Peter VanAvery, Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee
HRBRRD Public Meeting-Revised Draft Rules
Mayfield Central School
July 21, 2007

At Northville Central School on Monday night, at the first of these three public input meetings, I was highly critical of the revised draft rules. I called them "destructive," "an attack on the quality of life and property value of front-lotters," "a sellout to developers," and "bureaucracy at its worst." Judging from the audience's reaction, lots of people agreed.

On Monday, I addressed three key draft rules that are totally unacceptable:

I'll discuss three more draft rules this morning, starting with

Rule 4.11
No Storage of Vehicles

This rule has a small problem. It says: "No person shall store or otherwise abandon a motor vehicle of any kind on the lands of the reservoir including the access permit area." It then defines the words "abandon" and "store" as "any fact that leads to a reasonable inference that the owner of the subject vehicle knowingly and wilfully does not intend to retrieve such vehicle from the lands of the reservoir." What the heck is the legal definition of "reasonable inference"? How long does that vehicle have to sit there before corrective action is taken? A week? A month? A year? This wording is just asking for endless bickering and confusion. Be specific.

But the main problem with this rule is not its wording but with the fact that it covers a totally different subject from the one it replaces. The current Rule 4.11 ... the one now in effect ... is titled "Use of Motor Vehicles Prohibited." It bans motorized vehicles from the access permit zone. The revised draft rules contain no prohibition against driving ... and presumably parking ... on the access permit zone. This restriction has been tossed out completely.

This is both good news and bad news.

The good news is that the Regulating District has apparently abandoned the argument that the state-owned buffer zone around the lake is part of the forever-wild forest preserve. If it were part of the forest preserve, the District would definitely have restrictions about driving and parking on it. On the one hand, this is good news because it should open the District to legal attack that will ultimately result in fewer restrictions on our activities on the access permit zone.

The bad news is: Do you really want your neighbors to be driving and parking on their access permit areas? Do you mind having a parking lot for autos and trucks and maybe ancient school buses between your camp and your view of the lake? Do you mind if your neighbor starts up his truck and drives it off his or her access permit area at 3:00 a.m., with his headlights sweeping across your camp as he chugs up past your bedroom window?

Clearly, the District has fumbled the ball by ignoring the issue of whether or not you can drive and park on the buffer zone. The rule book needs to say something specific about this subject. It's time to go back to the drawing board on this one.

I have two more rules to discuss, but I'm running out of time. I'll be back.

Thank you

As you read through the revised draft rules, you should ask yourself some questions: Does this rule make sense? Some of them don't. Is this rule contradictory? Some of them are. What will this rule cost me? Some of them will add to the cost of operating the access permit system, which access permit holders have to pay for.


Rule 4.8
No Camping

It's only two sentences long. It reads: "Camping is prohibited in or upon the lands of the reservoir including the access permit area. Camping by the Boy Scouts of America on Scout Island is permitted and is the only exception to this rule."

The Boy Scouts is a terrific organization that does wonderful things for kids, and this rule sounds harmless ... at least until you consider the fact that access permit holders have to pay for litigation costs involving the access permit system. And this revised draft rule, since it is discriminatory, just begs for a lawsuit on behalf of another non-profit organization ... a lawsuit that access permit holders would have to pay to defend. That's why the District's own Advisory Committee recommended that the reference to the Boy Scouts be dropped.

And here's something else to think about. The District's signs on each permit area currently grant the access permit holder "exclusive use" of the area. The District now proposes to delete the word "exclusive" from the phrase "exclusive use." The rationale: The word "exclusive" implies "ownership" of a permit that, by law, is temporary and revocable. So how then can the District assign, in a rule, exclusive use of Scout Island to the Boy Scouts? That's arbitrary and capricious, and I doubt that it would withstand a legal challenge.

The Regulating District should take the advice of its own Advisory Committee: Don't grant the Boy Scouts exclusive use of Scout Island. Drop the second sentence of this rule. Don't stick access permit holders with a legal bill that could have been avoided in the first place.

Rule 5.5
Pedestrian Footpath to Access Permit Area

This rule states: "If an access permit holder does not have a public right-of-way or legal private means of access directly to the access permit area, then the District may grant a footpath with a width of 5 feet over other access areas."

Those words came as a real shock ... because the District's own Advisory Committee, the BBAC, and numerous members of the public had recommended exactly the opposite. The Advisory Committee's recommended words read in part: "No new pedestrian footpaths will be created across front-lot permit areas to provide access to back-lot permits. Existing pedestrian footpaths will be five feet in width and will be grandfathered in perpetuity."

The Advisory Committee reasoned this way: If you purchase a front-lot property with no pedestrian footpath across its access permit area, you should have a reasonable expectation that no such footpath will be created there in the future. If a prospective buyer knew that this was not going to be the case, he or she would have had the option of buying property on a different lake.

There may be a few special cases where pedestrian footpaths are needed. However, the lake community has made itself clear about what it wants. The District should react accordingly.

The third and final public input meeting will be held on Wednesday, August 1, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Northville Central School. I hope to see you there. Thank you.