Monday, March 11, 2013

Designing the Park: Updating APA Regulations

Averyville-2As the proposed Adirondack Club & Resort in Tupper Lake wound its way through the approval process, two planning consultants separately recommended in 2008 that the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) require clustering of homes in the backcountry. Under a draft clustering policy written by one consultant, the resort’s “Great Camp” estates would have consumed 280 acres of forest instead of 2,800 acres.

“The same number of homes could have been constructed, but the project would have been largely concentrated near the [Big Tupper] ski area,” said Jeff Lacy, a consultant in Shutesbury, Mass., who proposed the policy on behalf of the Adirondack Council.  “My guess is it would be under construction today rather than under review by a court.”

Forty years after the APA drafted land-use rules to control private development in the Adirondacks, environmentalists say the rules have not done enough to protect the Park’s shorelines, forests, and hillsides from inappropriate development. They are calling for changes in how projects are designed and, more broadly, in how lands are managed across the landscape. Under modern conservation principles, they contend, development and protection of the region’s wild character can go hand in hand.

“Everyone gets massively upset by something like Tupper,” said Mark Lapping, a planning professor at the University of Maine who has studied the Park extensively. “But what comes under the radar may be more significant: the lot-by-lot transformation of the region. A cottage here, a cottage there, decisions made by a thousand different people lead to death by a thousand cuts.”

Bolton-1The Adirondack Land Use and Development Plan was considered leading edge when it was adopted in 1973. It was among the first land-use plans in the country to divide the landscape into ecological zones as a basis for deciding how intensively those lands could be developed. But it was not as strong as some had hoped: in a series of political compromises, key protections were watered down. Zoning that encouraged dense construction on shorelines has led to declines in water quality and scenic views. Meanwhile, a failure to require clustered housing in the backcountry has allowed wildlife habitat to be carved up by roads, driveways, and lawns. One of the plan’s overarching goals was to preserve working farms and forests, but in forty years, vacation homes continue to sprout up on relatively pristine land while many of the Park’s historic hamlets continue to fade and lose population.

The land-use rules placed minimal restrictions in and around the hamlets, with the aim of steering growth to where schools, sidewalks, and services already existed. The rules placed the greatest restrictions on farm fields and timberlands by imposing large-lot zoning—an average of one house per 8.5 acres on lands zoned Rural Use and one per 43 acres on lands zoned Resource Management. But the lack of clear clustering guidelines has resulted in homes widely dispersed on the landscape rather than grouped on smaller lots to preserve more land in its natural state.

Mandatory Clustering

Randall Arendt, a nationally recognized planner in Brunswick, Maine, singled out the APA’s vague clustering provision as a major flaw in its land-use plan. In a presentation and subsequent memo in 2008, Arendt recommended that the APA adopt mandatory clustering to preserve the Park’s natural features and wildlife habitat. He also recommended that the agency require a special permit for subdivisions that lack open-space protections to discourage what he called “large-lot sprawl.”

“What does a person need a forty-acre backyard for in the Adirondacks?” he said in a recent interview.

A prominent advocate of “smart growth” (compact development that encourages land conservation, walkable communities, and reuse of old buildings), Arendt formulated his ideas while working in Britain. There, national planning rules passed after World War II have preserved a hard edge between town and countryside.

In his 1996 smart-growth bible, Conservation Design for Subdivisions, Arendt recommends preserving at least half of all buildable land on a parcel as open space. Important natural and historical features are set aside first; only afterward are houses and roads fit into the design.

These ideas were echoed in a 2008 draft clustering policy by Lacy, a freelance consultant whose day job is with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. Under Lacy’s policy, at least 90 percent of Resource Management lands would be preserved as open space, with houses placed on lots of 4.2 acres or less. Mandatory clustering would ensure that logging remain the “primary” use of RM lands as outlined in APA regulations, he said.

woodhullThough uncommon in the Adirondacks, conservation design can reduce site-development costs by a third, since roads and utility lines are typically shorter. It also can boost home values by providing walking trails and other shared amenities. In a 1991 study of housing trends in Amherst, Massachusetts, Lacy found that conservation-subdivision homes appreciated 2.5 percentage points more over a twenty-year period than homes on lots twice as large. Research also suggests that wildlife may face less disruption. In a 1997 study led by Colorado State University scientist David Theobald, researchers found that four times as many homes could be built and yet cause less disturbance to wildlife if they were clustered instead of spaced far apart.

Outside the Adirondacks, conservation development has helped save a considerable amount of open space. Nationally, 8.5 million acres of private land have been protected this way, according to a 2011 study led by Cornell University researcher Jeffrey Milder. In York, Maine, the local land trust works with the planning board to decide what lands to protect in a conservation-subdivision proposal. In New York, the Hudson Valley towns of Goshen and Gardiner require developers building in sensitive areas to leave, respectively, at least 50 percent or 80 percent of the land as open space.

Clustering and open-space preservation are now also mandatory in parts of the pine barrens of southern New Jersey. “It gives the towns and the Pinelands Commission discretion to say what development should look like,” said Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

The downside is that clustering is not always an option in slow-growth regions, such as the Adirondacks, where developers are less likely to build multi-home subdivisions. In the Adirondacks, it’s cheaper and quicker to sell off houses along existing roads, one at a time, said Richard Lamb, a planning professor at the State University College at Plattsburgh.

Nonetheless, a few developers have implemented conservation-design principles. In Johnsburg, the 680-acre Oven Mountain subdivision was designed for sixty-three homes, leaving 83 percent of the land in open space, including Oven Mountain and Oven Mountain Pond. In Long Lake, the Brandreth Park Association—comprised largely of descendants of Benjamin Brandreth—set aside 95 percent of its 8,700-acre property as open space. Forty homes are clustered near the north end of Brandreth Lake, and the association has the right to build eighty more over several decades.  “People didn’t want to peer outside and see houses all around the lake,” said Rick Findlay, a retired architect who lives near Boston and married into the family.

Spaced 150 feet apart, the homes may seem close to non-family members. But even a one-acre lot in the Adirondacks can feel secluded, said Arendt.  “It’s difficult to sell people on small lots in the western states because of the wide-open spaces, but in the Adirondacks, you have a lot of trees and varied terrain to maintain privacy,” he said.

In his book, Arendt recommends that lakes, streams, and uplands be kept undeveloped, but the desire to build in such scenic locales often overrides preservation concerns. In the Adirondacks, environmentalists have criticized the APA for not requiring houses to be grouped farther away from sensitive shorelines.

heilmanACRThe developer of Stickney Point on Union Falls Pond north of Saranac Lake will keep half of his three-hundred-acre property wild, but all eighteen homes will sit on relatively narrow lots, ranging from three acres to twenty acres, extending to the water. The APA approved the project in 2006. In an unsuccessful lawsuit against the developer, environmental groups argued that the houses should have been clustered to better protect the shoreline.

That same year, some environmentalists also objected to the Adirondack League Club’s plan to build twenty-five homes along remote Woodhull Lake west of Old Forge. Though 83 percent of the 1,200-acre property will be kept as open space, most of the houses will be built on relatively narrow parcels strung out along the shoreline. Some two dozen people asked the APA for a public hearing to discuss their concerns, but the request was denied.

Dan Plumley, one of the founders of Adirondack Wild, believes that greater public input early on would have led to better site plans at Stickney Point and Woodhull Lake as well as the Adirondack Club and Resort lands in Tupper Lake. “We feel the agency should have a tool for early scoping that brings the public in before developers set their plans in stone,” he said.

Randall Arendt agrees. In his review of the APA land-use plan, he recommended a greater role for the public early in the project design phase. Under what he calls an expanded “sketch plan” process, developers would meet with interested parties before drawing up engineering plans in an attempt to address concerns and forestall later objections.

APA spokesman Keith McKeever defended the agency’s clustering policy and review process. He credited the agency with ensuring that “the vast majority” of subdivisions preserve open space.

Protecting the Backcountry

The APA Act was meant to save the Park from vacation-home overload, but as homes kept going up, environmentalists persuaded Governor Mario Cuomo to appoint the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century to look at tightening the rules. In an extensive 1990 report, the Cuomo commission suggested more stringent zoning to limit backcountry growth.

Under the panel’s proposal, a developer of Rural Use or Resource Management land would be allowed to build, on average, only one home for every two thousand acres, slashing the number of potential homes in the privately owned backcountry from 156,000 to 15,000. Taking into account the fourteen thousand homes already built at that time, total backcountry development would have been capped at twenty-nine thousand homes. In exchange for their lost development rights, property owners would receive transferable development rights, or TDRs, that could be sold to the state or to property owners in areas with less-restrictive zoning.

Cuomo rejected the idea with the rest of the report. But in the last two decades, the state has gone a long way toward preserving the backcountry. Nearly a million acres of timberlands have been saved, mostly through conservation easements. It is unclear how many building rights have been extinguished and how many are left as the APA does not track growth in the Park. But the easements have preserved working forests while opening up new land for hiking and hunting.

Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, said this track record shows that easements are the best way to save what’s left of the privately owned backcountry. “Going forward, that’s the most viable strategy,” he said.

The APA Act was designed to steer growth to the hamlets, but today nine out of ten homes are built outside settled areas—on lakeshores, country roads, and in formerly roadless forest. “You can incentivize clustering, but there’s no magical way to force people into the hamlets if they want lakeshores and remote settings,” said Michael DiNunzio, a retired conservation ecologist in Plattsburgh. “You need culture, services, jobs to draw people into the hamlets.”

A logging and mining economy put communities like Port Henry and Tupper Lake on the map in the 1800s. Today, the Park’s busiest hamlets—Lake Placid, Old Forge, Lake George—are defined by tourism, with restaurants, hotels, public beaches, theaters, and other amenities to draw visitors. The land-use plan’s fatal flaw was its lack of an economic-development plan to make depressed regions vibrant again, said Mark Lapping, the Maine professor. An economic vision, he added, might have helped the state achieve more of its environmental goals.

“It was entirely necessary to be aggressive in protecting this unique environment, but they forgot to recognize that 130,000 people live in the Park, and they have rights too,” Lapping said. “I’m not just talking about land rights, but the right to a future of potential and promise.”

In an attempt to fix this oversight, the Cuomo commission proposed a community-benefit corporation that would revitalize the hamlets by building water and sewer systems, affordable housing, and community facilities. A tax on luxury-home sales would fund the improvements. More recently, the Adirondack Council and others have advocated for incentives to bring new development to the hamlets. If anything, the current tax structure may scare away newcomers.

“I often see real-estate listings that say, ‘Just outside the village, no extra taxes,’” said Leslie Karasin, community-planning coordinator at the Wildlife Conservation Society in Saranac Lake. “The big annual hit of property taxes can outweigh the incremental costs of having to fill up the gas tank more,” she said.

The APA says that it favors transferrable development rights as a way to steer more growth toward the hamlets and that it supports state programs that have allowed hamlets to invest in growth-enabling infrastructure. On balance, the agency contends that its land-use rules have adequately controlled sprawl and preserved a hard edge between town and countryside. “When driving through the Adirondacks there are very distinguishable edges that mark hamlet boundaries,” said McKeever, the APA spokesman.

Saving the Lakes

The APA Act’s great compromise resulted in weakened protections along the shorelines. Today, many lakes are ringed by camps, boathouses, docks, and lawns rather than woods, detracting from the scenery and threatening water quality. What little undeveloped waterfront is left may be too expensive for the state to buy.

So what else might be done? Environmental groups are virtually unanimous in wanting the APA Act amended to tighten shoreline regulations, with larger buffers placed around streams and lakes and stricter enforcement of septic-system regulations. “We need Governor Cuomo to take leadership and with the APA and DEC pass comprehensive legislation to protect Adirondack Park lakes,” said Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club.

On Lake George, developers are now limited in how many trees and bushes they can clear, a policy designed to check the flow of undesirable nutrients and sediment into the lake. But the results have been mixed. Homes that predate the tougher rules are exempt, and towns don’t always enforce the law properly, said Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.

Environmentalists recommend better enforcement and closing loopholes for older homes. “If you’re upgrading your home you should be required to bring it up to modern codes,” Navitsky said. “That way we can mitigate the areas where homes are too close to the shoreline.”

In 2008, the Lake George Park Commission proposed a wide buffer on streams feeding Lake George, but the measure died in Albany.  “Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to dredge deltas out of the lake, we should stop the sediment before it gets there,” said Navitsky.

Regions focused on protecting drinking-water quality have developed rigorous scientific standards to control watershed development. In the New Jersey Highlands, which supplies drinking water to half the state, water-quality measurements and a detailed understanding of the landscape’s carrying capacity are central to the planning process. The Highlands Council’s Regional Master Plan requires clustering in sensitive areas, with up to 90 percent of land left as open space. The plan also sharply limits how much land can be paved over and built upon and places a three-hundred-foot buffer around lakes and streams.

On Lake Tahoe, which straddles Nevada and California, stringent controls for new development were passed after the lake began losing its fabled clarity in the 1960s. In a two-stage process, lands around the lake were mapped according to their relative fragility. Stringent controls were placed on lands deemed least suitable for development: steep slopes and wetlands. In the 1970s, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency established water-clarity and environmental standards that remain the basis for development decisions. The standards included limits on nutrients associated with sewage and storm-water runoff. “We haven’t turned the corner, but the rate of diminished clarity is slowing,” said Robert Twiss, an environmental planning professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

In Tahoe of the 1960s, as in the Adirondacks of today, no one knew precisely how much growth was taking place. Twiss assigned his students to study the tax maps.  By counting individual parcels they discovered that at least nineteen thousand vacant lots had been approved. It was an astonishing number that spurred the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to curtail growth. “That’s a story that needs to be told—how much growth is still in the pipeline,” said Twiss. “You can’t sit back and wait for the agencies to do this.”

The APA’s apparent lack of long-term planning is a sore point for environmentalists. It was also flagged by Arendt in his review. He recommended that the APA, not DEC, administer the state’s open-space plan for the Adirondacks. Ideally, one agency should oversee development regulations and open-space preservation for consistency, he said. “You need to know what you’ve got, what you’ll miss in ten years if it’s gone,” he said.

Robust Planning from the Towns

Adirondack towns make most of the land-use decisions in the Park, approving nearly 60 percent of new projects, according to a 2001 study by the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks. Yet, more than 80 percent are still without APA-approved land-use plans. When views are at stake and the APA has oversight, the agency can ensure that houses are set back from the road and water, earth tones and non-reflective building materials are used, outdoor lights face down to protect the Park’s dark skies for stargazing, and septic systems are properly sited. But many towns lack the will or expertise to impose similar restrictions, creating a piecemeal effect on the landscape.

Environmentalists have long called for education, training, and financial incentives to persuade towns to develop master plans. “Once you start losing water quality it’s difficult to get back,” said Navitsky. “You need to show people how losing shorelines to algae blooms will hurt property values.”

One bright note: some towns without APA-approved land-use plans have nonetheless adopted rigorous development controls. In drafting its 2003 master plan, Inlet decided to bypass the APA’s “bureaucratic” language but in recent years has developed progressive subdivision and septic-system rules. “If we want the town to maintain its character we need to actively work at that,” said David Scranton, a photographer and former planning board chairman.

There is room for significantly more development if it occurs in the right places, environmentalists say. “I can’t imagine a future in which people don’t want to have a home in the Adirondacks,” said Michale Glennon, a biologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Do we have a right to say, ‘We can live here, but you can’t? I worry more about the location of where things go rather than density.”  ■

“Assessing the APA” is made possible in part by: The Butler Conservation Fund; Furthermore, a program of the J.M Kaplan Fund; The Norcross Wildlife Foundation; and Jane Bickford.

Photos: From above, houses and roads have fragmented the forest along Averyville Road outside Lake Placid (Explorer File Photo); an aerial photo taken several years ago shows development along the shoreline of Lake George and in the hills of Bolton (File Photo); in 2006 the Adirondack Park Agency approved a subdivision on Woodhull Lake that critics said failed to adequately protect the shoreline (Map by Nancy Bernstein); and the Adirondack Club and Resort wants to build “Great Camps” throughout these woods in Tupper Lake (Photo by Carl Heilman II).

More stories about the Adirondacks can be found in each issue of Adirondack Explorer, the non-profit news magazine devoted to the protection and enjoyment of the Adirondack Park.  Get a full print or digital subscription here.

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Kim Martineau writes about science for Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

Follow Lamont-Doherty on Twitter (@LamontEarth), Facebook (Lamont.Doherty) and the Earth Institute’s State of the Planet blog.

15 Responses

  1. Pete Nelson says:


    Great article and much food for thought.

    I note several points where the balance and even symbioses between economic strategies and environmental strategies is illustrated, offering a strong challenging to the usual “one or the other” nonsense. For example to this passage…

    The land-use plan’s fatal flaw was its lack of an economic-development plan to make depressed regions vibrant again, said Mark Lapping, the Maine professor. An economic vision, he added, might have helped the state achieve more of its environmental goals.

    …I say “amen.” And this conclusion…

    There is room for significantly more development if it occurs in the right places, environmentalists say. “I can’t imagine a future in which people don’t want to have a home in the Adirondacks,” said Michale Glennon, a biologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Do we have a right to say, ‘We can live here, but you can’t? I worry more about the location of where things go rather than density.”

    …is spot on. We need to retire the false and tired environmentalism versus economic development debate. That is old, pointless posturing.

    In my mind a laser-like focus on the synergy between economic and environmental strategies is the key to the future of the park. The devil is in the details, but let’s get to work.

    One final comment: the section on taxes and how they discourage locating to hamlets mirrors my experiences. Adirondack tax policy should encourage settling in hamlets, not discourage it.

  2. Paul says:

    The development pictured in the Averyville area just adjacent to Lake Placid (maybe even within the village?) seems like an example of where you would want to see development clustered. Here it seems like it is an illustration of poor development. It looks like many of those homes are withing walking distance to the elementary school?

  3. Charlie says:

    Kim writes: “Today, many lakes are ringed by camps, boathouses, docks, and lawns rather than woods, detracting from the scenery and threatening water quality.”
    >> It’s always been this way,always there is this urge to build near streams,rivers,lakes,bodies of water… And look at what happens.The streams lessen their flow and ultimately dry out.The rivers get polluted,the lakes. We’re not too futuristic when it comes to development. (per example Hurricane Sandy & the damage done to the homes built where once were dunes in the Far Rockaways. Dunes protect the land from erosion and high water.They took them down and look at the damage done!)And of course if there is a green lawn there is your average homeowner who would like to keep it that way and so subjects it to pesticides,fungicides and whatever other toxins they use.We’re a cosmetic society it’s all about looks,screw the water and soil and the living things within.You would think we would have learned by now!Especially with all of the information and scientific facts available.

    “… many towns lack the will or expertise to impose similar restrictions, creating a piecemeal effect on the landscape.”
    >> You have to have more than money smarts to have the will Kim,and the only expertise our leaders know is economy. Bill McKibben is a smart man when he says “We are going to have to change our economic way of thinking soon.” Sure,people need work and a place to live,but at what expense? And why cant the rich have their second and third homes in areas already developed? Why keep tearing down more and more just to appease the few? Questions! This world is going to be one big cesspool just fifty years from now. What clean water remains we would preserve if we had even half a brain when you think about it.

    • Paul says:

      I think that we have actually cleaned up a lot of water sources that were once in danger. We have issues for sure, but we also have technology that can allow us to live near the water and not wreck it also. I would work with the folks that want to live near the water and find ways to make sure it stays clean. The answer isn’t to just ban the practice altogether and cluster everyone in places that folks really don’t want to be. If I wanted to be away from the water I would not own land in the Adirondacks. But I also understand that we need to do what we can to keep it clean and clean up some of the water bodies we have not properly taken care of.

  4. Charlie says:

    You’re more positive than me Paul,which is not a bad thing,but reality shows there are far less good stewards of the land than there are people who would ruin it out of ignorance or greed.Or both.Or maybe i’m just overly sensitive and the littlest things are big to me. We cleaned up the Hudson but i wouldn’t swim in it,nor would i eat the fish from it.And it certainly is not the same Hudson which at one time had the best oysters in the world according to old documents relative to that river’s history.I go by what i see,and what i see is not a pretty picture.Look at lake George.You have property owners along that lake’s shores who want to tear down trees and build and expand because their appetites for money are insatiable.Add to that boaters…in just a few short years that lake is going to be beyond repair from the damage done by invasive species all because too many boaters dont care about that jewel as much as they care about putting their craft on that body of water and having what they call “fun.” And of course our government dont act until it’s usually too late.I do know this..wherever people go pollution follows.

    • Paul says:

      Yes, invasives are an issue for that lake and others. Some of that could be lessened by not having so much public access to water-bodies in the Adirondacks. For example the Saranac Chain has seen many negative impacts from the fact that it is now much easier to get your boats in there. The double state launch in SL has greatly increased boat traffic on the water. The private land owners are probably better stewards (Charlie there are some bad ones for sure) than the weekend warriors who don’t have much stake in the future of the waterway.

      As for Lake George specifically again it seems like the development is somewhat clustered at the south end of the lake like they are supporting here in this post?

      Remember that the hamlets and villages where many want to see clustering are often times on a water-body or on a lake and following a river. That is how those towns began. They are basically in the places that should maybe not be having intense development.

      A few examples:
      Saranac Lake
      Raquette Lake
      Long Lake
      Tupper Lake
      Cranberry Lake……

      Do we all really think that clustering in these places is a solution to limiting impacts on the water?

  5. Dave Mason says:

    Has anyone done a survey of environmental science to compare long term impacts of industrial forestry vs scattered seldom used second homes that leave most of the land undisturbed? It would have to be long term….enough to get through two harvest cycles?

    What is the standard harvest cycle time now in our region on typical TIMO land?

  6. Charlie says:

    Paul says: “invasives are an issue for that lake and others. Some of that could be lessened by not having so much public access to water-bodies in the Adirondacks.”

    Tell that to a politician whose strings are pulled left and right by developers,corporations,etc… I mean after all,our leaders are the lawmakers.They’re the ones who allowed GE to pollute the Hudson with PCB’s all those years ago,and look at the end result.Millions spent on dredging to supposedly clean up those toxins.They’ll never bring that river back to what it was before GE was allowed to dump those PCB’s.This is just one example.Over and over they allow pollution,then pay to have it cleaned up years later,if they clean up at all.Pure insanity. They allow public access Paul because there’s money in boating,it attracts tourist and polluters and boaters who dont really care about maybe having invasive species clinging to their craft. In Florida they have lost (and i assume still losing) many of those beautiful species the manatee because boaters dont pay attention to the speed limits in water where they are supposed to go slow and “Beware of manatees.” So many of them have been run over by imbecile boaters and it just breaks my heart that they would allow it to come to this. Money before species Paul.Money before every last living thing on Earth. If we keep allowing these incremental invasions of the land in the Adirondacks (Tupper Lake Resort,etc.) the magic of that wonderful haven will go away. I know there are good landowners,but i’ll be damned if there aren’t a lot of bad ones.Some landowners should NOT be landowners.Better yet,and i hate to say this…there oughta be more laws.Just imagine what it would be like if a certain segment of the population got their wish and there was less regulations! That’s what they’re pushing for…deregulation,less government. I used to admire the APA even though i know landowners that dont like them because they have kept them from building on their own land.If it wasn’t for the APA you’d see more development for sure. Lately i’ve been under the impression that the APA is loosening their grip.I hope i’m wrong on this.They sure have been getting a lot of flack from landowners over the years.Maybe they’re starting to soften up because.

    • Paul says:

      Charlie, Most environmental groups in the Adirondacks supports increased public recreation access to waterways (as well as many other more remote areas). The recent “cheering” of the ruling that supported defense of navigation rights on some waterways running over private lands is a good example. I think that you have a better chance with private owners in many cases to protect land than you do with the public free-for-all we see in many places now. It just needs to be done right, I think that many local landowners care more about the long term protection of their land than many others. But I do see where you are coming from also.

    • John Warren says:

      “I used to admire the APA even though i know landowners that dont like them because they have kept them from building on their own land.If it wasn’t for the APA you’d see more development for sure.”

      Charlie, the APA essentially never denies a permit request. The idea that they have any real control on development is just flat out incorrect. They oversee about 20% of the parks development activities. Their approval rate is about 99% – that’s since they began in the early 1970s.

      What you’re expressing is anti-APA anti-Adirondack Park propaganda. It’s been so often repeated by local “journalists” like those at the Post-Star that even those with an appreciation for environmental preservation have come to believe it’s true.

      The APA is a rubber-stamp committee. I believe that there may be much stronger controls on development in places like Albany, Saratoga, and Nassau counties than inside the Park. Unfortunately, no one has ever studied that idea. I’m pretty sure that most suburban towns in New York have revised their master plans since 1990, or at least updated their development code. Aside from loosening regulations with “General Permits”, I don’t think you can say that about the APA.

      • Paul says:

        John, You don’t think the recent (few years now) changes to shoreline regulations was significant?

        Also, what you say is very true but there is also lots of development that goes on without APA approval. The folks never even ask for a permit. It really depends on what the neighbors think. Also my guess is that if you have a 150 foot setback under APA regulations that without that you would have probably built the place 15 feet from the mean high water mark like one of the places that I have that was built prior to 1973. It is about zoning regulations not about prevention of development.

  7. Charlie says:

    Paul says: I think that you have a better chance with private owners in many cases to protect land than you do with the public free-for-all we see in many places now.
    I know this to be true Paul.I do not deny this.It does go both ways though and Shania Twain is a good example.

    John Warren says: What you’re expressing is anti-APA anti-Adirondack Park propaganda.
    I dont spread propaganda John and I did not say I am anti APA and of course it would be silly to think i’m anti Adirondack Park as that is my favorite place on planet earth.If I am wrong i’ll fess up to it but forgive me if I have doubts and suspicions.Sometimes i just fly off with words and I sure dont like to impose falsehoods in the things i share,and if I do please correct me,but to call me a propagandist…..that is a first. Thank you.

    • John Warren says:


      I didn’t mean to call you a propagandist. I meant that the view is propaganda.


  8. Charlie says:

    I’ve been called worse John.I dont ever take things personally just so you know,even though my writing may impose such,which at times i’m sure it does.