LONG LAKE - Adirondack Park Agency Chairman Curtis Stiles attended the March 30 meeting of the Essex County Ways and Means Committee and fielded some tough questions from local supervisors.
Stiles chose to open up the floor for questions immediately, opting not to give a presentation.
Essex Supervisor Ronald Jackson spoke first, raising the issue of building rights for water and sewer. He asked Stiles how and why the agency chose to change decades-old legislation that provided a "grandfather clause" for pre-existing shoreline buildings.
"I just think that it would be a benefit to the park to not have to fight the battle with building rights," Jackson said. "They're going to get progressively worse as time goes on."
The new regulations require property owners to obtain approval for modifications made to pre-existing shoreline structures.
North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi noted that the new regulations call for wetland setbacks to be moved from zero to 200 feet. However, the change was made without legislative action.
"The APA was legislating," Politi said. "The sad thing is that this radical change went virtually unnoticed - under the radar you might say."
Politi also said that the APA is trying to pass a 900-square-foot limit on new boathouses - again without legislation.
"If the APA acting on its own can make up a rigid size for boat houses it can also make up a rigid size limit for single family residences or commercial uses or any type of use," he said. "I do not believe that these actions are in the best interests of the private sector of the park."
But Stiles defended the agency's actions. He said the APA did not need to seek legislative approval to modify the existing regulations.
"It is clearly the agency's position that we did not legislate," Stiles said. "We simply modified regulations and the modification of those regulations took place over a four year period with ample time for lots of public comment."
The regulations do not severely restrict shoreline development, Stiles said. Rather, they aim to clarify the permitting process and preserve water quality.
Keene Supervisor William Ferebee was concerned with the lengthy process of expanding hamlet size throughout the park, and asked Stiles if it could be sped-up.
Stiles said that historically, changing land-use has been cumbersome.
"It is all written by statute," he said. "And it takes more time than I believe that it should."
Ferebee and Westport Supervisor Dan Connell both said they are dealing with infrastructure improvements, and the development requires them to go beyond the current borders of their hamlets. Stiles said he understands that many municipalities throughout the Adirondacks face similar problems.
"There are clearly areas where hamlets can be expanded," Stiles said.
"It is a work in progress and we are working at it as aggressively as we can."
Stiles also answered questions on cell tower projects, the upcoming radio project for Essex County, and subdivision in the park. Stiles said he would consider visiting with the board of supervisors on a regular basis.