I said the permit restrictions actually tighten what would have been allowed on that land.

    As far as which comes first residential or commercial development. They come simultaneously like you see here with this type of project. You are certainly not going to open a business and just hope that customers may arrive some day. You can but I wouldn’t recommend it and if you need financing good luck finding a bank.

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  36. dave says:

    “You are certainly not going to open a business and just hope that customers may arrive some day.”

    This is called tourism. You give people a reason to visit. They start to come, spend their vacation dollars… maybe some of them like it enough they decide to stay. That’s when people invest in camps and second homes.

    Not the other way around.

    I’m not sure if there is a name for the economic strategy TL is pursuing here, besides maybe doomed to fail.

    Who on earth is going to buy an expensive second home in a depressed area that has little to offer and can barely attract visitors now? All those empty and decaying motels and hotels should be an obvious hint. The logic is completely backwards. You need to actually attract people first before you build them expensive mansions on the hillside.

    But I’m getting side tracked here, as usual. The reason I jumped into this thread stands. These groups are not against business… they are against sprawl and projects that have (in their opinion) a negative impact on the protected Adirondack environment. You may disagree with them about this particular business idea and whether or not it impacts the environment, but to say they are against business is simply a false statement. These groups have no problem with the VAST majority of business that is conducted in the Adirondack Park.

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  37. Snowflake says:

    Dave maybe you should take a drive down Park Street and see for yourself. mr Lawson owns several buildings on Park street which is the main village business district. Currently under renovation is the old Casier Furniture Building. They have already renovated their main headquarter building a few doors down, the building next to the Swiss Kitchen also currently under renovation. All of these as well as others on the main drag in Tupper Lake are owned or controlled by Mr. Lawson and various local partnerships.

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  38. sratchy says:

    With regard to PROTECT!, it is really hard to take an organization that choose an all capital letter name with an exclamation point at the end all that seriously.

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  39. Steve says:

    Doesn’t matter about the lawsuit, this crazy overhyped project has zero chance of ever getting off the ground.

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