For years, the ferocious debate surrounding the Adirondack Club and Resort project in Tupper Lake has mostly involved environmental questions.
But this week, NCPR is airing an investigative report looking at economic and financial issues that will likely shape the project in ways that are far more significant.
In interviews, lead developer Michael Foxman suggested repeatedly that any lingering skepticism about his business plan was prompted by green groups lobbying against his vision.
But our probe — done in partnership with the Adirondack Explorer magazine – found that significant questions remain about basic elements of the project’s financing and prospects.
– Can Mr. Foxman’s team really sell between forty and fifty luxury-priced properties every year, as he predicts? To do so he would have to sell roughly twice as many luxury homes as sell currently each year in Lake Placid. We couldn’t find a single independent expert familiar with the Adirondack real estate market who thought that was realistic.
– If he can’t sell that many homes, how will Mr. Foxman support the resort’s daunting infrastructure costs, which run into the tens of millions of dollars?
–Is the resort really an “Orvis sporting lifestyle community” as Mr. Foxman suggests? A spokesman for Orvis downplayed their company’s involvement, stating that they have no plans to invest and describing the relationship as “dormant.”
–What does it mean that the Adirondack Club and Resort has shut down its website? Or that the company’s investors failed to pay their local and county property taxes, to the tune of nearly $100,000?
–Why does Mr. Foxman now discount the financial analysis put forward by his own consultants as recently as last June, which laid out detailed schedules for bond issuances, construction and job creation?
–If that analysis no longer offers an accurate vision for what the resort might look like, how it might be financed, and how it might benefit the community, then what is the basis for the public’s understanding the project?
In our conversations with Mr. Foxman and with community leaders in Tupper Lake, some have suggested that these questions are irrelevant or insignificant or perhaps even politically motivated.
This is, after all, a private venture. Is it really anybody else’s business if Mr. Foxman and his investors choose to risk their money and time on a project that some people view skeptically?
But we are just emerging from a deep national recession triggered in part by a massive housing bubble. That debacle showed that private projects on this scale can have serious ramifications, for good and ill, in their communities.
Mr. Foxman and his representatives have also made sweeping promises about how this resort will reshape Tupper Lake, including the permanent reopening of the Big Tupper ski area.
A lot of local people are literally banking on his vision. They need to have good information and a realistic understanding of the project in order to make informed decisions about their own lives and businesses.
Our reporting didn’t reach any conclusions about the viability or appropriateness of the resort. That’s not the role of journalism and it certainly wasn’t a goal of this report.
But even as we hope and dream about a better future for Tupper Lake, we think it is important to raise tough and sometimes uncomfortable questions.
You’ll find more great reporting on these thorny issues in the latest issue of Adirondack Life magazine, and in the pages of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
And when the Adirondack Park Agency resumes its hearings into Mr. Foxman’s project next Tuesday, the focus will shift to economic matters.
In the meantime, as always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.