John Ernst, Chair, Members and Designees
NYS Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977
Dear Chairman Ernst, Members, and Designees,

Letter to APA Re. Adjudicatory Public Hearings

The undersigned organizations and individuals have great concerns about the spread of adverse environmental impacts across the Adirondack Park and what appears to be an ongoing resistance by the Agency to hold adjudicatory public hearings under its regulatory criteria.

A number of high-profile, complex land use and development projects with a high degree of public interest and with a likelihood of creating a variety of adverse impacts in the Adirondack Park are now in a pre-application or incomplete application status at the agency.

For example:

  • a 75-100 lot resort subdivision in Low Intensity Use in Jay near the Ausable River;
  • a significant mine expansion in Resource Management and Industrial Use adjacent to the Siamese Ponds Wilderness in Johnsburg;
  • a 10-lot subdivision in Rural Use above Lake Vanare in Lake Luzerne;
  • a large concrete boat ramp and retaining wall in Resource Management on the shores of Lake Champlain;
  • a 35-megawatt solar facility in Rural Use, Town of Saranac;
  • A variety of other projects could be cited as well.

Many of these meet your Part 580 regulatory criteria for an adjudicatory hearing. Our concern is that the Agency will continue to waive the opportunity to hold such hearings for large, complex projects possessing adverse impacts and a significant degree of public interest, a pattern since 2011 when the last Agency adjudicatory public hearing was convened.

Since 2011 many projects amply met your hearing criteria but failed to be sent to adjudication. These included Highland Farmers LLC subdivision in Keene, the Zip-Flyer on French Mountain in Lake George, Woodworth Lake subdivision in Benson, Woodward Lake subdivision in Northhampton, Barile Family subdivision in North Elba and, most recently, Red Rock Quarry at White Lake in Forestport. In fact, one is on your agenda this month (aquatic herbicide treatments, Lake George Park Commission).

Staff comments on public hearing criteria at the December 2021 meeting suggest that large, complex projects are only recommended for adjudication when there are “gaps in information” presented by the applicant or when staff anticipate that “six or more members of the agency will not recommend approval.”

In fact, under Part 580 of Agency regulations staff and/or the board may recommend a
hearing based on:

  • project size and complexity measured by cost, area, effect on localities or uniqueness of resources affected,
  • degree of public interest as evidenced by communication in Agency files,
  • the presence of significant issues,
  • the possibility that approval be conditioned only upon major modifications or substantial conditions,
  • the possibility that hearing information would aid the agency in its review.

There is no legal requirement that a project meet each and every one of the regulatory criteria to be sent to adjudication.

During 2022 and beyond, it is of the utmost importance that Agency executive staff, members and designees publicly discuss all adjudicatory hearing regulatory criteria in relation to all large, complex projects with a high degree of public interest so that the possibility exists to bring them to adjudication, and thus to impose substantial conditions, major modifications or, as may be warranted, project denial without prejudice to the applicants.

Thank you very much for considering our concerns.

Willie Janeway, Executive Director
The Adirondack Council

David Gibson, Managing Partner
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve

Kate Kurera, Deputy Director
Environmental Advocates NY

Roger Downs, Conservation Director
Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter

Chad Dawson, Board Director, Adirondack Wild
Former Member, NYS Adirondack Park Agency

Cc: Barbara Rice, Executive Director
Robert Lore, Deputy Director, Regulatory Programs
Megan Phillips, Deputy Director, Planning
Chris Cooper, Counsel
Ashley Dougherty, Executive Chamber
Rajiv Shah, Executive Chamber