Like a sad Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Peter Bauer and Bob Glennon have taken up their lances once again, to tilt against the windmills of backcountry development.
This week, Protect the Adirondacks! posted a press release about a new filing in its lawsuit against the Adirondack Park Agency’s approval of the Adirondack Club & Resort project in Tupper Lake.
Mr. Bauer is the recently hired executive director of Protect the Adirondacks! He used to lead a reliably extreme Adirondack environmental group, the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, but has been keeping a lower profile since 2007 as the director of the Fund for Lake George.
Mr. Glennon, who sits on the board of Protect the Adirondacks!, is a lawyer and the former executive director of the APA. He is now helping to sue his old agency, and to run up the bill state taxpayers will have to pay in defense.
Protect the Adirondacks! is a relatively new player in the park, formed in 2010 in a merger of the Residents Committee and the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.
The choice by the new group’s founders to distinguish their name with an exclamation point brings to mind Earth First!, an international environmental organization notorious for radical positions and the sometimes violent criminality of its members.
Protect the Adirondacks! prefers paper scuffles, in lawsuits and press releases, which is safer for middle-aged men like Bauer and Glennon. Even more fitting would be a recognition on their part that the shrill, stubborn advocacy they used to practice is out of fashion now.
No constructive purpose is served by this indulgent, selfish lawsuit. It raises no issues that have not been addressed in the eight-year APA review of the project.
The lawsuit has real costs: It depletes the wallets of all state taxpayers, who have to defend against it; and it puts a crimp in the spirit of cooperation and compromise on Adirondack land-use issues.
The resort underwent an exhaustive review, during which every party that wanted to raise an objection was given the opportunity. Many changes were made, including compromises in the name of environmental preservation.
Perhaps the thoroughness of the APA review is why Protect’s lawsuit seems so flimsy. Essentially, Mr. Bauer, Mr. Glennon and those they represent, are complaining a project of this size and scope has been allowed to proceed, never mind that it meets the requirements of the law.
They complain the APA should not have approved the creation of 80 residential lots on more than 4,000 acres of land classified as “Resource Management,” under the APA’s zoning scheme.
Resource Management lands are described in the following way in the APA Act: “Finally, resource management areas will allow for residential development on substantial acreages or in small clusters on carefully selected and well designed sites.”
Since the developers could have legally fit more than 80 lots on the amount of land they were working with, the group’s criticism seems groundless.
The wording of the APA Act is imprecise, however. How much acreage is “substantial”? What makes a site “well-designed”?
When the meaning of the law is vague, its spirit should rule. In this case, the resort would leave large backcountry tracts undeveloped while putting in fewer structures than allowed. APA commissioners were satisfied the project conformed with the state’s mission of environmental preservation and many environmentalists were, too. The Adirondack Council recommended the project’s approval.
But some people have harrumphed about “losing” the wilderness because of the resort’s approval, while Bauer and Glennon have gone galloping off for another charge at an imagined enemy.
Those who were the APA’s defenders when it was locked in combat with local landowners have turned on the agency now that it is working harder to find common ground. They do not wish to see a reasonable application of state law, but will fight anyone, even a former ally or employer, as they seek to realize an extreme environmental vision.
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Mark Bergman.