ALBANY - Three bills proposed by the Adirondack Park Agency failed to garner support from state legislators and have not seen the floor of the State Assembly because no sponsor for the bills could be found, APA officials said recently. The lack of support leaves agency officials scrambling to rework the bills in time for the next legislative session.
APA Board of Commissioners Chairman Curt Stiles blamed old biases for lack of support from Adirondack area legislators.
"These bills have nothing to do with the environment," Stiles said. "They were about the fabric of the park and how the agency does business."
The three bills included a measure that would increase the number of structures permitted in moderate- and low-intensity zones to allow the construction of affordable housing. This legislation would allow up to four structures to be built on a lot that would typically only support one, provided they share a common septic system.
The lack of affordable housing in the Adirondacks has for decades been a primary agenda item for local government officials, who argue that low wages combined with soaring property costs are pricing year-round residents out of the housing market.
The second bill would set up a fund meant to be used by Adirondack towns and villages for planning or zoning studies and the creation of comprehensive or master plans.
According to APA legal counsel John Banta, the funds would be raised through surcharges attached to building permit applications.
The third bill would change the way to agency does business, officials said.
It would expand the amount of time the agency has to review a proposed project from 60 to 90 days and in some cases no longer require public hearings to be held, provisions that have concerned some Adirondack landowners.
But APA officials stress that an applicant could still request a hearing.
According to APA spokesman Keith McKeever, the third bill would streamline the permitting process and allow the agency to give every potential building project its due diligence.
But for local Assemblywoman and ranking Republican on the Environmental Conservation Committee Teresa Sayward, the implication that public hearings could potentially be circumvented left her with no choice but to not sponsor the bills in their present form.
"The bills weren't in the shape we would have liked them to be," Sayward said. "There were some things that needed to be changed – the public hearing provision for one – and I expect to see them again very soon with some of these changes made."
Sayward said that Adirondack residents often feel that their opinions are ignored by state agencies.
"There has always been a bone of contention in the Adirondacks among the local people that their voices aren't heard," she said. "We thought it best to move all three bills together instead of in pieces."
The planning fund and affordable housing initiatives have gained the support of the Adirondack Local Government Review Board, but the Agency Streamlining Bill has some local officials concerned.
APA officials said they expect the bills to be reintroduced in the fall legislative session after some revisions are made.