Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Timing of Pataki’s APA Appoints Questioned

We just received this press release from the Adirondack Council and thought it was worth sharing, in light of our last post. Also, Adirondack Base camp has an interesting post on the APA and what needs to be done.

Timing of Pataki APA Appointments to Park Agency Could Boost Chances of 800-lot Tupper Lake Subdivision

Governor Pataki has appointed (and the Senate confirmed at 2:15 p.m. today) two Adirondack Town Supervisors to serve on the 11-member Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners. The board has regulatory authority over all major development projects in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park.

The Adirondack Council is disappointed by these two appointments at this time, for two related reasons. First, both gentlemen are being asked to serve two masters. Both are the chief financial officers for their towns, as well as being representatives of their towns on their respective County Board of Supervisors. How, then, can they be impartial judges of development projects that might bring needed revenue into their communities, but would also harm the environment?

Worse, the two are from Warren and Hamilton counties, which together comprise more than one-third of the entire Adirondack Park, making a conflict of interest more likely. The Park Agency has no formal rules or guidelines to clarify what commissioners should do when faced with such conflicts. In some cases, commissioners have recused themselves, while in others they have not.

More curious is the timing of the appointments, one day before the Adirondack Park Agency is set to rule on whether it will accept as complete the application of failed savings & loan executive Michael Foxman for a sprawling 800-lot subdivision on the slopes around Big Tupper Ski Center. We are very much opposed to the project. However, the co-applicant for the project is the Town of Tupper Lake, causing us some worry that the appointments were made to grease the skids for the Tupper mega-development.

The appointees are Frank Mezzano, Supervisor of the Town of Lake Pleasant, Hamilton County, and Bill Thomas, Supervisor of the Town of Johnsburg (North Creek is the biggest community) in Warren County.

There are two more interesting twists here. One: We and many other environmental advocates think Bill Thomas will, over time, be a good commissioner. He’s a smart guy and a dedicated public servant. We had suggested his name to the next administration, but cautioned that they wait until his tenure as Town Supervisor had ended in January 2007 (to avoid pressure and conflicts as commissioner). His appointment fills the seat vacated by Deanne Rehm of Bolton, who resigned at the end of her term this summer. Thomas’s term will run until 2010.

Two: Frank Mezzano resigned from the APA Board of Commissioners in the summer of this year, stating he would not serve out his term. He said some bitter things about the APA and the way commissioners made decisions. Yet, here he is again. He has been appointed to fill the vacancy left by his own resignation. This appointment is good only until June.

Thus, our suspicion that the Pataki Administration is scrambling to pack the APA board of commissioners prior to the Thursday/Friday vote to determine the fate of the Tupper mega-development. If the APA says the application is complete and sets a date for the first public hearing, the entire project could be ready for a final decision on the permit before June.

Keep in mind that Governor-elect Spitzer will have the authority to appoint his own chairman of the APA board, but cannot remove a sitting commissioner without just cause (proof of malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance). He will have to await new vacancies to appoint his own commissioners.

John F. Sheehan
Communications Director
The Adirondack Council

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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.




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