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APA to seek subdivision violators

RAY BROOK The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has announced proactive subdivision enforcement, using a state-wide real estate database to track new subdivisions to find violations. Landowners in the Adirondack Park and professionals involved in land transactions are strongly encouraged to seek APA jurisdictional advice before proceeding with subdivisions. The failure to do so may result in enforcement action requiring the undoing of the subdivision along with penalties for violating the law. Illegal subdivisions can result in adverse impacts to the parks natural resources, open space character, and community character as well as create potential public health risks. They also hurt innocent buyers who purchase the illegal lots and are faced with having to resolve the violations. The APA Act defines subdivisions broadly as the division of land involving two or more lots, parcels, or sites whether adjoining or not for the purpose of sale, lease, license, or any form of separate ownership or occupancy. Gov. Spitzers 2007 budget included resources to hire additional staff, including two new enforcement officers. This allowed the APA to restructure its enforcement division and assign two enforcement officers to proactively monitor subdivisions on a monthly basis to discover violations. When violations are found, the seller and the buyer are required to undo their illegal subdivision, and may also have to pay penalties for the violation. Staff have begun using a statewide real estate transaction database to find new subdivisions in the Park. They then enter the tax parcel numbers for new subdivisions into their Geographic Information System (GIS) to determine whether the subdivision may be a violation. When GIS indicates a potential violation, staff reviews agency files to determine whether the subdivision was authorized by the APA. If not, the sellers and buyers in the potentially illegal subdivision are notified that an enforcement investigation is being undertaken. Violations are pursued promptly to ensure that no environmental harm occurs to the land, that the land is not further subdivided, and that the illegal lots are not sold to innocent buyers. Whenever possible, staff require the illegal subdivision to be undone. In addition, they seek penalties under appropriate circumstances. If the violators do not cooperate, the violation is referred to the Enforcement Committee for decision. The failure to comply with an Enforcement Committee decision may lead to court action brought by the Attorney General on the APAs behalf. The APAs goal is to prevent illegal subdivisions from occurring. The need for this more pro-active approach is underscored by the approximately 600 older subdivision violations currently on the APAs enforcement case docket. Many of these violations involve inappropriate development and/or further illegal subdivision. In the bulk of these violations, the illegal lots have been sold to innocent purchasers who now bear the burden of resolving a violation they did not commit. Only by stopping these violations from occurring, or finding them soon after the violation occurs, can these problems be avoided and future violations deterred. To help achieve this goal the APA is publicly announcing this initiative to encourage landowners in the park and the professionals who assist them with subdivisions, namely realtors, lawyers, surveyors, and code enforcement officers to advise their clients to seek an APA permit before undertaking a jurisdictional subdivision inside the Adirondack Park. The public can obtain a legal determination from the APA as to whether a permit is required for a proposed subdivisions. Please contact the Agencys Jurisdiction Inquiry Office at 891-4050 to discuss proposed subdivisions. For a formal, written determination, jurisdictional Inquiry Forms are downloadable from apa.state.ny.us/Forms/jiform.pdf. Staff is also available for jurisdictional workshops which clarify APA rules and regulations regarding subdivisions and other jurisdictional activities. These workshops may also provide continuing education credits.

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