Clear-cut shoreline sparks dispute

WESTPORT - The Adirondack Park Agency and the town of Westport are working to correct a situation involving a property owner who they feel has violated development restrictions.

In 2005, George Guy Lever, the president of a private real-estate and corporate management company in Montreal, purchased an empty lakefront lot in Westport with the intent of building a house and other structures there.

The lot was part of the Starbuck Subdivision, a plan to separate three undeveloped lakefront

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properties along Furnace Point Lane. The plan was approved by the Westport Planning Board in 2004 and included specified footprints where future buildings could be constructed.

Though the reasons are unclear, the present absence of trees on Lever's lot as compared to just a few years ago is extremely visible, and has drawn the attention of both the town and the Adirondack Park Agency.

According to minutes from Westport Planning Board meetings, Lever claimed that an April 2007 mudslide not only brought down trees along the steep slope leading down to the lake, but also compromised part of the area where he was allowed to build. He has claimed that the work done on his lot was to remediate erosion problems.

"Mr. Lever has done no development of his lot," said Lever's attorney, John Privitera. "All he has done, at great expense, is to stabilize his lot since the first mudslide under a professional erosion control plan that was approved, and lauded, by all state and local authorities."

Lever submitted a proposed site plan to the planning board in October 2008 that included a house within the specified building envelope, as well as a garage, gazebo, and boat house elsewhere on the lot. None of the buildings have yet been built.

The APA has restrictions that prohibit the clearing of vegetation from more than 30 percent of a shoreline on a given lot or 30 percent of mature trees from within 35 feet of a shoreline during a 10-year period. The agency also prohibits cutting of trees in preparation for a project that has not yet been permitted.

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