Thursday, January 15, 2015

APA Approves Controversial Subdivision

WoodworthLakeThe Adirondack Park Agency board voted unanimously Thursday to approve a controversial development at a former Boy Scouts camp in the southern Adirondacks.

New York Land and Lakes Development LLC plans to subdivide the 1,119-acre property into 24 building lots, most of them bordering two water bodies, Hines Pond and Woodworth Lake. The lots range from three acres to 145 acres.

All of the Park’s four major environmental groups as well as the regional chapter of the Sierra Club opposed the project. They contend that the developers should be forced to minimize fragmentation of the forest by clustering homes closer together.

“We are confident the APA could have accommodated a similar number of new homes on a much smaller footprint, working in collaboration with the developer, while still providing the privacy home buyers seek. That would have protected water quality, wildlife and outdoor recreation for everyone,” Willie Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, said in a news release after the vote.

But APA Chairwoman Lani Ulrich hailed the project as an example of environmentally sensitive development. “The agency’s extensive review resulted in a permit that concentrates where development will occur and ensures best management practices are used to avoid the fragmentation of wildlife habitat and minimize impacts to waterways,” she said in a news release.

Sherman Craig, chairman of the APA’s Regulatory Programs Committee, also said he believes natural resources will be protected. He said the agency’s staff looked at nearly 50 criteria in evaluating the project’s environmental impacts.

“To simply focus on how close the houses are together, that puts one criterion over all the others,” he told Adirondack Almanack.

Ariel Lynch, an environmental program specialist, told the APA board that most of the proposed locations for homes were changed based on recommendations of the APA staff. Under the conditions of the developer’s permit, she said, all the homes will be at least 100 feet from the waterfront. Other permit conditions aim to protect wetlands, streams, and water quality.

Lynch also noted that under APA regulations the developers could be allowed to build up to 49 homes—more than twice as many as planned. The unused building rights will be extinguished. The developers also agreed to reduce the number of lots from 26 to 24.

Most of the property is designated Resource Management, the strictest of the APA’s land-use classifications for private land. The Private Land Use and Development Plan allows residential development on RM lands “on substantial acreages or in small clusters on carefully selected and well designed sites.”

Critics contend that the New York Land and Lakes project meets neither criterion. However, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court recently ruled, in another case, that the criteria are only guidelines, not mandates.

In any case, Craig said the developers will protect natural resources by making use of the Boy Scouts’ development footprints: building homes in existing clearings and using existing woods roads for driveways, thus minimizing tree cutting.

Dan Plumley, a partner in Adirondack Wild, criticized the agency for refusing to convene an adjudicatory hearing, which would have given stakeholders a chance to offer expert testimony. “This is a sad day for the Park,” Plumley said. “The agency has just opened the door to the kind of projects it used to deny outright.”

Fred Monroe, executive director of the Local Government Review Board, which has a non-voting seat on the APA board, applauded the agency’s action. He said the development will generate $60,000 a year in property taxes. The property is located in the towns of Bleecker and Johnstown in Fulton County.

“This project was thoroughly vetted and strictly conditioned by agency staff,” Monroe said in a news release. “Over 95 percent of the land will remain open space in perpetuity. It fully complies with the APA Act.”

The Woodworth Boy Scout Camp had used the property from 1949 until 2013, when it closed.

The APA map shows the layout of the 24 building lots. The developer originally planned for 26 lots. Two were dropped, but the numbers of the remaining lots did not change. Hence, the map still shows Lot 25 and Lot 26.




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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

13 Responses

  1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA The Ultra Wealthy Strike Again. Follow The Money and oh Yes PROTECT THOSE NATURAL RESOURCES LOL ….. They Are The Private Property of the OLIGARCHS …… Rothschilds , Rockefellers, Hochschilds and The Illuminati BANKSTERS of the CITY OF LONDON and The Wall Street Cult and Washington DC. NEW York NEW England HAHAHAHAHAHAHA ……

  2. Pete Klein says:

    While I am surprised it went through so effortlessly, this might be an indication it is time to disband the APA and turn over the responsibility of regulating private property in the Park to local governments, as is done in the Catskill Park.
    Doing this would force the towns in the Park that don’t have a planning board to institute one post haste. It is time for all towns in the Adirondacks to grow up and chart their own destiny, and stop using the APA as an excuse for what does or doesn’t happen.

  3. mike says:

    Good news. Given Llani’s description of the evolution of the project, it appears to fit the law and it seems they made some changes asked for by APA staff. This sort of development works quite well in my opinion.

    • Paul says:

      It is interesting some of the structures look they are placed as far back from the water as the proposed lots would allow? It also looks like there are 26 building lots as opposed to 24.

  4. Paul says:

    If this was done piecemeal like most of the approved development in the park it would probably have much smaller lots and be higher impact environmentally.

    Since there are other older (and larger that this) developments that have been approved on resource management land I don’t see how this is a result of the ACR approval?

  5. Mark says:

    A carefully reviewed and well reasoned, legally compliant, decision by the APA. I applaud the unanimous decision by the commissioners and further applaud them for standing up to the environmental groups’ attempts to make the application process so costly that the developer would give up. This is such a low impact project that it amounts to much ado about nothing; just another round of rhetoric so that these phony environmental groups may go back to their donors to say “oh poor us and the big bad APA. We need more $$.” to pay a couple of executive directors too much money!

  6. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Fred Monroe, executive director of the Local Government Review Board, which has a non-voting seat on the APA board, applauded the agency’s action. He said the development will generate $60,000 a year in property taxes.”

    That last line says it all! It’s always about another tax haven,a new tax base. Is why Rt 9 eventually will be one strip mall after another right up to the sign on the Northway that says “Entering the Adirondack Park.” Always always it is this very reason why our erected officials side with developers to tear down yet another woodlot or field or old farm acreage….because wildlife and ecosystems are not as important as the almighty dollar.

    Congratulations Phil on your recent win in the courts.I was happy to read that in the newspaper this morning.

  7. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Pete Klein says “It is time for all towns in the Adirondacks to grow up and chart their own destiny, and stop using the APA as an excuse for what does or doesn’t happen.”

    There’d be a ton of happy campers if the APA were abolished Pete. There’d be landowners who will finally be able to do as they please with their acreage whether the end result is good for the park or not. And who could trust a local politician to do what’s right either? With them it’s all about that tax base as i mentioned above. Just drive downstate a little and witness what they’ve done to all of that old farmland in Clifton Park…it is all heavy congestion and stop lights and more malls. Like Wilton….paradises for the tax man.

  8. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Mark says ” just another round of rhetoric so that these phony environmental groups may go back to their donors to say “oh poor us and the big bad APA.”

    Come on Mark! You really don’t think this world would survive long if there were no hecklers with their charitable natures trying to steer this ship earth in the right direction do you now? Just think what this world would be like if it weren’t for those hardcore thoughtful individuals who sacrifice their time and energy trying to do what’s right minus ego. It’s not about them,it’s about the future inhabitants of this earth and the world they will be living in long after you and me are gone.It’s about things outside of themselves…..about the mother the earth,the only home we know.
    Maybe we should eradicate protesting from the First Amendment hey?

  9. Pete Belknap says:

    I think this is the best thing I’ve heard in many I thought the Adar. would just die . Our family own several acres in the s.Adak. and would relocate my home building business here in Texas to go there and develop this property in many beautiful Custom homes to fit the lots at a very reasonable cost .

  10. Wayno says:

    With the large tracts recently added to the forest preserve and the unprecedented expansion of conservation easements over the past decade I think this needs to be kept in perspective. Its really too bad that the Boyscouts gave up possession of this property but the Park is a mix of private and public land, the private landholders do have rights too. It sounds like this development will be done in an environmentally responsible manner. It could just be that things are working pretty well these days as far as land use in the Adirondacks is going. I am sure the worst problems are in the properties developed prior to 1972.

  11. Charlie S says:

    My brother Jerry owns a few hundred acres of beautiful old farmland and wooded hills in Ulster County which is bordered by State land and has an abundance of some of the most beautiful stone walls. Black bears pass over his land,bobcats,fishers,fox,
    there’s plenty of deer and turkey and small game birds and of course coyotes can be heard throughout the night.
    The property owner next to him sold out and a guy from NYC bought his wooded acreage which up to that point was a serene untouched woods where my brother has hunted and roamed for the past thirty-five years.You cannot hear cars from the nearest town where this acreage is..a tranquil woods and landscape I say.

    This new owner approached my brother one day and asked permission to start a road from his property which was on the west end of this mans wooded land.He offered to compensate my brother monetarily but Jerry refused. Jerry politely talked to this man,suggested he enjoy the beauty of his new property before he makes any hasty decisions.

    My brothers wisdom fell on deaf ears.The first move from this new owner was to build a road,off of the main road, into the woods and a steel bridge to ford a stream to get to the other side,where the land went up a steep incline to the top of the hill.There is a vernal pool atop that hill where generations of frogs and salamanders and other woodland inhabitants have had an oasis for who knows how long.This new road draws near to that pool. The man’s intent was obvious,he wanted to build homes atop the hill so as to further enrich himself.

    The last I heard the Town intervened and stopped this man from further development because the grade of the new road leading towards the top of that hill was too steep for cars to climb.This man knew this before he started construction of the road and bridge (is why he approached my brother about starting the road on his property) but he pushed on anyway. A bold determination,a stubbornness ….the lust for money will do that to a man.

    My brother is a good man who really enjoys his solitude and woods and outdoor experiences on his acreage.Since this man from the city took possession of the land next to Jerry’s things have not been the same. Where once was nothing but trees on that rise above the land back of his house is now a bald spot where the trees were taken down.Sure,there is still the quietude and the woods are basically untouched but there is also the concern that this NYC man will get his way and houses will eventually be built atop the wooded hill that once was my brothers undisturbed stomping grounds.

    This event came to me immediately after reading Pete Belknap’s post above.Some people just don’t see the beauty other people so clearly see. As if a visual impairment has taken hold,as if the only thing sacrosanct is money.

    It is unfortunate that we’re not taught the value of natural diversity.This controversial subdivision at a former boy scouts camp may seem like an insignificant matter but it is a microcosm of the whole.The extinction of species caused by habitat destruction is greater than most of us suppose.Edward O. Wilson,in his book Biological Diversity 1999 says extinction is 10,000 times more (or greater) than the rate prior to human intervention.

    If Edward is right then (like I keep saying) we should have stopped our economic way of thinking a long time ago.Eventually we’re going to have to stop this destructive course we are on,this wanton reckless behavior…not only here but in the Amazon too,or Alaska where old growth forests are being sacrificed for gold or whatnot! Of course it will be too late by the time we come to realize how short-sighted we are.There will be nothing left for our great grandchildren so long as mindsets like Pete Belknap’s continue to have their way.

    I am not being mean-spirited,I am speaking with angst on a subject near and dear to my heart…powerless me who sits and watches the world crumbling away due to my fellow man’s ignorance,arrogance and insatiable desire to enrich himself at the expense of all things else.

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