APA chairman Stiles willing to compromise, looking toward reform

RAY BROOK - Adirondack Park Agency Chairman Curt Stiles said this week he's willing to consider some changes to the APA Act, including one that would doubtlessly delight many local leaders.

In a commentary released Friday, Stiles wrote that moving enforcement hearings into local courts is a concept with merit.

"The use of the local court system for enforcement cases is one idea which merits further discussion," Stiles said.

Local officials argue that the agency's current role of assessing a landowner's compliance with APA regulations, then holding quasi-judicial hearings, determining guilt and imposing fines amounts to one board acting as judge, jury and executioner.

Most violations never reach the enforcement phase, however, as landowners and agency staff are usually able to negotiate a resolution.

According to the annual 2009 APA report, agency staff resolved about 550 cases, while only a handful moved into enforcement proceedings.

In a recent state Supreme Court decision, Acting Justice Richard Meyer concluded that the APA Enforcement Committee and its Chairman, Commissioner Cecil Wray, had overstepped its legal bounds when it attempted to impose jurisdiction over the building rights of town of Essex farmer and former Wall Street executive Sandy Lewis.

The agency is currently championing three legislative bills that would amend the APA act. Two of the bills - a community housing bill and a planning fund bill - have garnered support from local governments and officials.

"As an administrative agency, the APA has an established role in the revisions and definitions of its rules and regulations," Stiles said.

A third bill meant to streamline the agency application review process has come under greater scrutiny, especially a provision that would remove the agency's requirement for a public hearing during an application review.

The three bills have gained Democratic support in the state Senate and have been sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Carl Kruger.

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