TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: December 23, 2008

The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's board will meet at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at the Clarion Hotel, Century House, 997 New Loudon Road, Latham, NY. Please note that the meeting will be held on a Wednesday -- not the usual Monday.

The year ends as it began with the District's interminable rule-revision process dragging on and on. The District had set a deadline of January 1, 2009 for introduction of its new rules for access permit holders on Great Sacandaga Lake. But the proposed rules are still under review at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which is mum about when it will complete the task.

In less than a month, the rule-revision process will celebrate its 4th anniversary. To quote the minutes of the January 10, 2005 board meeting in Latham: "By general consensus, board members encouraged Mr. (Richard) Lefebvre to ... initiate a complete review of regulations and the handbook for Great Sacandaga Lake." (Richard Lefebvre was Glenn LaFave's predecessor as executive director.)

For us permit holders, it's getting even harder to follow the twists and turns of the rule-revision process. A month ago (November 25), the District announced: "Following consultation with the New York State Department of State (DOS), the proposed rules were reformatted and renumbered to conform with conventions required by DOS. This newest version of the proposed rules is posted at"

Here's an example of what that means. In the document submitted to DEC on September 8, 2008 for review, the proposed rule on district signs was titled "606.4.8 District Signs". It appeared on page 18. In the new 72-page-long format (and the pages are no longer numbered), this proposed rule is identified simply as "(h) Regulating District signs". Adding to the difficulty, individual rules are not separated by extra spacing. They are run together, making them difficult to find and read.

By the time the January board meeting rolls around, the terms of three of the seven present board members will have expired. Unfortunately, the individuals affected (all appointed by former Governor Pataki) can continue to serve until they are replaced by Governor Paterson. Not until that happens will the latter's appointees hold a 4-3 majority on the board. Audrey B. Dunning (Black River Area), who joined the board last April, is his first and only appointee so far.

The bad news is that it frequently takes a Governor months to find a replacement for board members even though the law requires that this be done within 30 days. This could have ominous consequences for us. If DEC completes its review of the proposed rules in the near future, then the present board of lame ducks could vote to put them into effect.

Here are the three board members who are up for replacement: Anne McDonald (term expired September 1, 2008), John K. Bartow, Jr. (December 7, 2008), and Patrick Dugan (December 22, 2008).

I urge you to contact the Governor and urge him to act quickly:

Governor David Paterson
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
(for e-mail, go to and click on "Contact the Governor")

In November, the Adirondack Park Agency issued controversial new restrictions on the expansion of shoreline homes and cabins built before August 1, 1973. In response, many Adirondack counties are pooling resources to fund a lawsuit that would force the APA to reverse its decision. The restrictions go into effect on December 31, 2008.

Previously, only structures built after August 1, 1973 were covered by the APA's shoreline setback restrictions. Single family dwellings and mobile homes built before that date were grandfathered and could be expanded in any direction except toward the water without APA approval. Now if you want to expand a structure within the "shoreline setback area," you'll require an APA variance. Critics say that such variances will be difficult if not impossible to obtain. Exception: Minor additions to the rear that do not exceed 250 square feet do not require a variance -- although they do require APA approval in writing.

Although the majority of structures around Great Sacandaga Lake fall outside the shoreline setback area, many don't. Depending upon how APA classifies a particular strip of shoreline, the setback extends 50 to 100 feet inland from the mean high water mark (the top of the dam's spillway -- 771 feet above sea level). Most of the lake's shoreline is classified as either Moderate Intensity Use (50-foot setback) or Low Intensity Use (75-foot setback). Setbacks are measured horizontally. To learn how your shoreline is classified or if you have other questions, check with your town supervisor.

Great Sacandaga's property owners already are smothered by rules and regulations imposed by an alphabet soup of state and federal agencies. Local political leaders and business owners say that this latest APA ruling would have a major negative economic impact.

Suppose you own a small, older cabin that sits on the shoreline setback area. Maybe it's seen better days. If you sell it, the buyer is likely going to want to modernize and expand it or tear it down and build a larger structure. But if the APA's restrictions prevent that, your sales price is going to be only a fraction of what it could be. Or maybe you want to keep the house, but you need more room because your family is growing or you want to move in an aging parent.

From an economic standpoint, this translates to fewer jobs for contractors, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, roofers, painters, realtors, and all the businesses that support them. Lower incomes have a ripple effect throughout the community, cutting sales at everything from food markets to video rental stores. From the viewpoint of town and village officials, restrictions on new construction translate into lost property tax revenues.

At the December board meeting in Watertown, Ronald Pintuff and Patrick Dugan proposed a change in bylaws that would protect the District's three-member executive staff from termination "for political reasons" when Governor Paterson's appointees take control of the board. Under existing bylaws, Executive Director Glenn LaFave, General Counsel Robert Leslie, and Chief Engineer Robert Foltan were hired by and serve at the pleasure of the board. The incumbents can be released without cause.

Mr. Pintuff and Mr. Dugan want the bylaws changed to state that the holders of these three executive positions can be dismissed only for cause -- for example, failure to perform their duties. For procedural and other reasons, this was eloquently opposed by John Bartow, Jr., and Pamela Beyor. This controversial issue was tabled until the January board meeting. If you feel strongly on this subject, and I know that many of you do, I urge you to contact the Governor.

The lake's level is at 758 feet above sea level, 5 feet above target.