Proposed APA policy changes raise ire of local officials

ALBANY - The Adirondack Park Agency is proposing to tighten some of its development restrictions, and local government officials are fuming that the agency is improperly expanding its authority while threatening to throttle the regional economy.

The APA is considering a policy change that would mandate that all cases of expansion of existing waterfront homes would require APA site plan review and a variance, area government officials said Monday.

Presently, waterfront homes built prior to 1973 may be expanded without agency review if the expansion doesn't reduce the structure's distance to the waterfront. Expansion to the side and rear has been allowed without agency oversight.

But area government officials say such a policy change is substantial, and must be decided by the state Legislature and not by the agency's commissioners, Warren County Board of Supervisor's Chairman Fred Monroe said Monday.

This proposed change and other ever-tightening regulations of the Park Agency are hampering the ability for contractors to stay in business, and the construction industry is a mainstay of the region, Monroe said.

The proposed rule changes would effect thousands of existing structures that are near shorelines of 3,000 lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks as well as along about 31,000 miles of riverfront, Monroe said.

With the sagging economy crimping home contractors and hundreds of construction workers now laid off or unemployed, tighter restrictions aren't appropriate, Monroe said.

"If the APA adopts these policy changes and they don't routinely approve variances, it could be devastating to the construction industry here," he said. "Also, this policy change represents a huge jurisdictional grab because it's bypassing a vote of the state Legislature."

But APA spokesman Keith McKeever said Tuesday that the pending changes were not major, but were merely "clarifications of definitions."

"We needed to change language in the regulations that allowed inconsistencies," he said.

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