TO: Batchellervillle Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: August 30, 2006

In a major victory for property owners around Great Sacandaga Lake, the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District has bowed to public pressure and announced that it will extend its rule-revision process into next year. Original self-imposed deadline: end of 2006.

Rules need to be legal, logical, fair, understandable, and enforceable. At both of the two public input meetings held this month at Northville Central School, a hostile and vocal crowd of nearly 400 people showed up to tell District representatives that the proposed new rule book was anything but. Many left convinced that the public review process was a sham.

By turning out in force at these meetings -- and by contacting elected officials and writing letters to newspapers -- access permit holders compelled the District to change its plans. This is not a happy time for the District's top management and the Board. Stirring up a hornet's nest of angry voters in an election year does not exactly endear one to party bosses. And January, when the next Governor will take over, is not that far off. That could bring ominous consequences for the District.

During the transition to a new Governor, I suspect that the rule-revision process will be dead in the water for several months while he deals with more important problems. My guess is that Board members will maintain a low profile until he sends them a signal (which I hope he delivers with a broom).

The next Governor should instruct the District to start from scratch by listening to and acting upon the recommendations of the real experts on Great Sacandaga: its 4,650 access permit holders. For their part, permit holders should not let up on the pressure but should turn out in force for the final public input meeting of 2006, scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 6, at Northville Central School. The meeting will begin with Section 5.0 of the draft rules and proceed from there to the end of the rule book.

The District will hold off on additional public meetings until next summer. This postponement is a victory for the little guy. If you took the time to complain to an elected official or to attend and speak out at one of the public input meetings, you should pat yourself on the back. You did it!

Finally, considering the District's long history of scandal and incompetence, did anyone out there ever seriously think that it would NOT botch the job of revising its rules?

The District's Permit Committee is chaired by Board member Ronald Pintuff of Sacandaga Park. The draft rule book he and his committee produced -- and which the Board approved for our review -- was nothing less than an attack on our property values and our quality of life. Don't be shy about letting him and other Board members know how you feel about that.

At the August 23 public input meeting, I challenged the District to ask the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency for an immediate judgment on two draft rules: 5.8 (which says that access permits are not transferable) and 6.26 (which says that a new owner is given priority in applying for the permit on that property). That sounds to me like a contradiction. I've asked the District to announce the decision at the September 6 public input meeting (but I'm not holding my breath). This issue ought to be of interest to all permit holders, especially our back-lot neighbors.

My neighbors have been holding a competition to see who can find the nuttiest draft rule in the District's proposed new rule book. The winner so far is Draft Rule 8.3 titled "Authorized Uses Not Requiring a Work Permit." The accompanying text reads in full: "Permit Holders may perform on their assigned access permit area the following activities without a Work Permit or Special Activity permit: mow grass, rake and properly dispose of leaves, limbs, and debris washed in along the beach, by hand only."

As the District stumbles toward 2007, it's worth pausing a moment to consider its staff vacancies. One of the two Hudson River Area Board seats has been vacant since last September, when James Jankowski resigned -- even though the law states that the Governor shall fill such vacancies within 30 days. I can understand the Governor's difficulty in finding a replacement. Would you want your own good name associated with this bunch? District General Counsel Shari Calnero resigned in February and has not yet been replaced. In March, the District's only licensed surveyor quit; the position is still open.

The next Board meeting will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, September 11, 2006 at Watertown Savings Bank, 2nd Floor, 111 Clinton Street, Watertown, NY.

The lake's water level is on target at 763.3 feet above sea level.