Little seeks to rein in APA enforcement

ALBANY - State Sen. Elizabeth O'C. Little, R-Queensbury, recently scored a policy victory, advancing legislation that would impose a 10-year statute of limitations on the enforcement abilities of the Adirondack Park Agency over private property issues.

Little said the amendment to state executive law would remove a burden from many landowners in the park, especially those who purchased property with outstanding violations.

"Someone buys a property - sometimes an older home - in the

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Adirondacks and they want to add on to it or make some changes and they call on the APA to come out and give them the permit then they find that the deck is too large, the lot is too small or it's too close to the water," Little said, noting that she's heard of cases in which such violations related to actions by landowners 20 or 30 years prior.

If passed in the Assembly and signed into law, the measure would allow APA enforcement staff no more than 10 years after a violation is committed to discover and prosecute the offending property owner.

Local governments have long sought limitations on the amount of time the agency has before undergoing an enforcement action against private property owners.

"We've seen walls, we've seen decks and foundations that were too close to the water," Little said.

The APA statute of limitations bill - which has been weaving its way through Senate committees for 18 months - seeks to require state regulators to undertake enforcement actions in a timely manner and requires them to discover violations within that time limit.

The APA can currently undertake enforcement proceedings against any structure built after the agency was founded in 1973.

The proposed amendment includes a due diligence clause for local governmental inspectors.

Little argues the legislation could streamline agency operations by eliminating some of its regulatory burdens.

She also notes it could lead to more problems being solved because a new property owner wouldn't have to fear stiff fines when they want to alter their property.

"Sometimes when someone is doing something they don't call the APA for the permit and then no one ever sees something is wrong," she said. "They hesitate to do that because of the cost involved and there may be a violation discovered."

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