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Adirondack Park rules need some updating

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Jim LaValley of Tupper Lake mentioned the Adirondack Council in his letter to the editor May 17 concerning the Adirondack Club and Resort project, recently approved by the Adirondack Park Agency. While Mr. LaValley was correct in stating that the Adirondack Council did not oppose the APA’s decision, he was incorrect in stating why.

The Adirondack Council felt that the Tupper project had met the bare minimum of the standards set by the state Legislature for development inside the Adirondack Park. But those standards are not very good. They were set in 1971. They have not been updated since then. About 40 years ago, Mr. LaValley would have been correct in calling the APA’s land-use plan the strictest set of regulations in the country. Alas, that is no longer the case — not by a long shot.

The basic rules and regulations administered by the park agency have fallen far behind the rules now in force in mere suburbs around all of New York’s major cities. The APA was the inspiration for the New Jersey Pinelands Commission and the California Coastal Commission. Those agencies have tougher standards. They also have better enforcement and more financial support from their state legislatures. The Catskill Watershed is better protected than the wildest private lands of the Adirondack Park.

Modern local zoning is almost nonexistent. Only 18 of the Adirondack Park’s 103 villages and towns have local land-use controls equal to the APA’s now-outdated standards. This harms the environment and the economy. As the park’s wildest places are developed and tamed, wildlife, water and forest health are declining.

At the same time, communities continue to suffer neglect because there is no incentive to build in already-developed places. Nine of every 10 Adirondack homes are located outside of a village or hamlet. Every year, another 700 to 1,000 homes are built in the park.

It is time for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature to update the APA’s standards so that they actually protect the things that everyone comes to the Adirondack Park to enjoy. We need better rules to protect wildlife, pure water and the world’s largest deciduous forest. We need to direct new development to the places best suited for it, and stop wasteful sprawl.

John F. Sheehan

Albany

The writer is Adirondack Council’s director of communications.

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