TO: Batchellervillle Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: May 25, 2006

The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District has scheduled its fifth meeting to solicit public input on revisions to its rules and regulations for Great Sacandaga Lake's access permit system. Time: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2006. Place: Mayfield Central School (note new location), 27 School Street, Mayfield. Agenda: Open -- attendees will set the agenda and can address any rule they want. The meeting will be facilitated by the Regulating District. This will be the final meeting before the revised rules and regulations are issued in draft form.

An urgent message to front-lotters: As I mentioned in the May 15 BBAC Newsletter, the most important rule that affects you -- Rule 606.29 (Width of Access Area) -- has not been considered during the first four rule-revision meetings. It is imperative that you show up and speak out about this rule at the May 30 meeting -- or quickly fill out and mail a public comment form (available at

Rule 606.29 is only one sentence long: "The board reserves the right to determine the width of the access area to be granted." That is not sufficient. Unless you don't mind losing a part of your frontage to a back-lotter, you want this rule expanded to state that existing access permit widths are frozen in perpetuity. This would not affect the 900 back-lot permits currently located between a front-lotter and the lake. But it would assure front-lotters who have full frontage that they would retain it in the future.

The District says that it has not inserted any new back-lot permits between a front-lotter and the lake for more than a decade. But owners of property adjoining the buffer zone need formal assurance that their frontage will not shrink. Like back-lotters, front-lotters seek stability. There is no guarantee that the District's future management will maintain the status quo. A practice is easily overturned; a rule is not.

No one, whether the owner of a million-dollar property or a much more modest residence, wants to live with the prospect that, at any time, it could drastically lose value because of an arbitrary decision by the people who run the Regulating District. At the May 17 rule-revision meeting, Saratoga Associates recommended a rule change that would increase the number of back-lot properties eligible to apply for an access permit. (The wait for a back-lot access permit already can last a decade in some parts of the lake.) If you are a front-lotter and you hope to retain your full frontage, you should express your opinion to the District fast -- before the new draft rules are issued!

The best way to do that is to attend the May 30 meeting. But if you prefer to submit a public comment form, here's how you might complete it:

Rule No.: 606.29.

Topic: Width of Access Area.

Concern/Issue: I am a front-lotter, and I am concerned that the Regulating District will someday take away part of the frontage now assigned to me and award it to a back-lotter.

Suggested Rule Revision: This rule should be expanded to state: An access permit width, once established, is frozen in perpetuity. It cannot be reduced.

Be sure to sign the form before you mail it to the Regulating District.

After receiving several complaints from individuals concerned about regulation changes that might adversely affect access permits, NYS Comptroller Alan Hevesi asked Executive Director Glenn LaFave about the rule-revision process. Among the documents Mr. LaFave submitted to the Comptroller was an April 24, 2006 memo to the board titled "Updated Timeline for Permit System Rulemaking." The Comptroller sent me a copy.

Here's my take: The draft rules are being prepared by two different teams: a Saratoga Associates group that is focusing on permit eligibility and the fee schedule, and a District group that is focusing on everything else. Both teams will make a final report at the June 12 board meeting.

On July 10, the draft rules will be sent for review to the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The board also may authorize sending them to the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform (GORR). These steps will be taken before seasonal property owners -- who hold roughly three-quarters of all access permits -- are back in force and have been given an opportunity to attend a public input meeting.

The District will post the draft rules during the summer, and seasonal people will have a crack at them at two meetings, probably in August. (I'm not the only one who thinks that it's going to be difficult to change rules already in draft form.) On September 1, the proposed rules, presumably now containing any changes recommended at the August meetings, will be resubmitted to FERC and DEC for final review.

On September 15, if GORR has approved them, the proposed rules will be published in the State Register, following which there will be a minimum public comment period of 45 days. If all goes smoothly, the rules will be adopted at the end of that time (November 1). However, if the public comment period results in any substantial changes, the rules will have to be published again in the State Register, followed by a minimum 30-day public comment period. This could throw the process into January 2007, when a new administration will take over in Albany.

In that case, don't be surprised if this whole rule-revision process collapses. In fact, it is even conceivable that the next Governor will terminate GORR, an agency created by Gov. Pataki. Since April, GORR has been headed by Eileen M. Napoli, former supervisor for the Town of Schodack (population: 12,500) in Rensselaer County.

The rule-revision meetings have been poorly attended -- no surprise since they are being held off-season and at inconvenient times on weekday nights in Northville and Mayfield. Audiences have ranged from 110 to 150 people. Many attendees have been couples, meaning that one access permit is represented by two people. And many of the same people have attended more than one meeting. Even when you factor in public comment forms submitted by folks who haven't attended any meetings, I suspect that the District has heard from -- at most -- people who represent only about 10-15 percent of Great Sacandaga's 4,650 access permits.

At the May board meeting in Old Forge, I pointed out that the rule-revision meetings have focused on rules and regulations printed in a booklet published in 1993, and I asked why the District had not compiled a list of the rules, regulations, policies, and practices approved by the board in the succeeding 13 years so that we could comment on them. As an example, I pointed out that at the March 31, 2003 board meeting (as shown by the minutes), the board approved 16 new special policies affecting the access permit system. I asked: Without an up-to-date list for access permit holders to consider, isn't the rule-revision process incomplete and invalid? Executive Director LaFave did not give me a straight answer to either question.

The next Regulating District board meeting will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, June 12, 2006 at the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge, 109 South Comrie Avenue, Route 30A, Johnstown. This may be an all-day meeting. Tentative agenda: approval of the three-year, 2006-2009 budget, plus final reports on proposed rule changes to the access permit system. This is a very important meeting to attend.