I know I previewed this in my last newsletter, but in case you didn’t get a chance to read it, here is my roundup of the four Adirondack Park constitutional amendments that didn’t get first passage this legislative session. The conservation design bill, legislation intended to protect more open space and natural resources when planning for some subdivisions, passed the Assembly but not the Senate. Also of note, a bill that brings forest rangers and environmental conservation officers’ retirements up to the same standards as State Police passed both chambers. We’ll see if Gov. Kathy Hochul signs it this time.
Posts Tagged ‘APA’
As part of the ongoing public comment period regarding the interpretation of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan’s Wild Forest Basic Guideline No. 4 – no material increase of road mileage on lands classified as Wild Forest, the Adirondack Park Agency in coordination with the Department of Environmental Conservation, will hold a virtual public informational meeting and an in person meeting.
The virtual public meeting will be held on June 2, 2022, at 6:00 p.m. To access the virtual meeting the public is asked to please pre-register using the following link – tinyurl.com/APA-NMI-info. To dial in to meeting please call 518-549-0500 and use Access Code: 2347 466 3096. For those who would like to make an oral comment please email your name and phone number you will be calling in from to: [email protected]
Fifty-one years ago (1971) the newly created Adirondack Park Agency was granted the authority to draft, revise, and interpret the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, or APSLMP. That plan was signed by the Governor in 1972 and revised by many Governors since. The NYS courts have found that the APSLMP has the force and effect of law.
No Material Increase: This past week, the APA sent the public notice that we have 60 days to comment in order to “inform the APA Board’s interpretation of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan’s Wild Forest Basic Guideline No. 4 – no material increase of road mileage on lands classified as Wild Forest.” The rest of APA’s press release consists of seemingly arcane questions and alternatives that presumes public awareness and understanding of the past and how it relates today.
The Adirondack Park Agency is meeting in person this week for the first time since last summer. The two-day meeting will start at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the APA’s Ray Brook headquarters. It will pick back up at 9 a.m. on Friday. The meeting will be broadcast live online, but public comment will have to be made in person. Face masks are not required but encouraged, the agency wrote.
There are several projects the board is expected to vote on including an amendment to the Whiteface Ski Center Unit Management Plan. More background on that here. Staff are recommending approval for the amendment’s conformance with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) last held an adjudicatory public hearing in 2011 – the kind of hearing that involves sworn testimony and cross-examination of evidence before a law judge, followed by a full hearing record on which to base a judicious, carefully examined, evidence-based decision. That 2011 hearing was for the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort subdivision and development near Tupper Lake. In the eleven years since, and despite the many hundreds of permits issued by the APA since, including many large, regional projects, not a single adjudicatory public hearing has been convened by the APA.
In recognition of Terry Martino’s career as executive director of the Adirondack Park Agency, at her last APA board meeting before retiring, Martino was presented with a citation from Gov. Kathy Hochul, and the board passed the following resolution:
Whereas: On August 12, 2009, the Adirondack Park Agency Board appointed Terry Martino as Executive Director of the Adirondack Park Agency. For the next twelve and a half years, Executive Director Martino led the Park Agency with dignity, respect, and fundamental fairness until her retirement on February 22, 2022; and
Whereas: Terry Martino’s exceptional background was deeply rooted in decades of Adirondack environmental stewardship and smart growth accomplishments. Prior to her appointment to the Park Agency, she successfully advocated for the North Country as the Executive Director of the Adirondack North Country Association; and
Barbara Rice attended her first Adirondack Park Agency meeting last week as its new executive director just a few days after starting the job. It was a packed five-hour meeting.
“The one thing that stands out to me is how dedicated and hard working the staff here is,” Rice said, at the start of the meeting.
We published a couple of stories out of that Thursday marathon, including how the Olympic Regional Development Authority plans to widen some ski trails at Whiteface Mountain.
This is prompted by David Gibson’s op-ed a week or so ago. David calls for the APA to return to its former practice of reporting finds of fact. He believes, as I read him, that this would justify the exemption of the agency from New York’s environmental review law, SEQRA, and result in better decisions.
I agree. Experience throughout the U.S. makes it clear that the best way, which is to say the most disciplined and defensible way to report significant land use decisions is in the form of findings of fact and conclusions of law. The terminology can vary, but these functions are essential. I will also take David’s argument further. Proposed findings and conclusions should be available for public review and comment before the public hearing that should precede all significant land-use decisions. That’s the minimum transparency needed.
Over the course of time, the Adirondack Park Agency’s permit practice has drifted too far away from what the 1973 Agency Act and the State Environmental Quality Review Act require.
The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) requires any State or local agency that undertakes, funds, or approves a project to evaluate the actual or potential environmental impacts of the project prior to taking final action. SEQRA clearly sets forth the state’s policy that adverse environmental impacts of proposed actions be fully considered and either minimized or avoided.
An agency must identify all areas of relevant environmental concern with respect to the project, take a hard look at them, and provide a reasoned elaboration for its determination as to whether the action may have a significant adverse impact on the environment. The agency must require preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) if the proposed action may have any significant environmental impacts.
After a dozen years, Terry Martino is retiring as the executive director of the NYS Adirondack Park Agency. Terry is an admirable person who has had a difficult job of balancing the pressures from APA applicants, staff, members and the Cuomo administration – and much else.
But for more than a decade she – like many others – loyally saluted as a member of Team Cuomo, the Governor who:
- put up those banners in Ray Brook that the Park was Open for Business;
- weakened both the Private Land Use and State Land Plans;
- weakened the APA and was satisfied with token environmentalism on its board;
- steered APA further off course from its mission as a planning agency in an era when climate change accelerates the urgent need for better land use planning.
By Ralph A. Cossa
In his Jan. 11 commentary in the Adirondack Almanack, Peter Bauer asked the question “Will the new boss be the same as the old boss?” in questioning whether the Adirondack Park Agency Board, under new chairman John Ernst, would finally start holding adjudicatory hearings regarding contentious issues, or would it continue to avoid this process which allows citizens’ and experts’ views to be heard and questions answered. The issue in question was the White Lake Quarry Application (APA2021-0075) which called for extensive mining operations directly over the community’s aquifer and within 1000 feet of their pristine spring-fed lake, in the middle of a tourist-oriented residential community of some 400 homes and small businesses.
Adjudicatory hearings used to be a regular occurrence; between 1973-2008, there were 151, or roughly 4-5 per year. Since 2008, not a single adjudicatory hearing has been held as the APA has become more and more inclined, especially during the Cuomo era, to support business activities in the Park it is sworn to protect. Governor Hochul has pledged to change that mind-set. Obviously, the word has yet to trickle down to the APA.
Megan Phillips, former VP of Conservation, to become APA’s new Deputy Director for Planning
RAY BROOK, N.Y. – The Adirondack Council said today it was both pleased and disappointed today by the announcement that the Adirondack Park Agency had hired the Council’s Vice President for Conservation Megan Phillips to become the state agency’s new Deputy Director for Planning.
“We are pleased that the APA recognized her talents and will assign Megan a key role in its efforts to protect the park,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “But we are disappointed to be losing her talents here on our staff. She will be missed.”
By Louanne Cossa
We’ll know the answer to this question when the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) meets on January 13-14th. On its agenda is a draft permit for a new granite quarry in White Lake in the town of Forestport in the western Adirondacks. This project is widely opposed by neighboring landowners, residents, and property owners in the general area. There have been very few private land development projects in the last two decades that have engendered such a high level of public involvement and concern.
John Ernst chaired his first Adirondack Park Agency meeting last week. The agency met virtually again. It was not without technical hiccups. A state-run web system crash left some APA staff unable to control the Webex meeting for a time. This meant public commenters had to wait until the end of the meeting to speak, and some staff could not show their PowerPoint presentations. But the presentations were posted online so board members and the public could follow along. Patient members of the public waited nearly three hours later to speak.
Ernst fielded an agenda thick with information about solar projects and the agency’s role. In case you missed it, we had a short story about that last week you can read here.
We continue to follow the agency’s first public comment period over a subdivision in Jay. The APA is regularly updating its website with the latest comments submitted.
At the other end of the park in the town of Mayfield, we talked to an entrepreneur who wants to build an RV park on Great Sacandaga Lake. He has not yet submitted a permit application to the APA, but his plans are before the town’s planning board. Several folks in the neighborhood are against the proposal. You can read more about that here or by clicking the story below.
Have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!
Editor’s note: This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” email. Click here to sign up.
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