RAY BROOK — Yes, there is room for private development in the Adirondack Park.
Ten times, Adirondack Park Agency commissioners said "yes" and approved a permit Friday for construction of the Adirondack Club and Resort.
And yes, Tupper Lake is poised to rebuild around the promise of a new ski resort on the shoulder of Mount Morris.
The final vote after seven-and-a-half years of design, science, economics, wrangling and review came shortly before noon.
Working around the table — in alphabetical order — commissioners approved the permit 10-1, finding the 703-unit resort built in 13 neighborhoods fits in Tupper Lake without "undue adverse impact."
'A UNIQUE MIX'
The sole dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner Dick Booth, an attorney and land-use professor at Cornell University.
Booth cast his vote, he said, with reluctance.
"I know how badly Tupper Lake needs an economic boost."
But the project design failed him on three counts, the most significant of which is what he interprets as an inconsistent use of Resource Management lands in the way large lots are scattered apart and away from the mountain ski center.
"Approval will send a negative message," Booth said, about land use on Resource Management areas in the Adirondack Park.
But negative was not the order nor the apparent mood of the day, one that many marked as historic.
"We learned a lot from the (adjudicatory) hearings," Commissioner Art Lussi said, thanking environmental preservation groups that, he acknowledged, brought mountains of material and thought to the process.
In the end, Lussi, who is chairman of APA's economic committee, deemed the Adirondack Club and Resort as "very thoughtfully done" by creating a unique mix of housing options.
Lussi said what upset him most about the proposal was the way developers presented sales estimates and economic impact numbers with dollar figures they could not substantiate.
"I would advise future applicants that we're going to be tougher in our demands if I'm still here."
Lead developer Michael Foxman and associate Tom Lawson sat quietly through the discussion.
When the board took a 15-minute break before the vote, Foxman spoke quietly, without voicing concern one way or the other about how the decision would play out.
APA approved the permit in 14 parts, one for each neighborhood planned and one for the Ski Center and resort.
Conditions include requirements to hire an independent environmental monitor to oversee each groundbreaking and the subsequent construction process.
Phase 1 of the project will rebuild the Big Tupper Ski Center lodge, and APA made completion of that facility and its Certificate of Occupation a condition for subsequent Phases 2, 3 and 4.
Commissioners briefly tussled with the developer's 50-year window to allow skiing for the public, but opted to leave the private-property owner's decision in place.
And as they weighed in toward approval, each spoke with poignancy about his or her own decision-making process. Each recognized the historic moment for the Adirondack Park and the long, complex sequence of events that led to it.
The Adirondack Club and Resort is the largest project ever brought to land-use planners in the Adirondack Park.
"I can't see a better use for this property than to have a good, orderly development," Commissioner Frank Mezzano said.
Deirdre Scozzafava, deputy Secretary of State, noted that the long project-review process endured a changing economy.
"The one constant," she said, "is the need for balanced development in this (Adirondack) Park."
The last to vote was Cecil Wray, an attorney from New York City.
He had often contended that the resort's plan for development of Resource Management lands is incompatible with the APA Act.
Wray sorted through each word in APA's defining measure, "undue adverse impact."
But, he said, it was Jennifer McCormick, designee for the state Department of Economic Development, who looked up and read aloud the legal definition of the word "undue."
Without recounting that definition, Wray voted "yes."
TO THE CHILDREN
The board members thanked the APA Executive Team and staff that matriculated thousands of hearing documents into an enforceable permit.
And many commissioners commended the leadership of APA Chairwoman Leilani Ulrich, appointed to the vacant post by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in November 2011. She has served on APA's board since 2004 and was chairwoman of APA's Regulatory Program Committee.
"I believe this is a correct and unique location for this project," Ulrich said in casting her "yes" vote.
The message APA sent Friday, she said, is to the children of the Adirondack Park — a message that shows how civil debate can work through extreme differences to reach a common decision.
With the final vote cast, Foxman turned toward Lawson, sitting next to him.
They simply shook hands.
"I'm looking forward to moving forward," Foxman said afterward.
"It wasn't that long," he said of the time it took for permit approval.
"It was only 10 percent of my life."
He had prepared a statement indicating how attentive they plan to be to the environment. Less than 14 percent of the resort's 6,300 acres will be developed.
"The historic approval of the Adirondack Club and Resort (project) is an event that could not have occurred without an extraordinary effort by the local community and the active support of both state and local government," it said.
Email Kim Smith Dedam at: email@example.com