February 24, 2006
Schenectady, NY


Backlot owners fighting for lake rights
Committee wants to preserve access

BY JIM McGUIRE, Gazette Reporter

As the agency that controls the shoreline of the Great Sacandaga Lake begins a yearlong process to revise rules on lake access, a coalition of backlot owners has organized in an effort to secure their lake rights.

The organization BLOC (Back Lot Owners Committee) held its organizational meeting Feb. 18 at the American Legion hall in Broadalbin.

Organizers said more than 200 of the nearly 1,900 backlot owners people whose properties do not have lake frontage but who have permits to use 10-foot sections of lakefront have already enlisted in BLOC. The organization plans to lobby hard this year with the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, the agency that has initiated a lengthy public participation process scheduled to end in December with the approval of new lake regulations.

BLOC organizers began to mobilize early last year when regulating district officials announced a new policy that would strip backlot owners of their lake permits if the properties were sold to nonfamily members. The forfeited 10-foot sections would then be turned over to adjoining lakefront property owners. The new policy was withdrawn last summer when the regulating district board, responding to criticism, decided to review its entire set of regulations.

BLOC member Daniel Leavenworth, who owns a backlot property in North Broadalbin and who has no heirs, said if the proposed regulation is finally adopted, it will significantly reduce backlot property values.

"If the [lakefront] people obtain those rights, it's going to devalue the [backlot] property, probably by half," said Leavenworth, a certified public accountant.

"It's very unfair. It gives all the [lakefront] owners the right to gobble up all the [backlot] permits as people sell the backlots. It may take 30 or 40 years [for that to happen], but it's a very important issue," he said.

Leavenworth said he and fellow BLOC members are hopeful they can persuade the regulating district board the lake access permits should stay with properties regardless of the buyers. But, he said the group will resort to a class action lawsuit, if necessary.

In its first newsletter, BLOC urges members to participate in the district's planned public outreach process that will include a series of public hearings leading to draft proposals and finally to the new regulations.

"This is where we, BLOC, must make the district accountable and include us in the future of the Great Sacandaga Lake. Many members have deep roots in the lake and refuse to let the district include this unjust, unfair and inconsistent practice to continue," the newsletter states.

The district board has hired a consulting firm to supervise the public participation process. The existing regulations were last reviewed in the early '90s.

The district's executive director, Glenn A. LaFave, said Thursday he and the agency welcome the efforts of BLOC and all other permit holders.

Discussing the review process, he said, "The regulating district felt it was critical to do the public outreach into the summer when many of the permit holders are in residence. This is an open process, it's a very public process," he said. Speaking of BLOC, he said, "we welcome and look forward to their involvement as we review our rules and regulations."

If new regulations cannot be formulated by December, he said the work will continue.