For Immediate Release
March 08, 2021
Contact: David Gibson, 518-469-4081
APA Set to Approve More Adirondack Park Sprawl.
New Subdivision Will Harm Lake, Forest, Wildlife Habitats.
Urgent Need for new Legislation.
Northampton, NY — This coming Friday the NYS Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is poised to approve, with conditions, 32 new second home lots, driveways and septic tanks surrounding a private, 100-acre, shallow Woodward Lake in Fulton County. The sprawling subdivision will be approved within the two most protective land use classifications under the APA Act adopted by the State Legislature in 1973, Rural Use and Resource Management.
The project has been extremely controversial. 37 public comment letters have been sent to the APA over the past two years objecting to this subdivision’s layout. Every letter appealed to the APA to redesign the development to be more protective of the lake, the streams, the wetlands, the wildlife or to hold a public hearing that could result in a design that spatially fit better within a sensitive aquatic and forested environment.
One of the many comments submitted was from Richard Hoffman, a former planner and member of the Adirondack Park Agency. “The subdivision proposal is a completely conventional design that seeks to maximize the developer’s goals rather than minimize environmental impacts,” Hoffman wrote.
“Instead, APA failed to hold a hearing and so far has ignored all of these public comment letters asking the agency to do the right thing here,” said David Gibson, managing partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve. “Instead, this lake’s wetlands and water quality are severely imperiled by what is about to be authorized by the agency responsible for resource protection and long-range planning in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park.” The project has no public sewer or water service and relies entirely on private wells and septic tanks.
The permit also subdivides and fragments the surrounding 1,000 acres of upland forest adjacent to the public’s Forest Preserve. The private forest is classified Resource Management and intended by law to be managed for forestry, agriculture, and open space recreation. Instead, the subdivision carves up that forest into seven smaller, separate lots making them far less useful and manageable.
It was not meant to be this way. The application, first submitted in 2018 by developers New York Land and Lakes, was the first to be reviewed under the APA’s heralded Large-Scale Subdivision rules intended to protect natural resources, avoid forest fragmentation, avoid spreading out of negative impacts of new houses and roads, and concentrate development near infrastructure, thus helping the environment and the economic bottom line of the project. The idea is to avoid spreading of impacts and to protect natural features before lot and road locations are surveyed and set in stone.
“APA staff spent two and a half years trying extremely hard to persuade this developer to pull the houses and driveways closer together so that the overall impacts overlapped rather than spread out across the lake and the forest. The overlapping of impact areas and avoidance of sensitive locations are basic to principles of conservation design and the APA’s 2018 rules,” Gibson added. “APA staff tried. The problem is that the developer argued, delayed and outlasted them.”
“The APA large-scale subdivision rules failed because they have no teeth in them and rely on staff suggesting improvements to a developer. He simply outlasted the APA and stonewalls the discussion with never any intention of agreeing to staff ideas.”
“The APA permit set to be approved this week by the full agency doesn’t even mention the fact that the subdivision was reviewed under the 2018 more protective rules,” Gibson added. “It’s as if they decided that since they did not work, why mention them? Clearly, APA is afraid to admit the failure of this first test case of their all-voluntary approach to conservation design of development.”
“It is now clear to everybody that the force of new legislation requiring conservation design is absolutely necessary. A new legal mandate is the only way to direct Adirondack developers towards true conservation design of large developments like this one. Conservation subdivision design must become the default legal standard for the Park.”
That legislation, Assembly Bill 4074 (Assemblyman Englebright) and Senate Bill 1145 (Senator Kaminsky), is pending in Albany. After a year of intense negotiation, in 2020 the bill earned the support of a diverse coalition comprised of environmental groups, local government leaders, and forest industry leaders.
“The coalition supported the bill in 2020 because conceptual designs that result in natural resource conservation while keeping much of the land intact and useful for forestry and open space recreation makes a great deal of practical, economic and environmental sense,” added Adirondack Wild’s Gibson. “APA voluntary standards have proven toothless. Another Adirondack lake and useful forest is about to be needlessly broken up by development. It’s urgent that the bill be approved and sent to the governor for signing this year.”
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is a not-for-profit, membership organization which acts on behalf of wilderness and wild land values and stewardship throughout the state. More on the web: www.adirondackwild.org.