Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Commentary: APA Almost Never Rejects Projects

This year, the Glens Falls Post-Star has published several pieces detailing activities of the Adirondack Park Agency deemed dubious. All of these investigative works were written by Projects’ Editor Will Doolittle, a controversial choice since he’s been outspoken against the APA for years.

The paper’s agenda has been clear from the beginning, made all the more explicit by their January editorial calling for the abolition of the Agency.

After all the deluge of anti-APA articles and editorials, it was a bit of a surprise that the daily finally got around to providing a little balance by admitting publicly that the Agency has its defenders. Sunday’s paper ran a front page article entitled APA has critics, but also many compliments; it was written by Drew Kerr, not Doolittle.

“Discussion” of the online article was filled with the usual overheated rhetoric, including several who made the obligatory, but still pathetic, comparison of the APA to the Nazis.

But beyond the venom, one-off anecdotes and cheap Hitler references, what stood out for me was that item all too rare in public discourse: actual facts.

According to the report:

Since 1973, the APA has issued nearly 16,808 permits and denied only 136 projects… In addition, agency staff say that 95 percent of permit applications are completed before they are required to do so by law. The agency has between 15 and 90 days to rule on a permit, depending on the nature of the application.

For all the talk of power hungry bureaucrats oppressing the people and single-handedly stifling the Adirondacks’ economy for the mere joy of it, the fact is that the APA has rejected a mere 0.8 percent of proposed projects in the last 37 years.

This doesn’t mean that the APA is perfect, nor that it shouldn’t be required to show increased transparency, streamlined procedures or be subjected to more checks and balances.

What it does mean is that discussion of the APA’s future direction and policies should be based more on the big picture and actual data and less on outliers and “gut feelings.”

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A nearly-lifelong resident of Glens Falls, Brian Farenell has been involved in writing and journalism since his high school days. After receiving a bachelor's degree from Clarkson University, he spent two years in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Guinea, West Africa. Although his traditional focuses have been international affairs (he's been published in Foreign Policy magazine) and media criticism, Brian maintains his own blog at Musings of a (Fairly) Young Contrarian, where he also offers insights and ideas about national and local issues.




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