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With big vote close, pressure is on APA

2012-01-02T14:01:00Z 2012-01-02T18:44:50Z With big vote close, pressure is on APAJON ALEXANDER - jalexander@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
January 02, 2012 2:01 pm  • 

Criticism of Adirondack Park Agency project review is ramping up as the controversial land-use regulatory agency moves closer to the up or down vote on the largest-ever development proposed in the park. And people in and around the agency have said that discussions about changing how the APA undertakes its core mission have commenced.

It's been more than eight years since developers Preserve Associates submitted plans for the 700-unit, 6,400-acre Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake. Years of mediation and adjudicatory hearings, involving dozens of interested parties, have produced a 10,000-page record that APA commissioners have just three months to consider before issuing a decision.

Commissioners are expected to vote on the project later this month.

But local government officials and environmentalists argue the process leading up to this point has exposed significant holes in APA review.

Adirondack Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe said the years of rehashing and redesigning the project have cost developers millions of dollars, which will discourage further investment in the Adirondacks.

The two-day monthly APA meetings have since November focused solely on the high-end Club and Resort proposal.

The APA, reacting to criticisms of past discussions its staff members have held with interested parties outside of the public record, has split its staff into two parts - the review staff, which has spent years combing through the massive record; and the executive staff, which is presenting the project to commissioners.

Monroe noted that commissioners have frequently asked questions that couldn't be answered by the staff tasked with explaining the project. All the while, those who could answer had to sit in the back of the room and refrain from comment.

"It should be like how projects are presented to local planning boards. The sponsor presents the project and answers any questions," Monroe said. "To me, that's better than what's going on now."

Since its inception in the early ‘70s, the APA has been accused of employing draconian, anti-business practices. But the agency has gone out of its way over the last several years to change its image, promoting itself as a user-friendly environmental agency.

Over the last two years, pro-project advocacy groups in Tupper Lake have taken over local politics and blasted anyone who has said the resort could expose the community to risk.

The mounting political pressure has environmental groups convinced the project is rocketing toward APA approval. Some environmental groups have argued the project's effect on the environment have been inadequately examined.

Last month, APA staff reported to commissioners that Preserve Associates hasn't fully addressed questions of how the Adirondack Club and Resort will affect the environment, especially in terms of wilderness fragmentation and stormwater runoff.

Environmental group Adirondack Wild, citing the staff's concerns, petitioned the APA last week to reopen the hearings.

Green groups contend the process used to review the controversial development is flawed.

"The APA executive staff are trying to persuade the agency board to make a blind inductive leap by purporting that open space, natural and wildlife resources are adequately protected with no basis for this conclusion," said Bob Glennon, Adirondack Wild's advisor and the former executive director of the APA.

An approval of the project is expected to lead to a rush of lawsuits against the agency.

Sources close to the story said APA officials have been meeting with representatives from local governments and discussing revisions to the agency's project review practices.

APA spokesman Keith McKeever declined comment when asked about the push to alter how the agency approaches its fundamental land use mission. He said no internal discussions about potential changes to project review procedures were ongoing.

Green groups and local governments would like to see very different changes to the APA's project review, although both see problems with the process.

"Each one of these people have questions," Monroe said of Commissioners. "They can't even get an answer."

 

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(7) Comments

  1. brian
    Report Abuse
    brian - January 03, 2012 10:05 pm
    Nice hatchet job on what was supposed to be an objective news story.
  2. lauren
    Report Abuse
    lauren - January 03, 2012 10:03 pm
    http://poststar.com/news/local/nine-years-later-road-s-closure-irks-residents/article_7bdf2081-c56d-5bd2-86f5-b2a45364db7e.html

    In that link we see how a small town board operates. All it takes is a little pull here or there and they can be talked into anything; or nothing.
  3. loneoak
    Report Abuse
    loneoak - January 03, 2012 7:41 am
    Get rid of the APA, the state has an agency to deal with these issues, DEC. Let local officials determine the projects benefits and flaws follow the proceedures and make a freakin decision, 8 years, are you kidding me. Talk about a waste of tax payers money. Why do these environmentalist obstruct the process by continuing with law suits after they don't get their way. How about the economy of upstate areas, as long as protocal is followed with local laws and regulations this should have been a done deal long ago. Over 2 million acres already, the state buying more land each year, isn't that enough land for environmentalists to roam about in the splendor of nature?
  4. MaketheSense
    Report Abuse
    MaketheSense - January 03, 2012 7:25 am
    boston said: "Abolish the APA. Where is the representative government we are suppose to have? What about the seperation of powers? Government by the consent of the governed? Abolish the APA and never vote for any candidate that does not vote to abolish it. "

    This does not reflect well on the process, "Monroe noted that commissioners have frequently asked questions that couldn't be answered by the staff tasked with explaining the project. All the while, those who could answer had to sit in the back of the room and refrain from comment."

    "Green groups and local governments would like to see very different changes to the APA's project review, although both see problems with the process.
    "Each one of these people have questions," Monroe said of Commissioners. "They can't even get an answer." "

    Answers available yet can't speak, questions asked and met with silence.

    We were told Cuomo's appointment of a new chairperson would remedy these type of complaints ?
  5. iamamom
    Report Abuse
    iamamom - January 02, 2012 6:18 pm
    The problem here is the environmental groups (with all the money) who DO NOT LIVE here but want to govern by absentia. These groups push their agenda on people who are trying to survive and make a living in Tupper Lake. This project will attract new projects and people willing to invest in a town that truly needs help. If you don't live in Tupper Lake, then you should not get a vote or even a say. Let the people who live there make their own decisions. Tupper Lake does not need to be "saved" by these groups. Move on, APA approve this project.
  6. boston
    Report Abuse
    boston - January 02, 2012 5:41 pm
    Abolish the APA. Where is the representative government we are suppose to have? What about the seperation of powers? Government by the consent of the governed? More like political tyrannts. Abolish the APA and never vote for any candidate that does not vote to abolish it.
  7. sstranahan
    Report Abuse
    sstranahan - January 02, 2012 3:05 pm
    The problem here is lack of citizen input.More people need to show interest in these meetings. After all, this is a time when Adirondack residents are facing higher taxes and job loss.We The People of Rural America must step up to the plate.We can no longer ignore the fact that these jobs are necessary for our survival and our childrens' future!We have for some time now allowed citizens property rights to be trampled on by out of town,non residents ,who desire to make a home for our children void of all employment.turn our private property into a private park for themselves with no access for others and restrictions for the rightful owners.

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