Peter VanAvery, Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee
Hudson River-Black River Regulating District Board Meeting
Saratoga Springs, NY
September 8, 2008

For nearly three years, this board has been working on a new set of rules for Great Sacandaga's permit holders. You have ignored most of the public's key recommendations and have produced a bloated document that's unfair and unreadable. At last month's board meeting in Northville, public speaker after public speaker -- some representing lake organizations with a huge total membership -- gave you excellent advice: Shred it and start the process all over again.

A large crowd showed up for your August meeting. But as the meeting dragged on, most drifted away ... angry. They couldn't follow the proceedings. Even though you dealt with just a small number of alternative rules, you did not hand out copies to the public. Even attendees who brought along their own copy of the rule book found it difficult to keep up -- especially since you sometimes didn't even identify the particular rule under discussion.

Since you are so consistent in making your proceedings difficult for the audience to understand, it is clear that you are doing it on purpose because you know the rules will be harmful to us.

I want to comment on three of the alternative rules:

Item 1: An estimated 900 front-lotters have a pedestrian footpath running across their access permit area. Since the District has disclaimed liability for accidents that happen on the access permit zone, these 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 maintain it. That's progress. But there’s a catch!! Beginning in 2010, permit holders will have to pay the full cost of the access permit system. How much will it cost to maintain those footpaths? And why should all 4,700 permit holders have to help pay for them? The intent of this rule is good -- but you need to obtain cost figures and charge only those who benefit from it.

Item 2: Another 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. This alternative rule will make your intent absolutely clear to future boards. I urge you to pass it.

Item 3: When it comes time to renew an access permit, the 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 proposed rules call 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 indeed what the District's own advisory committee recommended). But last month, Mr. Dugan introduced an alternative rule in which the flat fee would provide 75 percent of revenues and the frontage fee 25 percent.

If I understand Mr. Dugan, he views an access permit area as a portal to the reservoir. In his opinion, once you get out onto the water, whether your permit area is 10 feet or 500 feet wide, Great Sacandaga's full expanse is available to everybody -- so you should pay accordingly. I think that he is overlooking the value of the beach. My wife and I have eight grandchildren. During the summer, you'll find at least four of them down on the beach for hours each day. We are front-lotters, so our beach can accommodate them. But if we had only the 10-foot-wide beach allocated to back-lotters, with four or five feet of that blocked by a boat, our grandkids would have a lot less fun.

Like Mr. Dugan, I'm a front-lotter, and his proposal would save me (and him) money by making back-lotters pay more. But in the interest of fair play, I urge the board to retain the present 50-50 split.

According to the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform, if you make major changes to a set of proposed rules after publication in the State Register, you must publish them again, followed by a 30-day public comment period. Your alternative rule declaring pedestrian footpaths to be unallocated portions of the access permit zone is such a major change. Moreover, last week, I took a final look at the web cast of the August meeting while consulting my copy of the proposed rules. I discovered that your page numbers did not agree with mine. This makes me very uneasy that you may have made additional changes that we permit holders are not aware of. You need to republish the rules in the State Register.

Thank you.