Posts Tagged ‘Upland Development’

Thursday, January 30, 2014

FCC Tower Expansion Plan Threatens Scenic Beauty

Cell-Towers-on-Prospect-MountainThe Adirondack Park Agency’s policy that keeps cell towers “substantially invisible” has been good for public safety and scenic vistas for 12 years now.  A proposed federal rule change threatens that policy and the wild beauty of the landscape it protects.

People who care about scenic beauty and historic preservation are joining forces to persuade the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to impose new rules that would allow cell phone companies to increase the height and visibility of communications towers without seeking permission from state or local regulators.

The FCC’s proposed rule would grant automatic approval for applicants seeking to increase the height and/or width of any existing communications tower, regardless of local policies and ordinances. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Adirondack Explorer Hosting Conference On The APA

Paul Smiths AreaIn this 40th anniversary year of the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan, experts from the Adirondack Park and around the country will convene at the Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center on September 26, 2013 to assess the progress and unfinished business of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA).

The conference hopes to identify ways the agency can be strengthened, based on successful examples here and elsewhere of preserving water quality, wildlife habitat, and scenic beauty, while also bolstering the regional economy. The principles of conservation design will be a theme of the conference.   A $25 registration fee covers coffee, lunch, and a reception following the event. » Continue Reading.



Monday, April 29, 2013

Historian Philip Terrie On Fixing The APA

Keene Valley HomeIn the Adirondacks, we often point with pride to the extraordinary oddness of the Adirondack Park. From Manhattan’s Central Park to California’s Yosemite, Americans have gotten used to parks with neat boundaries enclosing a domain wholly owned by the people. Because the land within the boundary is public and that outside private, when you walk or drive across that boundary, you’ve gone from one sort of place to another. You have certain expectations outside that boundary, which are different from those you have inside.

But as we like to say up here, the Adirondack Park is a park like no other. Aside from invoking this peculiarity as an interesting factoid, however, what do we do with it? What defines this Park? Is it something other than a collection of all the acres (almost 6 million of them, roughly half in the public Forest Preserve and half in private hands) inside a blue line on a map of New York State? » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

State Acquires Cat and Thomas Mountain Parcels

DSC00080New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens was atop Prospect Mountain this morning to announce the state’s purchase of more than 2,460 acres that will help protect the world-renowned scenery and water quality of Lake George and its tributaries.

The purchases, made through the Environmental Protection Fund, include the Cat and Thomas Mountains parcel, a 1,900-acre property in the town of Bolton (Warren County), previously acquired by the Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC), which was sold to the State for $1.5 million. The State also purchased the 565-acre East River Road Tract of the former Finch lands in the Town of Bolton from The Nature Conservancy for $381,000. This parcel is adjacent to the Cat and Thomas Mountains parcel. The parcels will be added to the State Forest Preserve. The State will pay full local property and school taxes on the newly acquired land. » Continue Reading.



Monday, March 11, 2013

Designing the Park: Updating APA Regulations

Averyville-2As the proposed Adirondack Club & Resort in Tupper Lake wound its way through the approval process, two planning consultants separately recommended in 2008 that the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) require clustering of homes in the backcountry. Under a draft clustering policy written by one consultant, the resort’s “Great Camp” estates would have consumed 280 acres of forest instead of 2,800 acres.

“The same number of homes could have been constructed, but the project would have been largely concentrated near the [Big Tupper] ski area,” said Jeff Lacy, a consultant in Shutesbury, Mass., who proposed the policy on behalf of the Adirondack Council.  “My guess is it would be under construction today rather than under review by a court.” » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What Makes This A Park?

The Adirondack Park is more than double the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks combined, but its greatness is not always apparent. Silver lakes and dark woods beckon from some roadsides, while lawns and driveways interrupt the wild scenery from others. With its mix of private and public land, the Adirondacks have always had something of an identity problem.

Four decades after the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) was created to oversee development on private lands, the Park is still in search of a coherent look. Brown road signs with yellow lettering suggest to visitors they are in a special place. But are signs enough?

“The Adirondacks mean nothing if you don’t know you’re in a park,” said George Davis, who led the state’s Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century in 1990. “Where else do you have six million acres of [largely] forested land? Not this side of Minnesota.”  The commission proposed a series of recommendations to make the Adirondacks more park-like, including establishing an Adirondack Park Administration to oversee planning of both private and public lands and an Adirondack Park Service that would manage the public lands. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Lake George Stream Work Completed

This fall the Lake George Association (LGA) has been at work along waters that flow into Lake George, including Foster Brook in the hamlet of Huletts Landing, and English Brook in Lake George Village. The LGA also partnered with the Warren County Conservation District (WCSWCD), and the towns of Hague and Bolton to remove over 1300 cubic yards of material from eight sediment basins in the two towns, the equivalent of about 110 dump truck loads.

At Huletts, Foster Brook was severely eroded during last year’s Tropical Storm Irene. Lots of unwanted material was deposited along the banks and within the stream, interrupting the natural flow of the water. This material was removed, and some was used, along with new stone, to stabilize the streambanks. In October, dozens of native plants and shrubs were planted along English Brook near its mouth at Lake George.
» Continue Reading.



Thursday, October 25, 2012

A New Trail To Jay Mountain Ridge

A newly constructed 2.5-mile trail to the western end of the Jay Mountain Ridge is complete and available for public use the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced. The trail bypasses the steep and eroded sections of an existing herd path that had been the primary access to mountain’s summit.

“The new Jay Mountain trail is safer and easier to hike and will allow more people to hike to the summit and enjoy the views. It should also serve to attract more visitors to the nearby communities of Jay, Elizabethtown, Keene and Keene Valley,” DEC Regional Director Robert Stegemann said in a statement issued to the press.
» Continue Reading.



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Upland Development: Highlands At Risk

Upland Development: Highlands At RiskIn a field bordered by forested hills and rocky ridges, Dan Plumley unfurled a zoning map of the Adirondack Park. The color-coded map was a reminder of how much private land lay before him, and how potentially fleeting the natural views from Marcy Field could be.

He pointed to a bald patch on Corliss Point above the valley, where lights from a house inconspicuous by day blaze into a flying saucer at night, one of many signs that growth in the backcountry is creeping higher.

“Hundreds of thousands of people drive by on this road every year,” said Plumley, gesturing toward Route 73. “They see this view and think it will always be there. I’m here to say that the way this land-use plan is being implemented, the transcendental beauty and ecological integrity of this scene is in jeopardy.” » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dave Gibson: 10 Votes Gave Away the Park

The outcome to approve the Adirondack Club and Resort was not a surprise. The ten to one margin of the vote was a surprise. Nor was it surprising that Commissioner Richard Booth assembled the reasoned arguments why this massive, speculative real estate subdivision should be denied. He has an excellent mind, an articulate voice, and a logician’s ability to arrive at the kernel of a matter in relatively few words, readily dispensing with the “dead wood” of an argument to arrive at the heartwood at its core.

The vote went in alphabetical order, so Mr. Booth went first. Here is what he forcefully and passionately argued, in ascending order of importance:

1. Independent experts testified at the hearing that the project sponsor’s sales projections and real estate valuation estimates were completely unrealistic. Since it is the Agency’s job to take into consideration the possible economic and community benefits of an application in judging whether or not there are undue adverse impacts to the Park’s sensitive ecological and physical resources, the failure of the applicant to come up with even remotely reliable quantitative figures (it was shown in the hearing that the applicant derived the projections himself without aid of a professional appraiser or market analyst), means that the Agency must in rendering its judgment, as a matter of the law, largely discount the claims of large or even significant economic benefit;

2. Despite numerous requests to do so by the Agency, the project sponsor failed to conduct a wildlife inventory and assessment, something that is rather routinely done for smaller development projects elsewhere in the state. This failure, in and of itself, is not the central problem. The central problem is that such an inventory and assessment is crucial to judge whether the proposed project design poses adverse impacts to wildlife habitats and migratory pathways. If you don’t know what lives on the site, and where their habitats are, how can you determine the impacts? That is the “big hole” in the application that “never got filled.” This hole can not be corrected with project conditions, he said. To emphasize his argument, he reminded his colleagues that a single hearing expert (Dr. Michael Klemens) who was never invited to tour the property found in a matter of one day and night in a very small section of the project area more species than the project sponsor identified in seven years;

3. Most importantly, the project is not consistent with the description, purposes, policies and objectives of Resource Management land because it spreads houses across thousands of forested acres contrary to the letter and intent of the law. The ecological integrity of Resource Management, and the paramount importance of protecting its delicate biological and physical resources under the APA Act, is violated. A yes vote would send a negative message to other applicants that this type of development on Resource Management is acceptable. Furthermore, given the acreage involved there are many alternative ways to design the project which would avoid this violation, alternatives that the applicant failed to analyze.

The other Agency members followed, many either agreeing with Mr. Booth or sympathizing with his arguments, but concluding that “the process had worked,” the numerous project conditions would adequately protect natural resources, while a permit would lead to a better future for Tupper Lake. “It’s been an education for me,” said Mr. Lussi. “The sponsor has been receptive to some of the sensitive issues, and removed a number of upland developments. The plan is thoughtfully done.” Ms. McCormick of the State’s Economic Development Corporation gushed: “I am happy to vote yes. We’ve protected the land, and achieved tremendous economic benefit.” This is all in line with Governor Cuomo’s program for job growth, she noted. Mr. Wray was the last vote, and he “agonized” over his decision, nodded to Mr. Booth’s arguments, then concluded that “notwithstanding my discomfort, we can justify this.” How he justified it remained unsaid.

Mr. Booth’s logical arguments failed to carry the day because other members largely ignored the hearing evidence (upon which their decision was to rely on) and the law in order to fall into line with one or more of the following leaps of faith:

a. the project sponsor’s assertions of great economic benefit, hearing evidence to the contrary notwithstanding;

b. the feeling that our staff are the experts, we trust them and they say this is OK. Staff concluded that numerous project conditions would satisfactorily protect the park’s delicate physical and biological resources, and that this is an “ever so carefully regulated design” (to quote APA Chair Ulrich);

c. this development seems to fall into line with Governor Cuomo’s economic development program, the APA law and hearing evidence notwithstanding.

There is a large cultural sympathy for Tupper Lake that must also be acknowledged as a factor. “We have to do something for Tupper” is an undercurrent from many in that town and beyond it which, while hardly constituting evidence justifying ten votes in favor, does play with an Agency that craves public acclaim. Tupper Lake does need and deserve plenty of help to develop as a community, I readily agree. However, in this case the fact that “doing something for Tupper” may actually mean taking the same speculative gamble with the community’s resources, services and taxpayers that Mr. Foxman and Mr. Lawson and the project boosters are taking did not seem to overly concern these members.

A critical factor in the outcome of the vote, in my opinion, is that the APA staff performed badly (I could use a stronger word) in their summaries of the adjudicatory hearing evidence for the Agency’s members. On numerous occasions the staff downplayed what they considered “bad” evidence, and emphasized what they saw as evidence favoring the project. For instance, bad evidence that the project posed undue risk to the area’s natural resources from Drs. Glennon, Kretser and Klemens, was often given a sentence on a summary slide, and then members were invited to read the relevant pages of testimony for more. Good evidence, for example staff conclusions that deed covenants adequately constituted project alternatives and satisfactory resource protection, were spelled out in their entirety on a slide.

A particularly egregious example is that in the final project permit order APA staff chose to illuminate a positive April, 2007 letter from the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency “taking official action toward the issuance of PILOT bonds on behalf of the Project Sponsor finding that the Project constitutes an appropriate ‘project’ within the New York State Industrial Development Agency Act.” The staff ignored “bad” evidence in the form of an FCIDA communication dated Feb 1, 2011 which so clearly makes its 2007 letter irrelevant and dated: “It has been four years since ACR’s application to the IDA in February 2007, and nearly that long since an inducement resolution was passed in April, 2007. The board that approved the project has since turned over four times and the project has changed….we have not determined the legal basis, precedent or workability of it (the PILOT) (emphasis mine)…it is premature for the IDA to provide testimony or opinion in the case of the ACR.” Why wasn’t this 2011 letter quoted in the final project order?

Another badly flawed project “finding” that the staff reached is this: “Site investigations to evaluate wildlife and wildlife habitat on the project site followed standard Agency guidelines and procedures.” This statement is utterly at variance with the hearing evidence. APA’s witnesses Sengenberger and Spada, along with outside experts, all found that the applicant failed to do what the Agency asked it to do, repeatedly, and that it was the applicant’s burden and responsibility to conduct the wildlife studies, not APA’s. At the last moment in the Agency’s deliberations this week, staff distributed to the members a 1993 APA staff memorandum titled “Guidelines for Biological Survey” which had not been disclosed during the hearing. Staff described the memorandum as supporting their finding that standard Agency guidelines and procedures with respect to wildlife and habitat had been performed. In fact, a close reading of this memorandum and its tables satisfies me that the Adirondack Club and Resort easily reached the threshold required for a comprehensive, quantitative biological survey – precisely the opposite conclusion reached by the staff. Agency members did not have adequate time to study this memo, and made no objection to the way staff characterized it.

I conclude:

1. The hearing’s evidence, upon which the members were legally and solely bound to consult in rendering their decision, actually played a relatively insignificant role in that decision. Witness Mr. Lussi’s closing comment that the land has been heavily logged, and is therefore not pristine – seemingly deaf to abundant hearing evidence, even from the Agency’s staff, that a history of logging in no way compromises the ecological integrity and functioning of this Adirondack landscape, while housing development can and does.

2. The facts emerging from the hearing that the applicants failed to carry their burden of proof on wildlife, alternatives and fiscal and economic impacts, and that this did not sufficiently bother more of the members calls into question how and why this Agency performs adjudicatory hearings;

3. The staff was not impartial in the way they chose to present the evidence, and in the evidence they chose to emphasize for the members;

4. Too many staff findings of fact and conclusions of law were not faithful to the hearing evidence and official record;

5. Many if not all of the “significant changes” to the original site plan (applauded by the members as something new) had been decided four years ago.

6. The Agency’s press release issued shortly after the vote was self-congratulatory to an extreme, cited all of the economic and employment benefits shown in the hearing to be highly exaggerated (Mr. Lussi even lectured the applicant about these exaggerations), and could have been written by the applicant himself.

7. There are some good project conditions, such as the after-the-fact wildlife studies and the independent environmental monitors, but these are wholly inadequate to correct such a deficient and defective project application.

I have interacted with the APA for twenty-five years. I readily admit to a point of view. I also have had and expressed great respect for the Agency and its staff over the years, and stood up for the Agency’s mission, budget, policies and staffing levels on many occasions. My final conclusions are, therefore, hard ones for me to express: they are that the Agency voted to give away the park, failed in its duty, failed the public’s confidence, and deserves to be chastised and investigated in the way it is currently performing its statutory mission to protect the “unique scenic, aesthetic, wildlife, recreational, open space, historic, ecological and natural resources of the Adirondack Park” (Sect. 801, APA Act).

Photo: From the summit of Mt. Morris and Big Tupper Ski Area looking down at the ACR site, Tupper Lake in the distance.



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lake George English Brook Project Completed

The Lake George Association (LGA) has announced the completion of a project to build a new sediment basin at the mouth of English Brook, one of the eight major streams entering Lake George. Tropical Storm Irene changed the route of the brook near its mouth, returning the stream to the path it took 50 years ago, prior to the construction of the Adirodnack Northway.

English Brook has been of high concern for over a decade. Land development in the watershed has increased the volume and velocity of stormwater runoff, leading to increased pollution entering the brook and creating one of the largest deltas on the Lake. English Brook has high levels of total phosphorus, chlorides, total suspended sediments, lead and nitrate-nitrogen.

The new basin is expected to slow the flow of water and allow sediment to fall out prior to entering the Lake. The basin is expected to be cleaned out every one to two years, when it reaches about 50-75% capacity. Each time it is cleaned out, roughly 300-400 cubic yards of material is expected to be removed.

The 150-foot long sediment basin was designed by the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District (WCSWCD) with financial assistance from the LGA.

English Brook is located just north of Lake George Village at the Lochlea Estate. Earlier this summer, the LGA installed a $49,500 Aqua-Swirl stormwater separator on the property, as part of a $100,000 stormwater project. This system is collecting previously untreated stormwater runoff from both the east and west sides of Rt. 9N, as well as the bridge between the two exits at Exit 22 on Interstate 87. The majority of the runoff in a 48-acre subwatershed is now being captured and treated.

Now that much of the upland work is complete, lake advocates believe the final step should be the removal of the sediment that has built up in the delta over the course of generations. The nutrient-rich sediment in deltas supports invasive plant growth, hampers fish spawning, harbors nuisance waterfowl, impedes navigation and property values have been reduced.

Photo: The new sediment pond at English Brook. Courtesy LGA.



Monday, May 16, 2011

Potential Adirondack Wireless Locations Sought

Adirondack towns and villages have a unique opportunity to be included in a project that seeks to improve wireless cell and broadband availability in the Adirondack Park.

The goal of the Wireless Clearinghouse project is to create an inventory of existing structures in Adirondack Park towns that are suitable for housing a wireless antenna. The database will be a resource for private wireless companies, with the goal of encouraging them to expand wireless telecommunications across the region, a key to economic development. The inventory produced is expected to be a significant planning asset available through a secure website and featuring a GIS database with maps and images.

Right now, municipal officials are being asked to respond to an email sent by the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) that contains instructions for listing their community’s structures in the online inventory. All communities who provide feedback by May 31 will be publicly acknowledged when the final results of the project are published and will be entered in a drawing to win a free customized online mapping application.

Fountains Spatial Inc., a GIS consulting firm based in Schenectady, has been contracted by SUNY Plattsburgh and ANCA with project methodology, data collection, and development of an interactive web-map application to access the data collected in the project.

The data being collected this month will identify existing tall structures within Adirondack Park municipalities, such as churches, water towers, and other tall structures. To start, Fountains Spatial combed tax parcel data for information on property class codes such as churches, public services and government structures that could be considered suitable sites for a telecommunications antenna.

The project is due to be completed this summer. In the process, one of the goals is to inform community leaders of the opportunities provided by these technologies.

“DEC, SUNY Plattsburgh, Fountains Spatial and ANCA hope that the Wireless Clearinghouse database will encourage wireless carriers to provide service in additional Park communities. People today want to stay connected 24/7 using their mobile device or computer, and better wireless service will support municipal services, and benefit year round and seasonal residents, and visitors may stay longer,” said Howard Lowe, project manager.



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Grant to Help Protect Lake George’s English Brook

The Lake George Association has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program to help protect the English Brook Watershed on Lake George.

One of the eight major streams entering Lake George, English Brook has been of high concern to the Association for over a decade. Land development in the English Brook watershed has increased the volume and velocity of stormwater runoff, leading to increased pollution entering the brook. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) lists the brook as sediment impaired, and its delta is one of the largest on the Lake. According to National Urban Runoff Program reports conducted during the 1980s, English Brook has high levels of total phosphorus, chlorides, total suspended sediments, lead and nitrate-nitrogen.

The grant will partially fund the installation of a $48,400 Aqua-Swirl hydrodynamic separator on the east side of Rt. 9N at the Lochlea Estate in the town of Lake George. The system will collect previously untreated stormwater runoff from both the east and west sides of Rt. 9N, as well as the bridge between the two exits at Exit 22 on Interstate 87. The majority of the runoff in the 48-acre watershed will be captured and treated.

Other stormwater solutions requiring a larger footprint were explored but were not possible due to the shallow soil depth and high bedrock found throughout the site. The Aqua-Swirl unit has a small footprint and a suitable location was found near existing stormwater infrastructure.

The project is also taking the opportunity to capture untreated stormwater runoff from the west side of the road. By installing some additional infrastructure, stormwater from both sides of the road will be directed to the new unit.

The cost of the entire project is estimated at $117,000. In addition to the Lake Champlain Basin Program grant, funding for this project has been secured from the Lake George Watershed Coalition and the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation. The village of Lake George will maintain the structure and clean out the system using the LGA’s Catch Vac.

How does an Aqua-Swirl Hydrodynamic Separator work?

Stormwater enters an Aqua-Swirl unit through an inlet pipe, producing a circular flow that makes contaminates settle. A swirl concentrator removes the gross pollutants; a filtration chamber then removes fine sediment and waterborne pollutants. A combination of gravity and hydrodynamic forces encourages solids to drop out of the flow and migrate to the center of the chamber, where velocities will be lower. The Aqua-Swirl also retains water between storms, allowing for settling of inorganic solids when the water is not flowing.

Additional work protecting the English Brook Watershed

Significant work in the English Brook watershed has already been completed by the LGA in conjunction with Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District (WCSWCD). In 2009, design work for a 150-foot-long sediment basin at the mouth of the brook was completed. Permits for this project have been submitted to the appropriate agencies. The basin will be about 6 feet deep with a capacity to trap over 700 cubic yards of material. Further upstream, at the Hubble Reservoir, the LGA hired Galusha Construction to remove a non-functioning sluice gate and valve that were making it difficult to maintain the site. The site was dewatered and almost 600 cubic yards of sediment were removed. The LGA acquired funding for both projects through grants from the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation and the New York State Department of State and the Environmental Protection Fund.

Once this important upland work is completed, the culminating step is to remove the sediment that has built up in the delta over the course of generations. The nutrient-rich sediment in deltas supports invasive plant growth, hampers fish spawning, and harbors nuisance waterfowl. By removing the delta, safe navigation is restored, the health of the Lake’s fisheries improves, the Lake returns to its original bottom, and property values are retained.

Photo: The English Brook delta in Lake George taken by the LGA in November 2010.



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lake George Watershed Coalition’s Water Quality Forum

The Lake George Watershed Coalition will hold it’s 6th Annual Forum on Water Quality & Resource Conservation on Tuesday, October 5th at the Fort William Henry Conference Center. Speakers at the event will include Lake George Mayor Bob Blais, Lake George Waterkeepers Chris Navitsky and Kathy Bozony, Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Laurel Gailor and more. A panel discussion will focus on the West Brook watershed project. Registration begins at 8:15, and the cost to attend, including lunch, is $25. Click here for a registration form.

Here’s the full agenda:

Welcome Address – Department of State/Mayor Blais

The State of your Lake: Influence of Land-use on Stream Chemistry within the Lake George Watershed DFWI – Mark Swinton PhD & Charles Boylen PhD

Stream Assessment Report Results Chris Navitsky, P.E., LG Waterkeeper

Observations on the Impact of Fireworks Displays on Water Quality Emily Debolt, LGA

Documented Observations of Increased Algal Blooms in Lake George Kathy Bozony, LG Waterkeeper

Invasives in the Watershed Laurel Gailor, Cornell Cooperative Extension

Watershed Headwaters & Their Importance to Water Quality Rebecca Schneider PhD, Cornell Cooperative Extension

Presentation of Stewardship Awards Mayor Blais

Prudent Measures for Turf Management – Property Management in Critical Watershed Areas Frank Ross PhD, Cornell Cooperative Extension

Project Reviews:

* Town Highway Department Stormwater Improvement Project
* Eurasian Watermilfoil Management Program
* The Floating Classroom
* Lake Steward Program
* Shepard Park – Native Plantings Demonstration Project
* Upland Protection Activities
* Do It Yourself – Water Quality Guide

Panel Discussion: The West Brook Watershed Stormwater Improvement & Conservation Initiative – Update

Roundtable Discussion: Watershed Management – Challenges & Success in our Watershed & Others Across the State.

Photo: Lake George, courtesy the Lake George Watershed Coalition.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

APA Approves Telecommunications General Permit

At the September Adirondack Park Agency (APA) meeting, the agency board authorized general permit application 2010G-1 designed to further streamline telecommunication project approvals. General Permit 2010G-1 fast tracks review of new or replacement cellular towers proposed for locations in proximity to previously approved agency sites.

This is the second general permit developed by agency staff to expedite telecommunication project approvals. Since 2005, cellular companies relied heavily on General Permit 2005G-3R to co-locate equipment on existing tall structures. The general permit process is less rigorous and results in cost savings for cellular companies.

In 2010, the APA issued fourteen permits to date resulting in 6 new towers, 6 replacements, and 2 co-locations. Fourteen additional applications are under review. In 2009, the agency approved 31 applications. This included 14 new towers, 14 co-location projects, 1 replacement and 2 replacement/co-location permits.

Additionally this year, APA participated in the Technical Assistance Center’s organizational meeting in support of their Wireless Clearinghouse Project. Project goals include the identification of tall structures throughout the Park for potential co-location sites to foster more cellular company investment in Park communities.

Cellular coverage will improve as approved projects are undertaken. Construction has not started however on many permitted tower sites located in Essex, Franklin, Hamilton and Warren Counties. A number of these permits were issued in 2009.

Chairman Curtis F. Stiles said, “The APA realizes comprehensive coverage along travel corridors and near population centers is only possible with planning and additional capital investment. We’ve worked diligently with the carriers to approve over 125 permits throughout the Park resulting in increased coverage in this topographically challenging region of New York State. We remain committed to working with carriers as they plan for this critical infrastructure.”

Executive Director Terry Martino stated, “The APA fully understands the importance of cellular and broadband technology to support economic development and public safety. The horizontal co-location general permit will provide carriers the opportunity to improve cellular coverage while reducing their capital expenditure costs. We appreciate their input on this application and their continued commitment to implement wireless technology in accordance with state law.”

The APA, working with stakeholder groups, developed a “Telecommunication and Tall Structure Policy” in 2002. The policy was established to expedite implementation of critical telecommunication infrastructure in conformity with the statutory requirements of the Adirondack Park Agency Act. The policy has resulted in improved cellular coverage for Adirondack communities especially along highway corridors and in population centers.

The policy includes guidance for telecommunication companies to ensure successful implementation of projects. Guidance includes: avoiding locating facilities on mountaintops and ridge lines; concealing any structure by careful siting, using a topographic or vegetative foreground or backdrop; minimizing structure height and bulk; using color to blend with surroundings; and using existing buildings to locate facilities whenever possible.

2010 Cellular Permit Activity by Carrier

8 Verizon Wireless:

5 new towers
3 replacement/co-location

4 AT&T:

1 co-location
3 replacement/co-location

2 T-mobile:

1 new Towers
2 replacement/co-location

14 applications under review:

2 Chester (Independent Towers/Verizon Wireless)
1 Clinton (Verizon Wireless)
1 Chesterfield (Verizon Wireless)
1 Minerva (Verizon Wireless)
1 Fine (Verizon Wireless)
1 Dresden (Verizon Wireless)
1 Port Henry (Verizon Wireless)
1 Dresden (Independent Towers)
1 Bolton (Independent Towers)
1 Duane (Verizon Wireless)
1 Caroga (Independent Towers)
1 Horicon (Independent Towers)
1 Hague (Independent Towers)

The general permit applications are available online.

Photos: Above, a mass of communication towers atop Prospect Mountain overlooking Lake George (John Warren). According to APA spokesperson Keith McKeever, the tower farm on Prospect includes pre-existing towers (pre-1973, no APA approval) and two towers approved in the 1980s when the agency’s towers policy was weak (essentially, approve towers where pre- existing ones stood without much concern for the height). Under the 2003 towers policy, the APA implemented “substantial invisibility” and tower heights came down. Below, the Cell Tower recently sited near Exit 29 in North Hudson (APA Photo).



Monday, August 30, 2010

Commentary: Uplands Need More Protection

Politicians often complain that the Adirondack Park is over-regulated, but a case can be made that in some respects the Park is under-regulated.

All it takes is one house on a mountaintop or ridge to spoil a wild vista, and yet the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), which was created to safeguard the region’s natural resources, has no regulations aimed at protecting the uplands from unsightly development.

The uplands are clearly at risk. Given that most of the Park’s private waterfront has been developed, people with money are turning to the next best thing: a big home on a hill with a commanding view.

An article by George Earl in the September/October issue of the Adirondack Explorer reveals that dozens of conspicuous homes—visible from roads and trails—have been built in the uplands of Keene over the past few decades. And that’s just one town. The same kind of development is occurring in other parts of the Park, most notably around Lake George.

The APA does have tools to protect uplands when it has jurisdiction over a project. For example, it can require that a house be screened by trees or situated to minimize its visual impact.

The problem is that the APA often lacks jurisdiction. The agency does have the authority to review projects above the 2,500-foot contour, but this is essentially meaningless. APA spokesman Keith McKeever could not think of a single house built above that elevation, not even in Keene (“The Home of the High Peaks”). Near Lake George, Black Mountain is the only summit that exceeds 2,500 feet, and it lies within the state-owned Forest Preserve. In short, all the development around Lake George and the rest of the Park takes place below the 2,500-foot contour.

The APA also has jurisdiction when a house is built on property classified as Resource Management—the strictest of the agency’s six zoning categories for private land. Much of the Park’s uplands fall within this classification, but many stick-out homes are built on less-regulated lands where the APA does not automatically have jurisdiction.

Finally, the APA lacks jurisdiction even in Resource Management lands (as well as other lands) if a home is built in a subdivision approved before the agency’s creation.

Most of the Park’s towns lack zoning rules or the expertise to deal with upland development. So it’s up to the APA to address the problem. It will be difficult politically and technically. Even the definition of “upland” is tricky in a region where the elevation ranges from 95 feet at Lake Champlain to 5,344 feet at the top of Mount Marcy.

If nothing is done, however, we’ll continue to see a degradation of the Park’s wild character. It’s said that you can’t eat the scenery, but this isn’t true. Natural beauty is an economic asset that has been drawing tourists to the region for well over a century. For this reason, too, the uplands should be protected.

Photo by George Earl: Upland home in Keene.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.



Friday, August 13, 2010

LG: Preserve Renamed in Honor of Conservationist

The Pilot Knob Ridge Preserve, which was protected by the Lake George Land Conservancy in large part through the efforts of the late Lynn Schumann, was re-dedicated in honor of the conservancy’s former director on August 9.

“We’re here as an act of living love,” said Mark Johnson, a founding trustee of the Lake George Land Conservancy who served as a master of ceremonies. According to Johnson, the re-dedication of the Pilot Knob Ridge Preserve was an act of love for both a particular place and a particular person, whose names will be permanently linked.

“A preserve is as close to perpetuity as anything we can know of,” said Johnson.

The Reverend Bruce Tamlyn, the Silver Bay chaplain who officiated at the wedding of Lynn and Kurt Schumann, said in his invocation, “the beauty of this place will be forever joined with the beauty of Lynn.”

Lynn Schumann, who died in March at the age of 46, served as the Lake George Land Conservancy’s executive director from 1999 to 2006.

She resigned the post to become the Land Trust Alliance’s northeast director, where she helped guide the work of 650 land trusts throughout New York and New England. Prior to joining the Conservancy, Schumann was the Wilton Wildlife Preserve’s first director. She was a graduate of Emma Willard and St. Lawrence University.

During Schumann’s tenure as the Lake George Land Conservancy’s executive director, membership increased from 250 to 1,171. At the time of her departure, the organization had protected nearly 5,000 acres of land and 11,000 feet of shoreline.

According to Sarah Hoffmann, the Conservancy’s communications co-ordinator, Schumann regarded the preservation of Pilot Knob Ridge as her greatest achievement on Lake George.

Before being acquired by the Conservancy, Pilot Knob Ridge was the site of a house and road visible from the lake, the west shore, Assembly Point and Kattskill Bay. “It was a gross insult upon the landscape,” said Lionel Barthold, one of the speakers at the dedication ceremony.

Pilot Knob Ridge was the first parcel acquired by the Conservancy that was already developed. The visibility of the cleared portions of the property from the lake, and the danger that it would be developed further, helped persuade donors that acquiring this piece was critical for protecting the character of the eastern shore, Schumann said in 2000, when the 223 acre parcel was purchased.

“Protecting Pilot Knob Ridge set a precedent; it showed that we could un-do an offense upon the landscape,” Barthold said at the dedication ceremony.

Once the property was owned by the Lake George Land Conservancy, the house on the ridge was removed. At a farewell party in 2006, Schumann said the razing of the house was a highlight of her career.

“The organization made a significant decision to remove the house situated prominently on the hillside,” she said. “It was a sunny spring morning when the wrecking crew began the process of demolishing the house. I peered out over the ridge and saw some 40 boats anchored along the shoreline cheering as the house came down.”

While Schumann loved the waters of Lake George and was dedicated to protecting water quality, she was especially passionate about protecting wooded uplands like Pilot Knob Ridge, said Kurt Schumann.

“These breath-taking views, the wild life, these are the things Lynn fought to protect,” said Schumann. “We have all lost a conservation champion.”

Among other speakers at the ceremony were Chris Navitsky and Susan Darrin. Rick Bolton and Tim Wechgelaer performed some of Lynn’s favorite songs, and Lake George Land Conservancy chairman John Macionis raised a cup of champagne in Schumann’s honor, officially declaring the slope and summit the Lynn LaMontagne Schumann Preserve at Pilot Knob Ridge.

“She’s smiling, humbled and grateful,” said Kurt Schumann.

Photo of Pilot Knob Ridge Preserve by Carl Heilman, courtesy of Lake George Land Conservancy

Photo of Lynn Schumann from Lake George Mirror files

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror



Friday, July 9, 2010

Lake George Conservancy Seeks to Protect Pinnacle

The Pinnacle, the prominent Bolton Landing ridgeline where a developer has proposed situating houses, may be preserved after all.

The Lake George Land Conservancy’s Board of Directors has voted to apply for a grant from New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for funds to help acquire the ridgeline, said Nancy Williams, the Conservancy’s executive director.

Bolton’s Town Board approved a resolution endorsing the application at its July 6 meeting, said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover.

“My personal feeeling is that protecting the Pinnacle is an admirable goal,” said Conover. “If there’s a willing seller, and it can be kept in a natural state, with hiking trails for the community, that would be a terrific thing.”

Last week, The Fund for Lake George and the Lake George Waterkeeper announced that law suits have been filed against the Town of Bolton for its approvals of a mile-long road to the Pinnacle’s summit.

“This is a clear case where rules and standards exist for a reason. Roads should not involve acres of clear cuts and traverse steep slopes. The extent of disturbance and excessive clearing involved in this proposal will scar the Pinnacle for generations,” said Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.

According to Conover, the Town Board was also set to approve a resolution to retain Mike Muller, the town’s legal counsel, to defend Bolton’s Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board and Zoning Administrator from the suit.

But if the Pinnacle is protected and no road is built, the lawsuit would in all likelihood be dropped, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.

“If conditions on the ground change, obviously, that would have a huge effect on the suit,” said Bauer. “But we’d have to see the final result.”

Bauer said he could not comment on the proposal to protect the Pinnacle because he was unfamiliar with the Conservancy’s plans.

According to Nancy Williams, protecting the Pinnacle “is very much a local project; we’d like to see hiking trails connecting it to Cat and Thomas Mountains and into Bolton Landing itself, creating a significant trail system.”

But, Williams said, “it will take the community to protect the Pinnacle; we want to see how much support there is within the community.”

Williams said the Conservancy had made Pinnacle owner Ernie Oberrer aware of it’s interest, but had yet to hear from him.

Oberrer could not be reached for comment; reportedly, he has expressed an interest in building below the ridgeline if he could sell the Pinnacle’s summit for an unspecified sum. 


Not having discussed its plans with Oberrer, Williams said she had no idea how much money would have to be raised by the Conservancy and other local organizations to protect the Pinnacle.

Photo: The Pinnacle from Cat Mountain, courtesy Lake George Waterkeeper.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror



Friday, July 2, 2010

Lake George: Upland Development Battle Continues

The front lines in the battle over upland development continues to be Lake George. In the latest skirmish, a recent approval of a controversial, three lot subdivision atop a prominent ridge in Bolton Landing has prompted The FUND for Lake George and Lake George Waterkeeper to bring a lawsuit against the Town of Bolton.

The organizations filed the suit against the Town of Bolton’s Planning Board, Zoning Board and Zoning Administrator late last week. According to the suit, the application should have received a variance from the Zoning Board in order for it to be approved by the Planning Board.

“The approval granted by the Planning Board violates the Town Code for driveway width as well as violating the Town of Bolton Zoning Law, because the applicant never obtained a variance to exceed allowable clearing limits for road/driveway construction,” argued Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.

According to Navitsky, the mile long road to the top of the Pinnacle was described as a shared driveway. “Under the Bolton Zoning and Planning codes, a driveway should only be 16 feet in width. The Planning Board issued a waiver, exempting the applicant’s access road from the Town’s Planning code restrictions of a 16-foot width. The Planning Board’s approval authorized a “shared driveway” of 20 feet in width with two 2-foot shoulders, totaling 24 feet,” said Navitsky.

“What the Planning Board is calling a shared driveway is a road in every way. We’re challenging the Planning Board’s authorization because what it authorized is not what’s been designed. The applicant is planning a road that is eight times as wide as the 24 foot width approved by the Planning Board,” said Navitsky. “This is a clear case where rules and standards exist for a reason. Roads should not involve acres of clear cuts and traverse steep slopes. The extent of disturbance and excessive clearing involved in this proposal will scar the Pinnacle for generations.”

The suit also alleges that the Town Zoning Board of Appeals should have issued a variance to permit excessive clearing. “Town Zoning Law states that clearing for driveways shall not exceed 16 feet. The Zoning Administrator should have recognized the need for a variance once she reviewed the plans and referred the matter to the Zoning Board,” said Navitsky.

“We asked the Town Boards and Town officials numerous times for an explanation of how a shared driveway that’s supposed to be 24 feet wide was approved given that it involves eight acres of clearcutting, widths of over 150 feet, and will be built on grades of over 25%? We never received a response” said Navitsky. “We feel like we attempted every means practical to work with the Town, but they refused to answer these basic questions. Now we’ll let the courts settle the matter.”

“This is an important legal issue because it seeks to clarify the Bolton code and establish an important precedent for placement and design of these shared driveways and roads to upland developments. As more development continues in the uplands of Bolton, many accessed by long driveways or roads over steep terrain, the issues of clearing widths and construction on steep slopes are very important” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George. “In this instance it appears to us that the Town is violating its own local laws.”

Photo: The Pinnacle from Cat Mountain, courtesy Lake George Waterkeeper.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.



Monday, June 7, 2010

APA: Moose River Plains, General Permits, Zoning Changes, Boathouse Definition

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, June 10, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The June meeting will be one day only and will consider the creation of a Moose River Plains Intensive Use Camping Area, renewing four previously approved general permits on wetlands, communications towers, hunting and fishing cabins, and development rights, amendments to the Town of Hague, Bolton, and Westport local zoning programs, and revisions to the definition of “boathouse,” and easing the permitting process for businesses, among other topics. Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website.

The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for Executive Director Terry Martino’s report which will include a resolution recognizing the contributions of long serving past Agency Board Member, James T. Townsend.

At 9:30 a.m., The State Lands Committee will hear a second reading for the Jay Mountain Wilderness and the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area Unit Management Plans. These plans are actionable items; however, the Board will not act on the fire tower proposal included in the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area at this time.

APA staff will request authorization from the Board to proceed to public hearing on reclassification proposals for state land in Herkimer and Hamilton Counties including a proposal to create a 2,925 acre Moose River Plains Intensive Use Camping Area. The committee will also hear an informational presentation from DEC staff on the working draft for the Moose River Plains Unit Management Plan. Public review of the draft Unit Management Plan will be conducted jointly between DEC and APA as part of a coordinated SEQR review process on both the Unit Plan and the reclassification proposals.

At 11:15, the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider renewing four previously approved general permits which are set to expire on August 12, 2010. The general permits include:

2005G-2 Minor Projects Not In or Impacting Wetlands

2005G-3 Replacement of or Installation of Certain New Telecommunications Antennas on Existing Towers or Other Tall Structures

2005G-4 Hunting and Fishing Cabins Greater Than 500 Square Feet in a Resource Management Area

2005G-5 Subdivision to Convey Two or More Lots Without Principal Building Rights

The Committee will then hear a first reading for a new draft general permit which, if authorized, would expedite APA approval for a change in use in existing commercial, public/semi-public and industrial structures. This proposed general permit is the latest in ongoing efforts by the APA to improve administrative efficiency.

At 1:00, the Local Government Services Committee will consider approving proposed amendments to the Town of Hague and the Town of Bolton’s approved local land use programs. Agency staff will then provide the committee with an overview on local land use controls inside the Adirondack Park.

At 1:45, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will hear a first reading on the Draft Memorandum of Understanding for APA’s review process of DEC projects on State Easement Lands inside the Adirondack Park. The MOU defines working relationships, provides guidelines for outlining new land use and development subject to Agency review and establishes review protocols for future DEC projects proposed on lands with State-owned conservation easements.

Following this discussion, the Committee will determine approvability for a proposed map amendment in the Town of Westport, Essex County.

At 3:00, the Legal Affairs Committee will meet to discuss and act on regulatory revisions for the definition of “boathouses”. The proposed definition is available as a pdf.

At 4:00, the Full Agency will convene to take action as necessary and conclude with committee reports, public and member comment.

The next Agency meeting is July 8-9 2010 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.

August Agency Meeting: August 12-13 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.



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