TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: May 28, 2009

The next meeting of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's board will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 9, 2009, at the Inlet Town Offices, 160 Route 128, Inlet, NY. It's a long drive on a weekday (the inconvenience is intentional, of course), but this will be our first opportunity to tell the District face-to-face what we think of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's plan to convert the access permit zone (the belt of state-owned land that rings Great Sacandaga Lake) into a free public park.

Board meetings open with a public forum, during which an attendee has five minutes to offer comments. So try hard to reach Inlet -- perhaps carpool with your neighbors. YOUR property values and quality of life are at stake.

Key agenda item on which the board will vote: the next three-year budget. After nine years of trying, the District believes it has finally calculated the true cost of the access permit system, which is supposed to pay for itself. The amount of revenue the District expects to collect from the permit system for each of the next three years will give us a clue as to how much permit fees will increase on January 1.

As we fight the game-changing revisions that DEC has made in the proposed rules, I believe that our top three priorities are:

1) Stop the rule-revision process.

2) Restore the rule titled "Access Permit Areas Limited to Access Permit Holders" and, from the list of prohibited activities, delete DEC's added words: "obstructing or limiting pedestrian access on or across access permit areas."

3) Delete DEC's added prohibition on mowing grass. Letting permit areas grow wild will ruin the view (lowering property values) and make it difficult to monitor the security of your children and beach assets. Wild growth will also increase the likelihood of hazards like poison ivy and ticks.

The proposed rules are now under review at the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform. With its approval, they will be republished in the NYS Register, followed by an official 30-day public comment period.

I have written Amelia Stern, GORR's Acting Director and Counsel, to ask that she place the rule-revision process on hold. According to the GORR publication, Cost-Benefit Assessment in Rulemaking: A Guide for State Agencies, "The New York State Administrative Procedure Act requires that when an agency plans to adopt or amend a rule, whether it be a permanent or emergency rule, the agency must issue a Regulatory Impact Statement which includes an assessment of the costs and benefits of the proposed action."

I pointed out to Ms. Stern that the District submitted its original version of the proposed rules to GORR in 2007 and that any cost-benefit analysis prepared at that time would now be sadly out of date. I reviewed the history of the permit system and explained how DEC's changes to the proposed rules would reverse more than 75 years of practice by converting the buffer zone into a free public park. The impact on property values and the quality of life would be devastating.

I concluded by urging her to halt the rule-revision process until the District has provided the updated cost-benefit data, and I expressed the hope that this exercise would show its management that they need to withdraw the proposed rules and take them back to the drawing board.

My letter will soon be posted on our web site: You'll find Ms. Stern's address there, too. Please let her hear from you.

Where do we go from here? Complain, complain, and complain again to elected and appointed officials from the Governor on down. You'll find names/addresses at the end of this newsletter. If I've omitted anyone, please let me know. In your letters, be specific about your own situation -- don't just rant and rave.

Here are some examples to consider: what you paid for your dream home on the lake and how much you estimate its value will drop; your concern about how to protect your children/grandchildren from criminals/perverts on what will become a public thoroughfare; the challenge of obtaining liability insurance on your stairway, dock, and boat; the closeness of your home to state property (bringing the public within a few feet of your front door); the lack of law enforcement on the lake's 129-mile-long shoreline; the lack of public rest rooms; the difficulty of distinguishing state land from your land (will the state build a fence?); and the brain-dead requirement that you keep your permit area safe and clean after the public has fouled it (will the state provide you with rubber gloves and a trash barrel?).

Many of you have told me that you stand ready to help fund a lawsuit against the state and have given me suggestions about how to proceed. If it comes to this, we'll be battling against an opponent with practically bottomless financial resources (funded by your taxes). As one permit holder has put it, we'll need the services of the best property rights lawyer in the United States.

For the moment, we need to give the various components of the lake community an opportunity to come together, and this appears to be happening rapidly. We also need to see if our complaints are having an impact. From media reports, it appears that the District's board is considering whether to place the rule-revision process on hold. So far, media coverage has been a PR disaster for the District, the DEC, and the state.

List of Official Contacts