Thursday, December 11, 2008

APA To Discuss Revised Shoreline Requirements

The Park Agency Board will discuss guidance today for implementation of new regulations which were passed at its November Agency meeting. The Agency adopted new regulations in November after a four year public process that revised five issues with the APA Act. The shoreline expansion regulation has generated the most concern and confusion.

This revision to a 1979 regulation requires that any expansion of structures built prior to the enactment of the APA Act in 1973 and located within defined APA shoreline setback areas will need a variance. These structures are referred to as “non-conforming” structures. The revision does not change the rights of landowners to repair or replace non-conforming structures; it only addresses expansions of these structures.

The regulation was developed based in part on technical data that proves the placement of structures close to shorelines can significantly accelerate erosion and sedimentation into water bodies. This results in negative impacts on water quality. When combined with inadequate on-site wastewater treatment systems, structure expansions increase the potential for public health risks and further degrade water quality.

This new regulation requires evaluation of the on-site wastewater treatment system before an expansion of a non-conforming structure is allowed. A wastewater treatment system with the capacity to accommodate increased use will be a factor in determining variance approval. The variance process will ensure that shoreline lots are responsibly developed with adequate infrastructure in place.

On Thursday, December 11 the Agency will discuss exemptions for “minor” expansions of non conforming structures from the variance requirement. This will allow some expansion to non conforming structures without first obtaining a variance. Specific criteria of minor expansion will be clearly explained.

The Agency will also consider a transitional period in which variances will not be required from the Agency pursuant to the new rules. To qualify, a landowner must obtain all required local permits and variances for the proposed structure expansion prior to December 31, 2008, and the foundation or framing for the expansion must be complete by May 31, 2009.

The proposed guidance would also honor Agency permits and non-jurisdictional determinations issued before this regulation was adopted, even if construction has not commenced. It will also honor local permits issued and subdivision plats filed before the effective date of the regulations, December 31, 2008. For shoreline structures which already have all necessary permits for expansion in place on December 30, 2008, the landowner will have until May 31, 2009 to complete the foundation or framing of the addition.

The Adirondack Park Agency was created to protect the unique and valuable resources of the Adirondack Park while balancing the economic needs of local municipalities. Increased shoreline development over the last 30 years has resulted in obvious decline in water quality attributable in part to inadequate sanitary waste treatment, increased impervious surfaces too close to water bodies and removal of vegetation that stabilizes shorelines. In addition, the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines is diminishing as a result of over built structures located too close to the water.

The previous regulations allowing expansions to non-conforming structures built prior to 1973 did not comply with the terms of the APA Act, which specifically requires that expansions not increase any non-compliance with the minimum setback requirements. This revised rule and included exemptions will protect water quality throughout the Adirondacks so that future generations will continue to benefit from clean water.

The proposed guidance documents are online at http://www.apa.state.ny.us/Mailing/0812/Legal.htm

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