Zip line permit in Adirondacks draws suit
QUEENSBURY A campground in Lake George is suing the Adirondack Park Agency over the permit it issued for a planned zip-line ride down French Mountain.
“The project is precedent-setting because it is the first zip-line of this nature proposed within the Adirondack Park,” says the complaint filed last month in state Supreme Court in Warren County by Lake George R.V. Park Inc. “The future of the Adirondack Park is a matter of statewide and even national concern.” The Bear Pond Zip Flyer was proposed two years ago by Ralph Macchio Sr. of Long Island, father of the actor best known for starring as “The Karate Kid” in three movies in the 1980s.
The elder Macchio owns the 650 acres on which the ride would be built, running from atop French Mountain in the town of Queensbury to the former Wild West Ranch & Western Town on Bloody Pond Road, off Route 9, in the town of Lake George.
Macchio purchased the ranch in 2005; it closed in 2007. The zip-line, which would operate year-round, is seen as a way to resurrect the ranch.
Four parallel steel cables would be strung between 34-foot towers for the tree-top ride, which could carry as many as four riders at a time at speeds up to 60 mph. At nearly 3,500 feet, the zip-line would be the longest in the Adirondacks.
The ride came under Adirondack Park Agency review because it was classified as a tourist attraction in an area of the town of Queensbury zoned for rural use. That made it a “Class A regional project” under town code and subject to APA approval.
But in issuing a permit for the project in April, the APA failed to heed its “overriding mandate” of protecting the massive Adirondack Park, according to Lake George R.V. Park.
The campground for recreational vehicles, on 120 acres off Route 9 on State Route 149, has been in business for 45 years. It draws as many as 35,000 guests annually, who come for “the scenic qualities of [the] mountainous landscape of the area, including French Mountain,” the company says in its so-called Article 78 petition.
The 37-page complaint says the APA’s approval of the project was “arbitrary and capricious and affected by error of law,” and should be rescinded.
Two limited liability companies associated with Macchio, Bear Pond Ranch LLC and French Mountain Bear Pond LLC, also are named as defendants.
The complaint contends the APA failed to abide by its authorizing legislation in deliberating on the project.
The Adirondack Park Agency Act “does not authorize the APA to weigh and balance the alleged financial and fiscal benefits of a proposed project against its environmental impacts,” as a local planning board might be required to do, the complaint says.
That view was underscored in 2009 at the state’s mid-level Appellate Division, where justices said the APA Act placed “environmental concerns above all others,” according to the complaint.
But in looking at the zip-line proposal, the complaint says, APA board members discussed the likelihood of new jobs and additional sales tax and property tax revenue, and “weighed and balanced them” against potential environmental impacts, such as tree cutting/trimming along the ride’s path or a marred view of French Mountain from nearby highways, beaches and trails.
“Regardless,” the complaint says, “any claims of economic benefit from the project are legally irrelevant, since APA may not weigh them against the project’s adverse environmental impacts.”
Claudia Braymer, an attorney with Caffrey & Flower in Glens Falls, representing the campground, said Monday the goal of the complaint was to get the APA to look at the project again and “get it off the top of the mountain.”
APA spokesman Keith McKeever did not return a call seeking comment on the complaint.
In addition to the APA, the zip-line was approved by the town of Lake George. It is still under review in the town of Queensbury.