Locals, environmentalists spar over Park's future

RAY BROOK - After three legislative bills dealing with the Adirondack Park Agency failed to garner state Assembly sponsorship earlier this year, Agency Chairman Curt Stiles is now seeking input from local governments and environmentalists on re-drafting the APA Act.

And with the potential rewriting of the agency's legal foundation, representatives from various groups are outlining what they would like to see changed in the APA.

If adopted by state legislators, amendments to the APA Act could drastically alter the mode and operation of the agency and its authority over private lands in the Park.

These stakeholders apparently have long lists of aspects they would like to see changed.

Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan said Monday that his environmental group would like to see more teeth put into APA enforcement.

Unlike most land-use authorities, APA enforcement personnel typically cannot issue tickets for obvious violations. Instead, costly and lengthy hearings result when enforcers report infractions.

The Council would like to have APA enforcers empowered to issue tickets or stop work orders on-site similar to other municipal zoning officers.

Of primary interest to the Council is a provision in the affordable housing bill that would institute an agency subdivision permit fee. Most zoning regulating agencies charge fees for the permit process. The APA currently doesn't charge a review fee and the permitting costs are now shouldered by state taxpayers. The housing bill is one of the three APA-related bills now stalled in the state Legislature. But if the bill did pass, such a fee would be instituted for large-scale subdivisions.

"Especially for big projects, which take years in review, some kind of modest fee seems reasonable," Sheehan said. "Otherwise the people of the State of New York are subsidizing the cost."

In early October, Stiles issued a request for input from local governments regarding changes to the APA Act. In response, the Adirondack Local Government Review Board and the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages drafted a 16-page response, detailing numerous historical gripes that have long split local officials and the APA.

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