The Local Government Review Board does not believe that the APA should be abolished. We do believe that the APA needs to be reined in and its governing Act revised. Very clear evidence of this need is seen in recent cases where the Adirondack Park Agency threatened or attempted an enforcement action that was dropped or overturned: the Sandy Lewis farm worker housing case, the Leroy Douglas "wetlands" road case, the John Maye case about whether his house was illegally built on an existing foundation - which drew heated opposition in Lake George and other Adirondack communities and was widely reported in all Adirondack media - is more evidence of an agency overstepping its bounds. The APA is an administrative agency trying to act like a legislative body - attempting to create law and then enforce that law when it doesn't have the legal right to do so.
• We believe that the primary issue in the Adirondacks, as it has been for 20 years or more, is that so much of the state's focus has been on land acquisition that any effort to encourage and protect the economic lives of the communities has been cast aside. The recent Adirondack Park Regional Assessment project Report bore this all out: The decline in school enrollment is steeper and the median age of the population is rising more rapidly than elsewhere. Household incomes are lower than in much of New York State. Sparse populations and regulatory practices have contributed to a lag in private sector investment in businesses, most notably in lack of broadband communication and data transfer infrastructure. The park-wide loss of private sector jobs has been somewhat offset temporarily by job increases in public health care, education and government employment. The creation of permanent jobs that pay living wages and provide benefits on which a family can depend is the most fundamental need in Adirondack communities. While jobs are needed in every community in New York State, few other communities' economic deterioration is so closely associated with the state's as the communities of the Adirondack Park.
• Local input and consent is the foundation of any successful project in the Adirondacks. Local officials are deeply knowledgeable about the needs of their towns and villages as well as how their towns and land uses fit in to the SLMP. The Agency was envisioned to work cooperatively with governments and landowners to preserve and foster vibrant hamlets as well as protect state Forest Preserve. But as recent times have shown - with three former members of the Adirondack Council on the agency's Board - the Agency seems more interested in targeting landowners than targeting problems. It is an inappropriate closeness - one that the environmental lobby would be upset about if the APA Board were made up of large developers or business people.
• Along the same lines as local input on projects, we need more local input on the APA nominees. In order to more fully include the perspectives of the full-time residents of the Adirondacks, the five local commissioners appointed by the Governor for the Adirondack Park Agency Board should be chose from a list submitted by us each time there is an opening, as was informally done under some previous governors.
• We believe there should be opportunity for judicial review of the APA's decisions by local government - but the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board does not have standing to seek judicial review. A court decision in 1982 ruled that because the APA act didn't explicitly state that the Review Board had standing, it doesn't. The Attorney General also argued in the multi-county, multi-town lawsuit against the APA, regarding the 2008 regulations, that the counties and towns lacked both capacity to sue the Agency and standing. We are seeking to change that because that means current legal decisions that directly affect the financial condition, municipal services, future growth, and programs of local governments are being made in the absence of those officials who are elected by their communities to represent the concerns of their constituents.
• We have been reviewing the Tug Hill Commission's structure and mission as one example of what we'd like to see happen at the Adirondack Park Agency - where the executive law that creates it says it is geared toward the "conservation and productive use of the natural resources of the region, strengthening the long-term economy, employment, cultural and social resources, and the general well-being of the rural communities."
• We're working with local officials and Review Board members - as well as our residents and businesses - for input on other questions or concerns they may have. In short, without reining in the Adirondack Park Agency, and creating economic opportunities, quality employment and affordable housing (among other needs) in the Adirondack Park, the economic life of the region will continue to deteriorate.