Thursday, February 18, 2010

Adirondack Park Agency Releases 2009 Annual Report

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) 2009 Annual Report documents efforts toward what the agency calls “balancing natural resource protection with the needs of communities.” It is available as a PDF and includes links to key documents and policies.

This year the APA introduced legislation to address the community housing issues, the establishment of a local government planning fund, and efforts to streamline the agency’s administrative process. None of these bills made it through both legislative houses.

The APA also took action over the past year on affordable housing, snowmobile trail guidelines, regulatory matters, and the classification and reclassification of State lands. A Community Spotlight series was initiated this past year and seven town supervisors were special guests at the monthly agency meetings. The local elected officials discussed their communities issues and informed the agency about the uniqueness of their communities.

The Park Agency also welcomed new leadership in 2009. In August, Terry Martino was appointed APA Executive Director. Throughout 2009, the Administration Division continued implementing energy efficiency measures in accordance with Governor Paterson’s Green Procurement and Agency Sustainability Program. This year’s actions resulted in significant decreases in energy consumption and a fiscal savings of $35,363, according to the Agency, who said that staff also met all budget mandates totaling an overall agency budget reduction of 11 percent.

Here are some additional details from the APA Annual Report announcement:

The Economic Services Division participated in the review and approval of 69 economic development projects, including 32 projects to retain or create jobs in the region. In addition to job creation projects, staff assisted in the approval of 37 infrastructure projects critical to stimulating new economic activity in the future.

Regulatory Programs staff issued 375 permits including 31 cellular project and two residential wind project approvals. Staff responded effectively to address the disruptions caused by the sudden closure of the Lake Champlain Bridge. The expedited approval for the Port Henry ferry project established a crucial temporary transportation route across Lake Champlain while construction of a new bridge is planned.

Planning staff worked closely with local government to address community needs through the map amendment process. In the Town of Fine approximately 60 acres were reclassified to accommodate future expansion of the Clifton-Fine hospital. Staff held public hearings for locally proposed amendments from the Towns of Minerva, Johnsburg and Inlet.

Local Government Services staff responded to 680 inquiries from local officials on land use issues and participated in twenty-four meetings with town officials providing information on agency jurisdiction and land use law. In addition, staff developed two computer programs to improve retrieval abilities for local zoning information and enhance mapping abilities for local government officials.

State land staff worked with DEC on management guidance for the siting, construction and maintenance of snowmobile trails on state lands classified Wild Forest. Staff also provided advice on the development of ten draft unit management plans and prepared three state land classification packages.

Resource Analysis and Scientific Services staff completed 347 wetland delineations, advised on 272 wetland jurisdictional determinations, evaluated 246 deep hole test pits, reviewed 155 stormwater management plans and 265 septic system plans. Staff also developed a guidance document for Forestry Use Involving Wetlands to streamline the permitting process.

Regulatory revision continued to be a significant focus for Legal staff. During the year, staff implemented regulatory revisions related to subdivisions involving wetlands and expansion of structures within shoreline setback areas. Other major litigation resulted in a determination that farm worker housing is not subject to agency jurisdiction when associated with an agricultural use, and validation of the agency’s enforcement program in a Federal Court challenge alleging discrimination in the administration of the program.

The Jurisdictional Inquiry Office wrote 954 jurisdictional determinations, handled 920 referrals from other agencies and answered nearly 5,030 general inquiry phone calls. In addition, staff processed 231 Freedom of Information requests.

Enforcement staff closed 104 more cases (548) than it opened (444), reversing the historic trend of an ever-increasing backlog of open enforcement cases. Of the 351 violations resolved in 2009, enforcement staff negotiated 317 settlements – a total of 99 more cases resolved by settlement agreement in 2009 than 2008. Landowners undertook remediation based on informal agreements with enforcement staff for an additional 29 minor violations.

At the Agency’s Visitor Interpretive Centers at Paul Smiths and Newcomb, staff continued to deliver quality programs and experiences. More than 80,000 people visited the Visitor Interpretive Centers in 2009: 21,753 at Newcomb and 59,841 at Paul Smiths.

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