MINERVA - Adirondack residents may soon have greater access to affordable home ownership as Adirondack Park Agency officials are now championing a bill in the state legislature that would allow for increased density of structures on some properties in the Park.
Local officials endorsed the concept of the APA legislative measure during the April 29 meeting of the Adirondack Local Government Review Board meeting.
"The lack of affordable housing has been on the agenda of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages and the APA for some time - it is a major problem in the park," APA Legal Counsel John Banta told local officials this week. "We have been working with a number of different constituencies like Habitat for Humanity and the Adirondack Housing Trust."
Banta said that if approved by the state legislature, the bill would create a "four-for-one" building opportunity on parcels which meet APA-designated zoning requirements.
"In moderate density zones, four structures would be allowed on a one-acre parcel which would typically support only a single structure," Banta said.
In low-density zones, four structures would be allowed on a three-acre parcel, he said.
These building incentives would only be in effect in areas which are within three miles of APA-designated hamlets and must be at least one-quarter mile away from the shoreline of navigable waters, Banta said.
Adirondack Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe, also supervisor of Chester, said that although he supports the measure in principle, some of the restrictions should be loosened.
"There are 12 towns which lie wholly in the park that do not have a hamlet zone," Monroe said. "After you exclude wetlands and shorelines, there basically may be nothing left to build on within the three-mile radius."
Monroe said that instead of using the hamlet designation, the more inclusive term "town center" may be more appropriate.
The current draft of the bill would require the four-structure clusters to share a common septic and water supply, Banta said.
"We are still combing through some of the language," Banta said. "But we believe that this is something that needs to be done to better the situation of the people of the Adirondacks."
The affordable housing bill is one of three current measures currently in the state Senate. Officials said the second is designed to help fund local municipal planning projects and the third to alter the variance review process.
The latter bill has been criticized by local officials because it phases out some public hearings that are now required during the review process.
These affordable housing measures are the first legislative actions undertaken by the agency in 20 years, APA officials said.
The affordable housing bill was was introduced by the powerful Senate Finance Committee chairman, state Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn).
Officials said that low wages combined with soaring property values have resulted in large numbers of Adirondack residents who are unable to afford home ownership.