Susan Allen, Publisher and Editor
P. O. Box 718  
Keene Valley, New York 12943
Telephone: (518) 576-9861     E-Mail:

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        The Adirondack Park Agency Reporter (APAR) is an independent monthly newsletter covering the actions and deliberations of New York's Adirondack Park Agency (APA).  The APAR is not affiliated in any way with the APA, any other state or local government agency or office, or with any private organization.  It contains no advertising and receives no governmental or private grant funding.

        To understand the reasons why this newsletter is so important, it is necessary to understand the history of the Adirondack Park and the APA. The APA is the regional zoning body for a six-million acre area of public and private land in northern New York State, which area (within a "Blue Line") was designated the Adirondack Park by the State Legislature in the late 19th century, and which has been expanded several times since then.

        The Adirondack Park, named for the mountain range that contains the 50 highest peaks in the State, covers all of Essex and Hamilton counties and portions of ten other counties. The Park has a population of about 125,000 year-round residents -- although it is larger than six states, including New Jersey (8 million people) and Massachusetts (6 million). It is similar in size to Vermont, which is tied for second least populous state in the Union -- although it has 600,000 residents, or four times the population of the Adirondacks.

The State of New York owns about 48% of the Adirondack Park (including large water bodies), and controls thousands more acres by means of conservation easements.  Almost all of the State holdings are part of the Forest Preserve, on which no development or timber harvesting may occur, as provided by Article XIV of the State Constitution.

     In 1968 Governor Nelson Rockefeller created the Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks, which issued a report at the end of 1970.  The report stated "A crisis looms in the Adirondacks. It threatens the integrity of New York's finest natural resource and outdoor recreation area .... a massive state action program is necessary to make the Adirondack Park a viable and lasting entity."  The report recommended the creation of an agency "with planning and land use control powers over all the land in the Park."

        In 1971 the Legislature, in response to the report, created the APA. The Agency was directed to develop a master plan for management of State lands and to prepare a land use and development plan for the private lands within the Park.  The Agency has eleven members, including three state agency designees (Departments of State, Environmental Conservation and Economic Development), and eight Commissioners appointed by the Governor, five of whom are required to be residents of the Park.  For political balance, no more than five of the eight Commissioners can be from the same party. 
Navigate to the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan

        The land use and development plan was completed by the APA in late 1972, and after several public hearings, and much controversy, was enacted into law on May 22, 1973, with very few changes from the original proposal.

    The plan is a comprehensive zoning statute, which divides the private lands into several classifications and imposes strict controls on development in those areas. The following table shows the various private land use area classifications:

 Land Use Area Classification Total Acres Percent of all Private Land  Number of Acres per Residence
Resource Management 1,633,668 52.5 44
Rural Use 1,028,951 33.1  8.5
Low Intensity 277,286 8.9 3.2
Moderate Intensity 103,567 3.3  1.3
Hamlet 54,770 1.7 n/a
Industrial 13,541 0.4 n/a

            [Source: Report of Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century, 1990]     

        The plan includes shoreline restrictions, a near prohibition on development in wetlands and other "critical environmental areas," a rigorous and time-consuming permit process, and strict environmental standards for development.  It is by far the most restrictive zoning statute in the country covering such a large area.  In Resource Management areas, for example, single-family residences, and almost all other structures and uses, require a permit from the Agency. In other areas, some minor development is exempt, if wetlands or other critical areas are not involved, and if at a much lower density than the maximum allowed.

        The Adirondack Park Agency Act is a labyrinth of complexity, along with its accompanying Rules and Regulations.  The 1973 Legislature granted significant discretion to the APA as to how its law is to be interpreted, and the debate over how it uses its powers remains highly polarized to this day.  Each Commissioner brings his or her own point of view to the decision-making process, and the appointment process remains a flashpoint in  Adirondack politics.  In addition, the role of each of the three State Agency designees is subject to change with the Governor's philosophy and with shifting political winds. Therefore, in stark contrast to local zoning, which is self-imposed by localities, the APA is an arm of State government and insulated to a great degree from parochial concerns. 

        Adirondack issues are highly complex, especially relating to the APA.  It is often difficult to sort out the truth from the fiction, and this powerful State Agency therefore warrants much more complete and in-depth coverage than local media can give.  For this reason, the Adirondack Park Agency Reporter was begun ten years ago.

        The heart of the Agency's policy-making procedure is in its monthly deliberations on projects, legal matters, interpretation of its regulations, enforcement cases, State land classifications and management plans, and the latest research on wetlands, wildlife, air and water quality, septic systems, recreational usage, and a myriad of other subjects. Local news media generally report only major projects in their own area of coverage, and only have room for a few quotes.  However, decisions on relatively minor matters can have far-reaching Parkwide significance, and very often the discussion itself is more revealing of APA policy than the actual votes.

        The APAR follows the entire course of Agency deliberations and lets the Agency members' words speak for themselves.  Updates on past projects and references to past discussions are also a part of the APAR's coverage and analysis, with editorial comments kept to a minimum.  And a continually growing database of projects and issues that come before the APA insures an accurate and complete source of information and precedents.  Regular features of the APAR may cover

*    Project review, including pending and past projects
         *    In-depth analysis of special conditions and issues
            *    State land planning and classification of acquisitions
            *    Economic development projects and issues
            *    Recreational and tourism issues
            *    Matters affecting wildlife, wetlands, lakes and rivers
            *    Guest speakers and panels on specific subjects
            *    Staff reports and position papers
            *    Legal determinations, case law and development of policies
            *    Local planning and map amendment proposals
            *    Related state and federal government subject
            *    Revision of rules and regulations, policies and guidelines

            *    Lookback and updates of previously permitted projects

        The Adirondack Park Agency Reporter comes out monthly, the date referring to the Agency meeting date. For the occasional month when there is no APA meeting, that issue is devoted to one or two particular subjects in detail, such as agriculture, mining, shoreline development or the recommendations of the Task Force on APA Reform.

I invite you to take a look at some subjects in the latest issue or a sample of the Adirondack Park Agency Reporter, and hope you will want to subscribe now and stay informed about this important State Agency. All back issues are also available.

ADIRONDACK PARK AGENCY REPORTER ***** P.O.Box 718, 32 Market Street, Keene Valley, New York 12943 ***** Telephone: (518) 576-9861 *****  Fax: (800) 852-7137 ***** E-Mail:

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