WARRENSBURG - Boathouses and balloons have something in common at the Adirondack Park Agency.
Both can keep expanding.
Attempts to regulate the size of boathouses stalled not once but twice Friday, as the APA Board of Commissioners could not agree on the appropriate allowable size of the traditionally exempt structure - or if a size limit is even appropriate at all.
Since last summer, the agency has sought to define a boathouse by capping square footage. The original proposal of 900 square feet and 15 feet maximum height, also containing a controversial prohibition of flat roofs, failed in March. Boathouses with rooftop decks are not uncommon on Lake George, as they are favored party spots.
Faced with a divided board Friday, state Empire State Development APA designee Jim Fayle said he had serious doubts about supporting the measure.
"I'm always bothered when I sit on boards and the boards themselves are so divided," Fayle said. "That indicates to me that more work needs to be done and more discussion is needed."
The newly-proposed 1,200 square foot definition stalled in a vote of five-five, with tiebreaker Commissioner Lani Ulrich absent.
But seeking to not have the issue on for another 12 months, APA Chairman Curt Stiles said he would entertain an amendment to increase the size limit.
Commissioner Bill Thomas of Johnsburg didn't hesitate to oblige, proposing an amendment to increase the allowable size to 1,500 square feet.
And that's when the floodgates opened.
Commissioner Art Lussi then offered his own amendment to the regulation that would have increased the allowable height to 18 feet above its dock.
Visibly frustrated, Lussi didn't hesitate to take a few shots at Chairman Stiles in the process.
"It's very hard when I have an agency and a staff who is pushing this agenda because it's creating so much work for them to interpret applications for proposals," Lussi said. "I find it very hard that our chairman would build a boathouse that doesn't fit the regulations we're proposing - I just don't get it."
Lussi is among several commissioners who argue the agency doesn't have the legislative authority to impose arbitrary limits on structures exempt from shoreline setback regulations.
"When we do this proposal, we present it to the Legislature and we take their jobs away," he said. "Then we review it ourselves, then we commissioners are the judge and jury of variance applications - It's like being a dictatorship."
With the personal attacks aired and the definition of a boathouse expanding faster than a balloon at a birthday party, Stiles voiced his opposition to the ad-hoc changes to the regulation.
"I think our process gets a little bit out of hand when we try to rewrite this thing with a 'group crayon,'" Stiles said. "I think we have personalized this discussion to the point it is deleterious to the outcome. I think the vote, very clearly, should be to not approve this amendment and go back to committee."
The amended version failed in a 4-6 vote, stalling the proposal once again and sending it back to committee.
Proponents of the size cap argued it will assure that the structures are being used only for the storage of boats and not other non-compliant uses.