Peter VanAvery, Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee
Hudson River-Black River Regulating District Special Board Meeting
Northville, NY
August 11, 2008

Great Sacandaga's overtaxed and over-regulated access permit holders deserve to be governed by a rule book that's clear, concise, logical, legal, fair, and enforceable. What this board has delivered to them after three years of wheel spinning is anything but. The document is an absolute abomination.

Some specifics:

First of all, it's quite obvious that most board members have never actually read this rule book from cover to cover. If you had, the contradictions would have screamed off the page at you. In one place, the rule book says that you can moor a boat 80 feet from the shoreline. In another place, it says 100 feet. One rule says that you can do your own rip-rapping as long as you keep ground disturbance to a minimum. But it then goes on to say that ground disturbance is absolutely forbidden. Can you use equipment on your beach? There's a "yes" in one place and a "no" in another, etc., etc.

And what about the rules written in a language called gibberish? You'll find the following statement in Rule 8.2: "A separate Work Permit application is required for work activities of shoreline erosion for placement of crushed stone products." That is a non-sentence. As such, it is neither intelligible nor enforceable.

If you did read through the rule book and missed glaring errors like these, you might want to call up your old English teacher and see if you can get your money back.

For years, the District has employed the fear factor to keep permit holders in line. Front-lotters worry that if they offend you, you'll reduce the width of their access permit or create a pedestrian footpath across their frontage. Your own advisory committee recommended that you revise Rules 6.21 and 5.5 to limit your power to do this except under very special circumstances. You ignored this advice.

Worse, you've cooked up a new rule -- 6.28 (Request to Have Front-Lot Access Permit Area Reduced) -- that allows a front-lotter to surrender all except 10 feet of his permit area. If he provides a private right-of-way or the area is contiguous to a public road, the District can split up the discarded area into a bunch of 10-foot-wide back-lot permits. Is that fair to the next-door neighbor who may have paid a small fortune for what he then considered an idyllic dream property? Your advisory committee told you to scrap this rule. But you kept it.

About 300 people already are on the waiting list for a back-lot access permit, some for years. Their numbers will explode if Rule 6.6 (Registration on Waiting List and Eligibility) is not changed. Under current practice, a back-lotter qualifies for the waiting list as long as his property is within one mile of the permit area as measured on the odometer. Now you want to make that one mile as the crow flies. How many potential new back-lotters fall into this expanded category? 100? 1,000? 10,000? Last year, in a document posted on its web site, the District said it "is in the process of determining this." If you have developed any such statistics, you've kept them a secret.

As the number of people on the back-lot waiting list increases, so will political pressure to carve additional 10-foot-wide access permit segments out of permit areas currently held by front-lotters. In that same document, the District says it "has no plans to increase the number of back-lot access permit areas." How can you guarantee that future boards will follow suit? Either drop your plan to expand the eligibility zone or include the following sentence: "On the date these rules become effective, the total number of back-lot access permits will be frozen in perpetuity."

Your proposed appeals process, covered by Rules 6.29 through 6.33, is nothing but a sham. To make the Executive Director both judge and jury is an insult to our intelligence. You need to create an outside ombudsman to help resolve appeals. Who should that be? Ask Judith Enck, the Governor's Deputy Director for the Environment. She's the Paterson Administration's top environmental official. She'll help you out of this mess.

On the subject of fees -- and nothing is more controversial -- you expect us to pay the full cost of the access permit system. As I worked my way through this bloated and turgid rule book, with its confused and contradictory attempts to control our every action, it was impossible to avoid the conclusion that this was empire building taken to the extreme. What's it going to cost us? The thought makes me shudder.

My fondest hope is that a year from now, we'll look back on this meeting as a total waste of time. Soon, I hope, the Paterson Administration will wake up to the disaster that's looming here and consign this rule book to a file drawer in a remote storage facility. May it rest in peace!

Thank you.