RAY BROOK - The State Senate's Finance Committee began reviewing a trio of reform bills last week introduced by the Adirondack Park Agency.
APA officials say the three amendments to executive law aim to streamline the existing project application process as well as institute fees for APA permits.
The first bill would change the allotted project-review period from 15 days to 30 days. APA spokesman Keith McKeever says 15 days often isn't enough time for a thorough site visit.
"Sometimes there's a generalized additional information request that gets sent out," McKeever said. "We feel as though if we had an additional 15 days, we could schedule a site visit which would then result in a more focused additional information request that would eliminate some of the burden on the applicant."
Additionally, the APA would be given the right to deny a permit without first hosting a public hearing - something McKeever says is costly and time-consuming.
"If it's a project that's clearly not approvable, we can't just deny the permit," he said. "We have to have a hearing, and with that comes the costs of a stenographer, travel-related costs - there's a lot of time and logistics involved."
However, if the developer strongly disagrees with the agency denial, McKeever said they would still reserve the right to a public hearing.
The second bill offered up by the APA would add application fees to permit requests and use the money to support local governments.
McKeever noted the move would be consistent with local planning practices.
"All the money collected through the fees would then be distributed to a grant program to local governments in the park for planning purposes such as comprehensive plan development, zoning law, and a whole list of other projects that would be beneficial for the communities," McKeever said.
Projects are currently reviewed at the taxpayers' expense. "You're basically shifting the burden from the taxpayer to the project developer," McKeever said.
The third and final proposed amendment seeks special exemption for community-housing projects, low-income and senior housing and workforce housing by temporarily altering density allocations.
APA Chairman Curtis Stiles says the bills were prepared with the best interest of the Adirondack Park in mind.
"They address the critical need for affordable housing and funding for local government planning efforts," he said. "In addition, we carefully evaluated our administrative process and proposed changes that will improve overall Agency efficiency."
The group of bills now awaits approval by the State Senate Finance Committee before moving on to the full Senate.