DAILY GAZETTE
Schenectady, NY
March 29, 2006

GREAT SACANDAGA LAKE

Regulators hear requests for fair access to lake
Back-lot owners express concerns

BY JOE MAHER, Gazette Reporter

About 150 people showed up in Mayfield Tuesday night, some from as far away as Altamont, Rotterdam and Schenectady, to urge the Hudson River Black River Regulating District to draft fair rules for access to Great Sacandaga Lake.

A recurring theme at the public hearing on the district's lake access permit system was that backlotters, people with property near but not on the lake, should be able to transfer their beach rights in the event they sell their property.

Many back-lotters have 10-foot access permits that adjoin the lakefront area of people with lakeside property.

Anthony Rozneiwski, a backlotter for 35 years, told officials he's invested hundreds of dollars to trim and remove trees, and thousands of dollars for well drilling on his property.

"I'm not asking you to give me something for nothing," he said. "I deserve to keep the 10 feet of beach rights. . . . If I don't have any access my land is worthless and so is everybody else's."

Debbie Parker, who founded a group called BLOC, or Back Lot Owners Committee, said the district should enact a hard and fast rule that any new back-lot property owner has the right of first refusal to the access permit held by the prior owner.

Pat Hedrick said she never would have bought her back lot had she known the district intended to break with past practice and allow front-lotters to scoop up back-lotters' permits when they sold their property.

She, too, said the economic impact would be felt across a wide spectrum, from depressed property sales to a fall-off in tourism and local business.

Other speakers made the point that local assessors take into account whether a property has an access permit, adding value for those that do and subtracting value for those that do not.

Property owners contend the value of their property would decrease by 50 percent or more if the permit did not go with the property in the event of a sale.

The inference was that the local property tax base would shrink as a result of a no-transfer policy.

Jim Daviero said one property whose owners lost their permit has basically been abandoned, with broken windows and other signs of neglect in evidence. That could spread if the district doesn't guarantee transferable permits, he said.

"Who's going to buy a lake house if the lake doesn't go with it"? he asked.

Others had concrete suggestions for the regulators, who are in the process of reviewing all rules and regulations regarding access permits.

Michelle Johnsen said yearround residents should receive first consideration when applying for a permit.

But Deborah Capron said the district has a responsibility to represent all access-permit holders equally.

"All access permits need to remain with the property when it's sold. It's fair and equitable," she said.

Peter Van Avery, co-founder of the Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee, said the district has some muddy language regarding special permits, which can be granted to tax-exempt, charitable, fraternal and similar organizations.

He said that opens the door for favoritism and it should be stricken.

As for fees, Van Avery said the district should recover 80 percent of the cost of running the permit system and cede the other 20 percent to permit holders in recognition of the work they perform on their permit area.

Guy Poulin, a resident of Northville, said the system should be eliminated altogether.

He said the district collects more in fees than the cost of running the system.

"They made money all along. They don't need to increase fees. Again, let's do away with the permit system," said Poulin.

Another speaker, Bob Burgess, addressed inequities raised by other speakers regarding cost versus size of the access area.

For example, one speaker said he had a 10-foot permit that cost him $49, while a person with a 50-foot area paid $56, and a 100-foot area permit cost $66. "Charge by the foot," Burgess said.

Representatives of Saratoga Associates, a consulting firm, moderated the hearing. Saratoga Associates officials said they want to ensure that permit system rules are easy to understand and fair.

This was the third of an initial series of five public meetings on the permit system rules and regulations. Dates for the last two have yet to be set.


TIMES UNION
Albany, NY
March 20, 2006

A line drawn in sand in beach access dispute
Owners of homes near Great Sacandaga Lake form group to oppose permit change

By DAN HIGGINS, Staff writer

Property owners around Great Sacandaga Lake worried about losing beach access are mobilizing by the hundreds as spring weather nears and the body that governs the lake considers updating its rules.

A new group calling itself the Back-Lot Owners Committee, or BLOC, already claims 600 members in its quest to keep the current practice on the lake intact. But they are looking for more support.

"Unless access permits stay linked to our homes when we put them up for sale, property values will plummet," said Debbie Parker, a Broadalbin resident who lives near the lake.

The issue concerns property owners whose land is near but not directly on Great Sacandaga Lake. Owners of these back lots can get permits that grant them access to a small slice of beach around the man-made lake. In the past, those permits would transfer to a new owner when a back lot was sold. But under rules proposed last year by the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, the transfer of those permits would not be guaranteed. A new owner would have to apply for one.

The stakes in the controversy rise as property values along the lake continue to climb. If a seller can't guarantee beach access, that would drive down the property value, residents argued.

Last year angry property owners filled public meeting halls and invited media attention in an effort to pressure the district not to change its rules. The regulating district, which controls access to the lake, said it would wait until spring and then review all of its practices, including rules governing permits and property transfers.

The back-lot issue will be taken up at 6:30 p.m. on March 28 in the auditorium of Mayfield Central School, 27 School St., Mayfield.

The BLOC group will meet at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Broadalbin Hotel on West Main Street, Broadalbin, to discuss plans for the meeting.

District Executive Director Glenn LaFave said the March 28 meeting will be conducted by an outside consultant because it has become such an emotional issue.