In the News  Archive

Zip line faces appeal

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March 19, 2014

By, Amanda Metzger

QUEENSBURY -- It seemed the proposed French Mountain zip line ride was gliding toward necessary approvals after securing the Adirondack Park Agency’s OK last week.

But a neighboring property owner is now contending the town incorrectly classified the project as an “outdoor recreational use,” allowable in that area.

The appeal of Zoning Administrator Craig Brown’s decision was filed March 12 by the Glens Falls law firm Caffry and Flower on behalf of Lake George RV Park, which owns land on French Mountain.

The appeal contends the project should be classified as a “tourist attraction,” which is not an allowable use in that area. If the Zoning Board of Appeals agrees with the Lake George RV Park, the project will require a use variance from the ZBA before the site plan could head to the Queensbury Planning Board.

The proposed zip line project, called “The Bear Pond Zip Flyer,” is a zip line ride that would launch from a new platform and a 34-foot tower proposed on French Mountain in Queensbury and end about 3,400 feet away at Bear Pond Ranch in Wild West Ranch and Western Town in Lake George. It already gained unanimous Lake George Planning Board approval in February 2013.

The Macchio family business purchased Wild West Ranch and Western Town on Bloody Pond Road in 2005. The owner is Ralph Macchio Sr., father of “Karate Kid” actor Ralph Macchio.

Claudia Braymer, an attorney with Caffry and Flower, said the project does not meet the town code’s definition of outdoor recreational use.

“(That classification) is only for non-motorized activities, and the zip line has a motor that operates as part of its retrieval system for the harnesses and uses vehicles to transport people to the top of the mountain,” Braymer said.
The actual ride, which would secure riders by harness on four cables, is gravity propelled. Braymer likened it to a ski area, which would not be an allowable use there.

The Queensbury Planning Board was scheduled to review the project Tuesday but had to table it because of the appeal.

“They submitted a representation of what the project was. I reviewed the uses allowable and this was the best fit,” Brown said.

Brown said the town is working on scheduling the matter to be heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals, which will rule on the appeal. He said the soonest that could happen is May.

Braymer said her client owns land neighboring the Bear Pond Ranch’s land.

“Our client is concerned about the visual impact on his property and the noise impact because there is a hiking trail on the mountain,” Braymer said. “Our contention is that it’s going to destroy the scenic quality of French Mountain and disturb the wildlife and peaceful qualities for someone hiking on a trail.”

The potential noisiness of the zip line falls below the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s benchmark for what may be noticeable enough to require mitigation. A study found zip line riders descending the roughly 700-foot drop would be visible in two locations: in the area of Northway Exit 22, where riders could be seen for a roughly 20-second window as they descended on the line; and from the northbound lanes of the Northway for a 12-second period.

“It’s going to be visible from Route 9, I-87 and other places in the town, so yes, our client definitely has a stake in it, but he (Dave King) also has an interest in preserving French Mountain,” Braymer said.

The Adirondack Park Agency staff recommended the board approve the project with conditions.

A 12-page memo from Richard Weber, deputy director of the APA, said the “visual impacts that might be created by the project are in part mitigated by careful design and vegetation management proposals. The existing trees adjacent to the tower and launch area will partially screen these elements located near the summit. The proposed vegetation management plan for the required cleared area will soften the project’s contrast with the natural setting. The proposed development in the base area is considered compatible with the existing commercial development.”

After the board’s decision, Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway said the group is disappointed with the APA’s decision.

“We opposed approval without more aggressively addressing visual issues, clearing of vegetation, noise, and water quality concerns,” he said in a statement.

Braymer said though there was a public comment period, the board should have scheduled a public hearing before making its deci

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