Two Adirondack conservation groups, the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and Protect the Adirondacks! (PROTECT), have won an important round in a lawsuit to force the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to classify a state-owned wilderness canoe route in the heart of the Adirondacks. According to the local conservationists their lawsuit challenges the failure of the state to classify the waters of Lows Lake and other water bodies at all and is not challenging a particular classification determination.
State Supreme Court Justice Michael C. Lynch denied the state’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit against APA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). According to a press release issued Friday, “the groups brought the lawsuit because of APA’s failure to classify the waters of Lows Lake and nearby water bodies. The groups assert that state law requires the state to classify state-owned water bodies that are part of the Forest Preserve.” » Continue Reading.
At the September Adirondack Park Agency (APA) meeting, the agency board authorized general permit application 2010G-1 designed to further streamline telecommunication project approvals. General Permit 2010G-1 fast tracks review of new or replacement cellular towers proposed for locations in proximity to previously approved agency sites.
This is the second general permit developed by agency staff to expedite telecommunication project approvals. Since 2005, cellular companies relied heavily on General Permit 2005G-3R to co-locate equipment on existing tall structures. The general permit process is less rigorous and results in cost savings for cellular companies. In 2010, the APA issued fourteen permits to date resulting in 6 new towers, 6 replacements, and 2 co-locations. Fourteen additional applications are under review. In 2009, the agency approved 31 applications. This included 14 new towers, 14 co-location projects, 1 replacement and 2 replacement/co-location permits.
Additionally this year, APA participated in the Technical Assistance Center’s organizational meeting in support of their Wireless Clearinghouse Project. Project goals include the identification of tall structures throughout the Park for potential co-location sites to foster more cellular company investment in Park communities.
Cellular coverage will improve as approved projects are undertaken. Construction has not started however on many permitted tower sites located in Essex, Franklin, Hamilton and Warren Counties. A number of these permits were issued in 2009.
Chairman Curtis F. Stiles said, “The APA realizes comprehensive coverage along travel corridors and near population centers is only possible with planning and additional capital investment. We’ve worked diligently with the carriers to approve over 125 permits throughout the Park resulting in increased coverage in this topographically challenging region of New York State. We remain committed to working with carriers as they plan for this critical infrastructure.”
Executive Director Terry Martino stated, “The APA fully understands the importance of cellular and broadband technology to support economic development and public safety. The horizontal co-location general permit will provide carriers the opportunity to improve cellular coverage while reducing their capital expenditure costs. We appreciate their input on this application and their continued commitment to implement wireless technology in accordance with state law.”
The APA, working with stakeholder groups, developed a “Telecommunication and Tall Structure Policy” in 2002. The policy was established to expedite implementation of critical telecommunication infrastructure in conformity with the statutory requirements of the Adirondack Park Agency Act. The policy has resulted in improved cellular coverage for Adirondack communities especially along highway corridors and in population centers.
The policy includes guidance for telecommunication companies to ensure successful implementation of projects. Guidance includes: avoiding locating facilities on mountaintops and ridge lines; concealing any structure by careful siting, using a topographic or vegetative foreground or backdrop; minimizing structure height and bulk; using color to blend with surroundings; and using existing buildings to locate facilities whenever possible.
Photos: Above, a mass of communication towers atop Prospect Mountain overlooking Lake George (John Warren). According to APA spokesperson Keith McKeever, the tower farm on Prospect includes pre-existing towers (pre-1973, no APA approval) and two towers approved in the 1980s when the agency’s towers policy was weak (essentially, approve towers where pre- existing ones stood without much concern for the height). Under the 2003 towers policy, the APA implemented “substantial invisibility” and tower heights came down. Below, the Cell Tower recently sited near Exit 29 in North Hudson (APA Photo).
Earlier this year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation proposed reclassifying the main road in the Moose River Plains as an Intensive Use Area to permit roadside campsites to remain.
In doing so, DEC recognized that the proximity of many of the campsites to each other violated the rules governing primitive tent sites set forth in Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. Those rules require that primitive sites be at least a quarter-mile apart. Many of the sites in the Plains also have fireplaces and picnic tables, both of which are not allowed at primitive tent sites.
But the campsites in the Plains are just the tip of the iceberg. A new study [pdf] by the State College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has found that there are 508 roadside campsites on Forest Preserve lands throughout the Park.
Under DEC regulations, a primitive tent site must be at least 150 feet from roads, trails, and water bodies unless DEC has designated the site (with a yellow disk) as an official campsite. The study found that at least 149 of the roadside campsites on the Forest Preserve lack a DEC disk. Presumably, most of these are illegal.
There are other problems as well. Some sites are denuded from overuse. Some are situated close to the road, the water, or other tent sites. They often lack screening. And many have amenities such as fireplaces and picnic tables that are not allowed at primitive tent sites.
Jim Connolly, deputy director of the Adirondack Park Agency, said at last week’s APA meeting that the agency faces some hard choices regarding roadside sites.
Some argue that roadside sites should be brought into compliance with the primitive-site guidelines — a policy that would require closing or moving sites or taking away amenities. Others argue that the State Land Master Plan should be amended to recognize roadside camping as its own activity, with its own set of regultions.
Closing roadside campsites would be controversial. Chad Dawson, the main author of the ESF study, said roadside camping has evolved into an Adirondack tradition—a free, more rustic alternative to DEC campgrounds. Some families return to the same sites year after year.
“People love their roadside camping,” Dawson told the APA board. Yet most people probably don’t know about the opportunities for road-side camping. “It’s one of those well-kept secrets of the Adirondacks,” Dawson said. “You get initiated into it, but you can’t find a brochure about it.”
Dawson said the great majority of roadside sites—459 out of 508—are located in Wild Forest Areas. They include 163 in the Moose River Plains region. Other Wild Forest sites can be found, among other places, on Floodwood Road, on the Powley-Piseco Road, and along the shores of North Lake and Horseshoe Lake.
The other forty-nine sites are in Wilderness, Canoe, and Primitive Areas, where motorized access is generally prohibited. These include eight sites along Coreys Road in the High Peaks Wilderness and thirteen sites along West River Road in the Silver Lake Wilderness.
Connolly said roadside camping evolved from the 1920s, when DEC began establishing formal campgrounds. Some people question the legality of the campgrounds. How do you square the crowds and noise at Fish Creek with the forever-wild mandate of the state constitution? Legal objections aside, the campgrounds are recognized by the State Land Master Plan. Roadside campsites are not.
The car-camping tradition may be well-established, but it often appears to flout the law. Should it be more tightly regulated?
Photo: A well-used roadside campsite. From the ESF report.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has announced that The Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) will end public programs during what the agency is calling “a transitional period pursuant to state budget mandates.”
The VIC will close to the public on October 10, 2010. For the time being, APA staff will continue to work at the main building but will no longer provide public interpretive programming or provide general information to visitors. The outside trail system will remain open to the general public seven days a week. Rest room accommodations will be available Monday-Friday.
“During the transitional period, the Adirondack Park Agency will continue to explore alternatives for the potential reuse of the facility,” APA spokesman Keith McKeever said. The VIC will no longer be funded by the state after December 31, 2010.
In July, officials from the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) transfered ownership of the state-owned buildings and equipment at the Newcomb VIC to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF). ESF will manage future Newcomb VIC programs, but current employees of the VIC fear layoff at the end of the year.
You know, we aren’t half lucky, those of us who live in the Adirondacks. I drove home this weekend to visit my folks, and even though they don’t live that far away, and I do go home a few times each year, I still find it stunning to see all the development that has taken place during my lifetime, especially in the last ten years. Fields that were pastures, land that was once forested, all now converted to housing developments, strip malls, car dealerships, storage units. I read an article recently about the houses that are going up on the mountainsides up around Keene and Keene Valley, and how the creation of these homes, with their driveways and parking areas, altered the watershed(s) enough that streams at the base of the mountain(s) are no longer filling.
This in turn has a direct impact on the invertebrate life that lives in those streams, invertebrates that not only feed the next level in the food chain (fish, amphibians, larger invertebrates), but invertebrates that also clean the water by filtering out particulate matter. The impacts of a single house go beyond its immediate footprint on that mountainside.
When a house/airport/mall/road, is built, the patch of land it covers is “removed” from the surrounding landscape. Anyone who gardens knows that the vitality of the soil is the key to a good garden. It is also the key to a healthy ecosystem. When we cover the ground with impermeable surfaces, it cannot be good for the life that was once there. If water can no longer penetrate that patch of ground, then the life that once lived there either dies or moves away.
At the Newcomb VIC we have a recorded dramatization of the congressional meeting at which the 14th Amendment, the Forever Wild Clause, was created. It plays in the background in one of the exhibits, and staff sitting at the front desk can hear those parts in which the actors are making loud, emphatic points. Certain phrases stick out, like the gentleman describing how logging has led to erosion, where the water, now unimpeded by vegetation, “sweeps down the mountain, carrying away the soil…ruining our rivers and destroying our commerce!” For those who don’t know, one of the driving forces for creating the Adirondacks Park, and the enclosed Forest Preserve, was to protect it as a watershed. Okay, it was to protect the water source for the folks downstate, but still, the point is that even then they knew about the importance of the watershed.
In my line of work I often hear people grouse about the restrictions that are put on development within the Blue Line. But one only needs to drive beyond this invisible boundary to see just why such restrictions are important. Every year more and more open space is converted to developed land. New homes are built faster than people can occupy them. Roads are built, shunting ever more rainwater and snowmelt (with their attendant pollutants) into streams at accelerated rates.
I know that I lean towards the green side of philosophy, but I like to think it is because I try to look at the bigger picture and keep an eye towards the future. We are but one species living on this planet, and as far as we know, it is the only habitable planet in the neighborhood. How selfish it is of us in the here and now to create/destroy things for our own wants and desires without taking into consideration the impact it will have on those whose time has not yet come. Just because we are of “greater intelligence” than those invertebrates filtering the streams, ponds and rivers, does that make us more important? Truthfully, I think those invertebrates are contributing a whole lot more to the betterment of the planet than we are.
But I know I am not above my fellow humans, for I also drive a car (although I drive the most energy efficient vehicle I can), I live in a development (although I have filled my yard with native plantings, and I do not treat my land with chemicals so I can have the perfect lawn), and I own way too much “stuff.” I do try, however, to make decisions that have the least impact possible on the land around me. Would I like a bigger house? Yes, but I don’t need a bigger house. And I think that is what it often comes down to: need vs. want. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.
I know that living in the Adirondack Park can be a hassle. It is often a long drive to the grocery store, or to get new pipes for the ruptured pipe under the kitchen sink. And it can be well over an hour to the nearest hospital in an emergency (I used to be an EMT, and believe me, an hour plus in the back of an ambulance can seem like a lifetime). With unemployment in my future, finding a replacement job will be well nigh impossible. But, despite these drawbacks, I know that the Adirondack Park is a very special place and not one I would change to accommodate a few whims. I moved here knowing the limitations. If I wanted conveniences, I would live somewhere else.
As a naturalist, I hope that the integrity of the Park and the Forest Preserve, lasts in perpetuity. An intact ecosystem is important, and even though we see ourselves as pretty advanced here at the beginning of the 21st century, I’d be willing to bet that in a couple hundred years (or less) we will have discovered even more about how important it is. With all our advanced knowledge, we do not hold all the answers yet. By keeping this bit northern forest intact, we may find that we’ve done the planet a greater service than we ever could have dreamed.
Despite undeniable proof that the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) almost never denies a permit, the usual anti-APA folks are currently rallying once again for another push against the regional planning and zoning board that has kept the Adirondacks from looking like a suburb of the Northeast megalopolis for more than 30 years. It’s time for those who support reasonable and responsible development in the Adirondack Park to step forward and let their voice be heard.
In case you went to the lobby during intermission, here’s a review of the cast of leading characters: Maynard Baker: Despite his failed leadership that left Warrensburg perhaps the most poorly developed village in the Park – a virtual wreck of its former self – Maynard Baker persists in his angry denunciations of anything even approaching planning, zoning and smart development. Baker is the scariest of the cast, having once started a fistfight during the Battle of Crane Pond. His latest approach has been lawsuits, and threats of lawsuits. Most recently he is attempting to argue in court that veterans cannot access the Park. On Monday, Baker called the APA “terrorists” securing for all time that this guy is a dangerous demagogue.
Will Doolittle: Despite serious questions about his motives with regards to his reporting about the APA (detailed here, here, and here), Will Doolittle has started another campaign in the pages of the Glens Falls Post Star. That’s the same Post Star that called for the abolition of the APA in an editorial during Doolittle’s last round of APA attacks. You’d think that when your motives are questioned so seriously regarding your reporting of a particular subject, you’d leave those stories to someone else. Not Doolittle, apparently he and his bosses think it’s entirely appropriate to continue to put an anti-APA reporter on the job to cover the APA.
Kim Smith Dedam: One of only two women in the cast (Carol LaGrasse and her one-woman Property Rights Foundation of America is the other), Kim Smith Dedam is the Plattsburgh Press Republican‘s answer to accurate and judicious reporting of the APA and smart development in the Adirondacks. Her outright false claims, apparently designed to foster her agenda, are awful legend. Kim Smith Dedam can always be counted on to tell the story of development in the Adirondacks to the benefit of her handlers. Check out two stories that read like press releases: “Tupper Lake project projected to create 584 jobs” and “Veterans sue for seaplane access to Adirondack lakes.” Floatplane ban supporters? Kim Smith Dedam doesn’t think they’re necessary in a story about the ban on floatplanes, but that’s just one in what seems an unending litany of slanted stories about development issues in the Adirondacks.
Fred Monroe: When it comes to one-man bands, Fred Monroe plays the loudest. Overseeing the demise and awful strip development of Chestertown as the Supervisor of the Town Chester is not enough for Monroe, so he also collects a paycheck as the Chair of the economically challenged Warren County Board of Supervisors and a paycheck from bankrupt New York State as the voice of the anti-APA Local Government Review Board. That’s right, Monroe is paid by the Town, County, and State government – after a raise he gave himself last year, that’s more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded salary. It’s no wonder that while he’s content to serve as a mouth-piece around the state for anti-APA activities and as the go-to guy for his media buddies, he came out last year to say that no, he doesn’t want the APA dissolved. And why would he? He’d be out of a job heading a one man (and one wife) tax supported board whose main focus has been to fight another tax funded board. That is the goose that laid the $100,000 egg.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, Thursday, September 16 and Friday Sept 17, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. On Thursday agency members and staff will participate in a field trip lead by Mr. Sean Ross, Director of Forestry Operations for Lyme Timber Company. Mr. Ross will discuss forest management and certification programs. On Friday the board will consider a setback variance requested by the YMCA for its Camp Chingachgook on Lake George, Blue Line Development Group’s 49 unit subdivision proposal in the Village of Tupper Lake, a subdivision proposal for land in the Village of Lake Pleasant, a proposed amendment to the Northville Boat Launch Unit Management Plan, and more. The Full Agency will convene on Friday morning at 9:00 for Executive Director Terry Martino’s report.
At 9:30 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider a shoreline structure setback variance requested by the YMCA for its Camp Chingachgook facility located on Lake George. The variance involves the replacement of a pre-existing one-story structure. The new structure will be used for camp operation purposes and to improve access to Lake George for participants in the Y-Knot Accessible Sailing Program. The project site is located in the Town of Fort Ann, Washington County.
The committee will consider Blue Line Development Group’s subdivision proposal for land in the Village of Tupper Lake, Franklin County. The project involves the subdivision of a 56±-acre parcel, involving class “1” wetlands and includes the construction of 13 townhouses with 49 total units. A dock would extend into Raquette Pond to accommodate 50 boats. The committee will also review a subdivision proposal for land in the Village of Lake Pleasant, Hamilton County owned by Agency Commissioner Frank Mezzano and consider accepting proposed General Permit Applications for installing new or replacement telecommunication towers at previously approved agency sites and change in use for existing commercial, public/semi-public or industrial buildings.
At 1:00 p.m., the State Land Committee will hear a presentation from Dr. Chad Dawson discussing roadside camping in the Adirondack Park. The committee will consider Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan compliance for a proposed amendment to the Northville Boat Launch Unit Management Plan. This unit is located in the Town of Northampton, Fulton County. The committee will then hear a first reading on reclassification proposals related to fire towers on St. Regis and Hurricane Mountains. The Board will take no action on the fire tower proposals this month.
At 2:30, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will consider approving a map amendment proposal for private lands located in the Town of Westport, Essex County. The proposal is for re-classifying approximately 25 acres of land from Resource Management to Hamlet.
At 4:00, the Full Agency will assemble to take action as necessary and conclude with committee reports, public and member comment.
Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website.
The next Agency meeting is October 14-15 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.
November Agency Meeting: November 18-19 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.
The political reality in America today is certainly distressing. We elect too many Republicans and Democrats who feel unable to reach across the party aisle towards each other, or to be even seen with one another for fear of being unelectable in their primaries. The same polarization can be found dividing environmental and conservation circles. Fortunately, I’ve known quite a few Adirondackers who relate to the person, not the label, and who share the Adirondack woods and waters as common ground. I wanted to write about two of them. Last night I read an entry in my journal about DEC Regional Director Tom Monroe’s retirement dinner in Lake Placid in early 1994. Tom had been Regional Director since the 1970s, still a time when DEC Regional Directors rose to that position through the civil service ranks, and who had considerable autonomy as a result. Put another way, these Regional Directors were forces unto themselves. That all ended by the time Tom Monroe retired. For good or ill, his able successors have been appointed by Commissioners, and ultimately answer to Governors, and enjoy far less autonomy.
I had gone to the dinner with my friend and associate Tom Cobb, who at the time was Park Manager with the State’s Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and Trustee of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, and who is now a Director of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve. Both Tom and I – and many others from all ends of the conservation spectrum – respected Tom Monroe. Environmental leaders sometimes had their reasons to distrust him. I remember an environmental colleague advising me “just make sure he is truly retired”! However, the respect came from the fact that Tom Monroe was completely his own person, and was seen to treat people equally, without favoritism. Tom did not suffer bullies easily, and there are many interesting stories about his time at DEC. This quality of perceived even-handedness brought a diverse crowd to his dinner. In my journal, I write: “I feel pretty good about going to a farewell dinner that brought together the likes of Bob Purdy (Supervisor of Keene), Peter Paine (member of the APA), Roger Dziengeleski (Woodlands Manager of Finch, Pruyn and Co.), Senator Ron Stafford and Tom (Cobb) and I in one place.”
These qualities of Tom Monroe reminded me of a woman attending his dinner who was beloved by sportsmen and women, and respected by elected leaders. She died late last year. Nellie Staves of Tupper Lake was a deeply rooted Adirondack conservationist who made friends and influenced people wherever she went. Elegant at an evening dinner one day, warmly clad to inspect her traps the next, she was comfortable being Nellie Staves. Like Tom Monroe, Nellie didn’t mind in the least whom she was seen with. I first met her in 1988 when, in a memorable few words to the Adirondack Park Agency, she made the case why wildlife mounts deserved to be a part of the soon- to- be opened Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Center at Paul Smith’s. Her presentation earned her an audience with Governor Mario Cuomo at the dedication of the VIC the next year. Years later another Governor, George Pataki, would dedicate the Wild Center (Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks) with its founding director, Nellie, at his side. In 2007, I was so grateful to Nellie for coming up to me after a fractious meeting about the Adirondack Club and Resort at the high school. “Good to see you in Tupper Lake, Dave,” she beamed.
One day at an Adirondack conference on Upper Saranac Lake, Nellie opened the back of her car and she invited our staff member and photographer Ken Rimany to look in: there were some of the world’s most beautiful depictions of wildlife drawn not on canvas, but on bracket fungi (“toadstools,” she said) once growing on great, craggy Adirondack trees. Ken was overwhelmed with her artistry. From that time on, their friendship grew and he was introduced to members of her family. With Ken’s encouragement and help, her artwork came to be featured in The Conservationist magazine – not once but several times.
Thanks to Nellie, we were introduced to some fine Adirondack people from diverse perspectives whom we learned to respect, people who shared Nellie’s sense of humor and gift for storytelling. What hearty laughter she induced in all who knew her. Thanks to Nellie, we learned not to take ourselves too seriously, to observe closely and be receptive to the unexpected. From her, we learned that those who know the most about the Adirondack woods, from its wilderness to its wildlife, to those who work in those woods also care very deeply about the future. Nellie helped us remember that those who log, fish, hunt, trap, create or teach in the Adirondacks have one great legacy to pass on: caring, understanding, knowledgeable, talented kids growing up on these lakes, or on the trails.
Photo:(Nellie Staves outside Tupper Lake High School
The Adirondack Park Agency’s (APA) revised regulatory definitions for “boathouse” and “dock” will become effective on September 21, 2010. The agency board approved the dock regulation at its May 2010 board meeting and the boathouse regulation at the June 2010 meeting.
In response to public comment, the board delayed implementation of the revised regulations until after the 2010 summer construction season. Therefore this definition change does not apply to new boathouses with in-water components such as support piers substantially underway pursuant to a Department of Environmental Conservation permit or docks lawfully in place on the effective date of September 21, 2010. In addition, the board modified the proposed regulations applying Lake George Park Commission dimensional requirements for boathouses and docks built within the Lake George basin. The regulatory change is prospective only. Lawfully existing boathouse structures may be repaired or replaced pursuant to Section 811 of the APA Act within the existing building envelope. An APA variance is required, however, to exceed the size parameters or expand a larger existing boathouse. Standard shoreline cutting and wetland jurisdictional thresholds still apply in all cases.
The revisions were undertaken as part of a statutorily required, five-year review and clarification of APA regulations following the 2002 promulgation of the current definitions. Additional changes were made as a result of public comment received during the rulemaking process.
The new regulatory definitions are:
Boathouse means a covered structure with direct access to a navigable body of water which (1) is used only for the storage of boats and associated equipment; (2) does not contain bathroom facilities, sanitary plumbing, or sanitary drains of any kind; (3) does not contain kitchen facilities of any kind; (4) does not contain a heating system of any kind; (5) does not contain beds or sleeping quarters of any kind; (6) does not exceed a single story in that the roof rafters rest on the top plate of the first floor wall, and all rigid roof surfaces have a minimum pitch of four on twelve, or, alternatively, one flat roof covers the entire structure; and (7) has a footprint of 1200 square feet or less measured at the exterior walls (or in the absence of exterior walls, at the perimeter of the roof), and a height of fifteen feet or less. For the purpose of this definition, the height of a boathouse shall be measured from the surface of the floor serving the boat berths to the highest point of the structure. The dimensional requirements specified herein shall not apply to a covered structure for berthing boats located within the Lake George Park, provided the structure is built or modified in accordance with a permit from the Lake George Park Commission and is located fully lake-ward of the mean high-water mark of Lake George.
Dock means a floating or fixed structure that: (1) extends horizontally (parallel with the water surface) into or over a lake, pond or navigable river or stream from only that portion of the immediate shoreline or boathouse necessary to attach the floating or fixed structure to the shoreline or boathouse; (2) is no more than eight feet in width, or, in the case of interconnected structures, intended to accommodate multiple watercraft or other authorized use, each element of which is no more than eight feet in width; and (3) is built or used for the purposes of securing and/or loading or unloading water craft and/or for swimming or water recreation. A permanent supporting structure located within the applicable setback area which is used to suspend a dock above water level for storage by means of a hoist or other mechanical device is limited to not more than 100 square feet, measured in the aggregate if more than one such supporting structure is used. A dock must remain parallel with the water when suspended for storage, unless the size of the total structure does not exceed 100 square feet. Mechanisms necessary to hoist or suspend the dock must be temporary and must be removed during the boating season.
Contact APA’s jurisdictional office at (518) 891-4050, or email [email protected] with any questions about the new definitions.
The APA statutes and regulations are meant to protect water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing structure setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions. Boathouses, docks and other structures less than 100 square feet are exempt from the shoreline setback requirements.
Shorelines are important to the Adirondack Park’s communities and environment. The dynamic ecosystems that edge Adirondack Park lakes, wetlands, rivers, and streams are critical to both terrestrial and aquatic species. Well-vegetated shorelines serve as buffer strips, protecting banks from erosion, safeguarding water quality, cooling streams, and providing some of the Park’s most productive wildlife habitat.
Large structures and intensive use at the shoreline cause unnecessary erosion and adverse impacts to these critical areas.
The New York State Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have extended the public comment period for the comprehensive, integrated management actions proposed for the Moose River Plains Wild Forest.
The agencies recently held three public hearings on these actions and determined, based on public input, that additional time is warranted for public comment. The public comment period is now extended to September 17, 2010. » Continue Reading.
Politicians often complain that the Adirondack Park is over-regulated, but a case can be made that in some respects the Park is under-regulated.
All it takes is one house on a mountaintop or ridge to spoil a wild vista, and yet the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), which was created to safeguard the region’s natural resources, has no regulations aimed at protecting the uplands from unsightly development. The uplands are clearly at risk. Given that most of the Park’s private waterfront has been developed, people with money are turning to the next best thing: a big home on a hill with a commanding view.
An article by George Earl in the September/October issue of the Adirondack Explorer reveals that dozens of conspicuous homes—visible from roads and trails—have been built in the uplands of Keene over the past few decades. And that’s just one town. The same kind of development is occurring in other parts of the Park, most notably around Lake George.
The APA does have tools to protect uplands when it has jurisdiction over a project. For example, it can require that a house be screened by trees or situated to minimize its visual impact.
The problem is that the APA often lacks jurisdiction. The agency does have the authority to review projects above the 2,500-foot contour, but this is essentially meaningless. APA spokesman Keith McKeever could not think of a single house built above that elevation, not even in Keene (“The Home of the High Peaks”). Near Lake George, Black Mountain is the only summit that exceeds 2,500 feet, and it lies within the state-owned Forest Preserve. In short, all the development around Lake George and the rest of the Park takes place below the 2,500-foot contour.
The APA also has jurisdiction when a house is built on property classified as Resource Management—the strictest of the agency’s six zoning categories for private land. Much of the Park’s uplands fall within this classification, but many stick-out homes are built on less-regulated lands where the APA does not automatically have jurisdiction.
Finally, the APA lacks jurisdiction even in Resource Management lands (as well as other lands) if a home is built in a subdivision approved before the agency’s creation.
Most of the Park’s towns lack zoning rules or the expertise to deal with upland development. So it’s up to the APA to address the problem. It will be difficult politically and technically. Even the definition of “upland” is tricky in a region where the elevation ranges from 95 feet at Lake Champlain to 5,344 feet at the top of Mount Marcy.
If nothing is done, however, we’ll continue to see a degradation of the Park’s wild character. It’s said that you can’t eat the scenery, but this isn’t true. Natural beauty is an economic asset that has been drawing tourists to the region for well over a century. For this reason, too, the uplands should be protected.
The Adirondack Park Agency has announced the promotion of Richard E. Weber to serve as the Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs. Mr. Weber fills the position vacated by the retirement of long serving Deputy Director Mark Sengenberger. Mr. Weber’s appointment is effective immediately.
As Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs, Mr. Weber will supervise a staff of 12 who are responsible for implementing the statutory and regulatory provisions of the Adirondack Park Agency Act, the Freshwater Wetlands Act, and the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System Act. Regulatory Program Division responsibilities include pre-application project guidance and assessment, application completeness determinations, applying review standards and preparing permits, variances or denial orders. From January 1st, through August 12, 2010, the Regulatory Program Division received 257 project applications and issued 244 permits. In addition, staff participated in 112 pre-application meetings.
Mr. Weber was originally hired by the Adirondack Park Agency in November, 2002 and served in the Planning Division as Supervisor for Regional Planning. He was promoted to Assistant Director for Planning in April, 2008.
Prior to joining the APA, Mr. Weber directed multi-disciplinary design teams for professional consulting firms. His responsibilities included site plan design, environmental planning, contract administration, visual impact assessment, land use planning, permit application preparation and development of Geographic Information Systems.
Mr. Weber became a registered Landscape Architect in November 1980 and served as a Planning Board member for the Town of Galway, Saratoga County in July 2002. He graduated from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry and received a Masters of Landscape Architecture from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources.
In a statement for the media, Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs Richard Weber said, “The Adirondack Park always represented to me an opportunity to get it right. I see the Park as a place where open space and community intersect to the benefit of people and nature. It is a great responsibility and honor to serve as the Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs. I will strive to do my best to achieve the legislative mandate of the Adirondack Park Agency Act to balance natural resource protection with the sustainability of the Park’s 103 municipalities.”
Pursuant to Executive Order No. 25 issued by Governor Paterson, all New York agencies are required to conduct a regular review of their regulations to ensure that they are current, reflect available technologies, establish clear standards, avoid undue burdens and are as flexible as feasible.
Accordingly, the New York State Adirondack Park Agency invites comments from regulated entities and interested parties to identify existing regulations that impose unnecessary, burdensome or excessive costs, paperwork, reporting or other requirements. The Agency’s regulations are contained in Subtitle Q of Title 9 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (9 NYCRR), which may be accessed on the New York State Department of State website.
The Adirondack Park Agency requests public comment which describe and quantify any burdens and suggests appropriate remedies that the agency may undertake to eliminate or amend regulations that are unnecessary, unbalanced, unwise, duplicative or unduly burdensome.
Public comments must be received on or before October 18, 2010. Submit comments in writing to:
Adirondack Park Agency Attn: APA-Executive Order No. 25 PO Box 99 NYS Route 86 Ray Brook, New York 12977
In addition, comments may be submitted electronically at the following e-mail addresses: [email protected]; and to Gaurav Vasisht at [email protected]; and to the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Reform at [email protected]
Michael Foxman invariably exudes confidence in his proposed Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake, and elicits great loyalty from many in the community who have a legitimate interest in reopening the Big Tupper ski center.
For all that, in my five years of observation he is one poor negotiator. Since the first conference between Mr. Foxman, APA and potential parties to a public hearing in April 2007, he has been unable or unwilling to substantively negotiate two major problems with what he wants to do: the lack of a permanent open space protection component in his proposals and his inability to allay concerns for water quality impacts from sewage, stormwater and steep slope development. He blames “the process” for his inability to make much forward progress. From the beginning in 2005, he proved unable to win the trust of his neighbors, including abutters of Oval Wood Dish who happen to provide much of Tupper Lake’s drinking water. His payment in lieu of taxes scheme raised questions about fairness to taxing districts and residents. He paid for independent economic consultants ordered by the Town, and when he didn’t like their concerns, he temporarily stopped paying them. Despite the great recession, he seems supremely confident in his plan, the market value of the properties, resort markets, sales projections, and, ostensibly, the great tax boon this will be for Tupper Lake some day.
Fourteen months of mediation, the process he favored, resulted in useful exchange, yet few results. Overall, in the forty-two months since the hearing was ordered, he is not even close to a permit, or shown through detailed engineering how to get water onto the mountain and waste water off of it, or how he will pay for miles of infrastructure for a second village in Tupper Lake – for second home owners.
Once he exercises his option to acquire the bulk of the land from Oval Wood Liquidating Trust, Mr. Foxman may re-sell the properties to others. He will only exercise the option with that invaluable APA permit in hand. That permit can only be issued based on review of a lengthy public hearing record. That record will be developed at great expense over many months, and rests upon the ten hearing issues raised by the APA in its Feb 2007 decision to go to hearing, but undoubtedly other issues will be shown to be highly relevant, including energy, and wildlife impacts. The Law Judge in the case has to rule on each additional issue. Weeks of discovery, the process by which the parties to the APA hearing gain access to pertinent documents, are likely. Finally, it seems no hearing can start until the APA finds that Foxman and the LA Group have done the necessary engineering studies and completed detailed drawings of the water, stormwater, sewer, electrical and road systems.
Apparently the applicant has now delivered these to the APA, only to raise other impediments to starting the hearing process, principally his alleged future right to access and build on the Moody Pond Tract over lands owned by The Adirondack Conservancy. Meanwhile, the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency and Legislature must rule on the private bonds to pay for the tens of millions in new infrastructure.
ACR is not the biggest threat in the history of the Park. Horizon Corp would have built 10,000 homes in Colton, Ton-da-lay several thousand just north of Tupper Lake. That was all when the APA was brand new. After lengthy legal action, State objections to water supply and quality issues, and economic downturns, these behemoths were never built. Yet, this is the largest project to go to an APA adjudicatory public hearing, and tests the APA’s interpretation of the Act severely when it comes to the purpose of Resource Management lands, energy issues and fiscal and other burdens and benefits on a local community.
Were Mr. Foxman an experienced, well financed and Park-aware negotiator, had the housing bubble not burst into full recession, were the APA less risk averse, the public hearing called in 2007 might be over and a decision already reached.
My hope: a productive community dialogue on the future of these lands would occur. The housing component of the project would be downsized and largely concentrated around the base of Mt. Morris on good soils and with easier access for village services, with a wide protective buffer around Lake Simond and over 2000 acres of the project area, including Cranberry Pond, permanently protected, publicly accessible open space, a mix of conservation easement and Forest Preserve. Certified forestry, and public recreation would be encouraged, skiing started without the need to sell 38 (or whatever the number is now) great camp lots, posted signs few, and full taxes paid. My vision is hardly the right one, and may be unachievable. I do know that we are at least another year away from the APA’s review of any public hearing record.
Photo: View from Mt. Morris looking towards Tupper Lake.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, August 12 and Friday August 13, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY.
The Agency will consider a third renewal for the Westport Development Park’s commercial/industrial use permit, a shoreline structure setback variance for Camp Chingachgook on Lake George, a Benson Mines wind project, Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan compliance for the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP, Champlain-Hudson Power Express’s proposed 300-mile, 2,000-MW electric transmission line from Canada to New York City via Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, a memorandum of understanding between the Adirondack Park Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation concerning State-owned conservation easements on private lands within the Adirondack Park, and the Route 3 Travel Corridor Management Plan. Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website. » Continue Reading.