TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: September 3, 2008

The next meeting of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's board will be held on Monday, September 8, 2008, at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, 11 Excelsior Avenue, Saratoga Springs. The Operations Committee will meet at 9:00 a.m., followed by the board meeting at 10:00 a.m.

The District's general counsel, William L. Busler, has resigned after holding the position since December 2006. This leaves the District without an in-house counsel at a critical point in the process of revising the rules for permit holders on Great Sacandaga Lake.

The term of At-Large Board Member Anne McDonald expired on September 1. It will be interesting to see how long it takes Gov. Paterson to name a replacement. She will continue to sit on the board until that replacement is named.

The August special board meeting, held in the Northville Central School auditorium, was devoted to the rule-revision process, now nearing the end of its third year. The auditorium was packed with permit holders.

Every public speaker -- including NYS Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (whose 113th District encompasses Saratoga, Hamilton, Warren, and Essex Counties) and Town of Northampton Supervisor Linda Kemper -- attacked the proposed new rules as poorly conceived and badly implemented. The board was urged to withdraw the rules package and go back to the drawing board. My own statement concluded: "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!"

At the August meeting, the board announced that it had received 192 pages of comments from 30 individuals during the public comment period that ran from June 11 to July 30. The bad news is that, once again, the board has ignored most key recommendations. It did not take any action during the meeting. Instead, various board members proposed a small number of alternative or amended rules to be voted upon in the future, possibly at the September 8 board meeting in Saratoga Springs.

Since the board did not provide the public with copies of the proposed rule changes, attendees found it extremely difficult or impossible to follow the proceedings. Even attendees who brought along their own copy of the rule book found it difficult to keep up -- especially since the board sometimes didn't even mention the number of the particular rule under consideration. Gradually, the audience drifted away ... angry.

Here are some highlights:

Item: An estimated 900 front-lotters have a pedestrian footpath running across their access permit area. Such footpaths, mandated by the District, allow back-lotters to reach assigned permit areas that would otherwise be landlocked and inaccessible. Since the District has historically disclaimed liability for accidents that happen on the access permit zone, front-lotters have worried that they could be sued by footpath users.

An alternative rule responds to this concern. In a major change, the strip of land that constitutes a pedestrian footpath would be classified as an "unallocated" portion of the front-lot permit areas it crosses. The District would assume liability for it and also would maintain it. (Note: Although I don't know why anyone would want to do it, a front-lotter could retain the status quo by stating in writing his willingness to assume liability for the footpath and responsibility for its maintenance.)

Watch out for this one! Remember that beginning in 2010, permit holders will have to pay the full cost of the access permit system as calculated by the District. How much will it cost to maintain those footpaths, which are scattered around the 125-mile perimeter of the lake? And why should all 4,700 permit holders have to help pay for them? How fair is that?

Item: In one place, as I've repeatedly pointed out, the rule book says that a boat can be moored 80 feet from the shoreline. In another place, it says 100 feet. An alternative rule fixes this contradiction by settling on 80 feet.

Item: An alternative rule includes a statement that the total number of back-lot access permits will be frozen as of the date the new rules become effective. This is in response to criticism of the board's plan to expand the eligibility zone for back-lot permits, which has the potential to increase political pressure on the District to carve additional back-lot permits out of permit areas currently held by front-lotters. The proposed amendment would prevent this.

Item: When it comes time to renew your access permit, your total fee is the sum of a flat fee (the same for each access permit) plus a per-foot frontage fee (based on the width of each access permit area). The rule book calls for setting the total fee so that 50 percent of revenues are generated by the flat fee and 50 percent by the frontage fee (and that's what the District's own advisory committee recommended). Board Member Patrick Dugan of Edinburg has now introduced an alternative rule in which the flat fee would provide 75 percent of revenues and the frontage fee 25 percent. Doesn't that appear to favor front-lotters over back-lotters (whose permit areas are limited to a width of only 10 feet)?

FOUND! Last month, after a pedal boat drifted up onto my beach. I reported it to the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office. The owner has not claimed it. If you hear of anyone missing one, please steer him my way. Note: This is not the same pedal boat that's being advertised as missing on flyers (with a photo) in local stores.

The reservoir's level is at 763 feet above sea level -- about a half-foot below target.