Monday, November 17, 2008

Adirondack Park Agency’s November Meeting Summary

Starting this month, I will begin offering (verbatim) the Adirondack Park Agency‘s monthly meeting summaries. You can find all of the summaries by clicking on “APA Meeting Summaries” below.

During its deliberations on Friday, November 14, 2008 the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) approved a cellular project in the Town of Keene, Essex County. The Agency authorized an energy policy which integrates concerns for energy supply, conservation, and efficiency into the Agency’s Park planning, public education and project review functions. The Agency also adopted regulatory reform which addresses subdivisions involving wetlands, expansion of non-conforming shoreline structures, land division along roads or right of ways owned in fee and clarified definitions for floor space and hunting and fishing cabins.

Verizon Wireless Cellular Project, Town of Keene

The Agency approved a cellular tower southeast of the hamlet of Keene along State Route 73. The tower will provide cellular service throughout most of the hamlet of Keene and help infill coverage along 73 north to Lake Placid. Coverage will extend into the hamlet of Keene Valley.

The project involves construction of a new 79 foot tower behind the gravel pit east of NYS Routes 9N and 73. The site is adjacent to the Town of Keene’s water tank and will be accessed from an existing dirt road. The tower will include a ten foot lightening rod for a total height of 89 feet. Verizon will paint the tower and antennas a dark charcoal or a black color to minimize its visual appearance. The color and project site, which includes a vegetative and topographical backdrop, ensures substantial invisibility and compliance to the Agency’s Telecommunications and Tall Structures Policy.

Agency Endorses Policy on Energy Supply, Conservation and Efficiency

The Park Agency approved a forward thinking policy that sets forth general principals for consideration of energy concerns inside the Adirondack Park. The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance to Agency staff, Park stakeholders and permit applicants regarding the APA’s exercise of its responsibilities under the APA Act and the State Environmental Quality Review Act for energy supply, conservation and efficiency. The policy is intended to protect Adirondack Park resources while recognizing that energy conservation is critical to sustainable communities within the Park.

The Energy policy considers public and private concern for current energy use and conservation, climate change, fossil fuel consumption, acid rain and development sprawl impacts. The policy will address the cumulative effects of energy consumption on the Park’s natural resources and the need to continue to develop clean, reliable and affordable energy supplies. It is consistent with State efforts to address climate change, state energy use, sustainable communities and smart growth.

Staff will work in partnership with applicants during pre-application meetings to incorporate policy guidelines ensuring projects adhere to existing New York State Energy Conservation Construction Code requirements. Large-scale subdivision projects will be encouraged to exceed the minimum requirements of the State’s Energy Code.

The policy also directs the Agency to improve public awareness by serving as a forum on energy related issues. To meet this goal the Agency will use its Visitor Interpretative Centers and websites to promote greater awareness for energy conservation and sustainable building practices. Please see the APA website @ www.apa.state.ny.us for energy resources.

Regulatory Revisions

The Agency adopted five proposed revisions to its rules and regulations. Revisions were approved for: (1) wetland subdivision; (2) expansion of non-conforming shoreline structures; (3) land division along roads or rights-of-way; (4) definition of “floor space”; and (5) definition of “hunting and fishing cabin”. These involve new or amended definitions and companion changes to sections of the Agency’s regulations in Parts 570, 573, 575 and 578 of 9 NYCRR Subtitle Q. The revisions will apply to future Agency determinations and are expected to take effect on December 31, 2008.

The record for this rule making began in 2003 when the topics were first addressed by the Agency and Park stakeholders. It involved extensive interaction with all affected stakeholders over the following years. In August 2008, the Agency provided notice of the rulemaking and posted related documents to its website. In October, it conducted public hearings including one hearing outside of the Park to solicit public comment.

The Agency regulatory reform effort: (1) clarifies existing regulatory language; (2) expedites delivery of services to the public; (3) introduces more consistency, uniformity and predictability into Agency administration and decision making consistent with governing statutes, and (4) improves regulatory, advisory, and educational functions.

The Agency deleted provisions allowing unlimited expansion of pre-existing non-conforming shoreline residential structures located within the setback area established by Section 806 of the APA Act. As a result, most expansions will require a variance, similar to the variance required by many municipalities for non-conforming structures under local zoning. The right to replace pre-existing structures is unaffected by the revision, and in the eighteen towns with Agency-approved local land use programs, these variances will continue to be administered by the local zoning boards. In other situations, landowners will need to consult the Agency regarding the variance requirement. The definition revisions for “Floor Space” and “Hunting and Fishing Cabins” establish structure criteria that provide clarity and consistency for jurisdictional determinations.

Adopted changes to “subdivisions involving wetlands” remove long recognized unintended consequences that ensnare individuals in inadvertent violation of the law and often resulted in the creation of lots with no development potential, solely to avoid APA jurisdiction. The adopted regulation carefully tailors jurisdiction to the potential for impacts to the wetlands protected by the statutes.

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