Saratoga County

Queensbury the latest target of suit against zip line

A campground in Lake George that sued the Adirondack Park Agency in May for approving a planned zip-

A campground in Lake George that sued the Adirondack Park Agency in May for approving a planned zip-line ride down French Mountain now is taking the town of Queensbury to court.

Lake George RV Park filed the latest lawsuit July 3 in state Supreme Court in Warren County, where it also filed its May complaint.

The new lawsuit seeks to annul a June decision by the Queensbury Zoning Board of Appeals it describes as arbitrary and capricious. The suit also seeks to keep the Queensbury Planning Board from granting the project site plan approval.

The so-called Bear Pond Zip Flyer would be part of a plan by Ralph Macchio Sr. of Long Island — father of the movie actor best known as “The Karate Kid” — to resurrect the former Wild West Ranch & Western Town in Lake George.

Macchio purchased the site, off Route 9 near the Magic Forest amusement park, in 2005; it closed in 2007.

He also owns the land on which the zip-line ride would be built, running from atop French Mountain in the town of Queensbury to the former ranch on the flatlands below in the town of Lake George. The tree-top ride, with an elevation drop of 800 feet, would take 58 seconds.

The zip line would operate year-round, according to its application. It would be built at a cost of $1.5 million and accommodate some 43,000 riders annually.

Lake George RV Park, a 120-acre campground for recreational vehicles, is nearby, just north of the Route 9 outlet stores at Northway Exit 20.

“The zip-line’s adverse visual impacts on the aesthetic quality of French Mountain would detrimentally affect petitioner [the RV park] and its guests,” the lawsuit states. The campground attracts up to 35,000 visitors annually.

The Adirondack Park Agency issued a permit for the ride in April; the Lake George Planning Board approved the project in February. The Queensbury Planning Board has not yet acted on it.

appeal denied

In June, the Queensbury Zoning Board denied an appeal by the RV park to reconsider a determination by the town zoning administrator that the zip-line ride was an allowed use in the zoning district atop French Mountain.

The area is zoned LC-10A, or “rural residential,” which allows low-density residential and agricultural uses. A “tourist attraction,” such as the zip-line ride, is not a permissible use in an LC-10A zone “by right, site plan review or special-use permit,” the RV park’s lawsuit states.

However, the suit says, town Zoning Administrator Craig Brown determined in 2011 that the Macchio project should not be classified as a tourist attraction — as everyone had been calling it — but as an “outdoor recreation use,” which is allowed in an LC-10A zone.

That decision “was never filed with the town clerk,” the lawsuit contends, which is why the RV park’s appeal to the Zoning Board wasn’t made before this year.

On June 4, the board rejected the appeal.

The RV park argues in its lawsuit that Macchio’s “purpose in building this project is to attract tourists to its site.” The project also would include construction of a concert arena, festival area, stables, and restaurant and shops at the former ranch.

According to the lawsuit, the Adirondack Park Agency approved a permit for the construction of “a new and modified existing tourist attraction.” The town of Lake George also reviewed the project as a “tourist attraction,” the lawsuit says.

“Since the project is a ‘tourist attraction’ and the zip-line is part of the project, the respondents [the zoning and planning boards] cannot carve out that portion of the ‘tourist attraction’ that is located in the town of Queensbury and call it something else,” states the lawsuit, filed by Claudia Braymer of the Glens Falls law firm Caffry & Flower.

Because the zoning administrator’s determination was “affected by error of law” — allowing a tourist attraction in a zoning district where such use is prohibited — the lawsuit asks the court to annul the Zoning Board decision upholding it.

The suit also wants the town Planning Board blocked from approving a site plan review for the project unless a use variance is secured first. That would be the proper route under town zoning code because a tourist attraction is not allowed in an LC-10A district, according to the lawsuit.

meeting tuesday

The Planning Board is due to take up Macchio’s site plan application Tuesday evening at a meeting that begins at 7 p.m. in Queensbury Town Hall on Bay Road, according to an agenda posted on the town’s website.

Braymer, the RV park attorney, said Monday she expected the meeting to proceed as scheduled.

Brown, the town zoning administrator, could not be reached for comment.

In addition to the town zoning and planning boards, the lawsuit also names as defendants Bear Pond Ranch LLC and French Mountain Bear Pond LLC, limited liability companies associated with Macchio.

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