Enforcement cases on decline at APA

RAYBROOK - The number of Adirondack Park Agency enforcement cases against property owners is in decline and the agency is pointing to a better use of technology.

In 2008, the regional zoning authority opened 496 costly enforcement cases against landowners seeking to subdivide their property without APA input.

That number dropped to 467 in 2009 and - as of the end of October - just 392 cases have been opened this year.

APA spokesman Keith McKeever said the decline in enforcement actions is a result of the agency's use of subdivision data collected by the state Office of Real Property Services.

"We're working with the Office of Real Property Services. They have a computer system that we have access to so that we see when subdivisions occur," he said. "We are able to get to people before they move to far along and put in roads and the kinds of land use and development that are expensive."

The agency has had access to the massive ORPS database since 2005.

And with the ORPS data, McKeever said the APA is getting to landowners before the violation occurs. Landowners can then apply for an after-the-fact permit before a pricey violation occurs.

"We're finding we're able to go to them now before any of that type of land use development occurs," he said. "It's better for the land owner and it's better for the agency."

The most common enforcement action at the agency occurs when landowners subdivide property into substandard lots - particularly lots with soil not deemed suitable for septic systems.

And McKeever said another factor in the decline is a greater awareness of APA jurisdiction among landowners and developers.

"People in real estate and development professionals are becoming aware and maybe doing a bit more due diligence to get people in here for jurisdictional determinations," he said.

But with environmental agencies shouldering a significant share of the state's budget crisis, other factors could be at play in the decline.

According to a memo released in advance of this week's monthly meeting, APA enforcement staff has only conducted 216 site visits so far in 2010. That's down from 426 the previous year.

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