Statement by Peter VanAvery, Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee,
at Hudson River-Black River Regulating District Board Meeting,
Inlet, NY
June 9, 2009

Great Sacandaga Lake's access permit system was born on December 8, 1931. On that date, your predecessors on this board issued access permits to 17 people who owned property adjacent to the state-owned land ringing the new reservoir.

From Day One, the Regulating District made it clear that a permit gave its holder sole use of that slice of the state-owned land -- with the exception of District personnel engaged in operating and maintaining the reservoir.

In 1968, when my wife and I bought a home in Edinburg, the District nailed a sign to a tree stating: "Notice is hereby given that the exclusive use, subject to the Rules and Regulations of the Board, of this area is granted to Peter and Annalisa Van Avery." That sign is still there.

Until last year, the letter the District sent with annual permit renewal applications stated: "The Permit affords you exclusive use of a segment of District-administered State land for private access to the waters of Great Sacandaga Lake." On the basis of this implied guarantee, people invested large amounts of money on houses around the reservoir -- and were taxed accordingly. Many houses were built only a few feet from the boundary line separating state and private property.

In 2005, this board instructed the District to update the rules for access permit holders. As we spoke out at your public hearings and submitted written comments, it was clear that we were fine-tuning and updating the set of rules that had worked so well for so many decades.

Then came last month's shocker at which you announced that, in response to "suggested changes" from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, you intended to reverse 78 years of practice and convert the state-owned land into a free public park open 24/7. For us, this was like running a marathon and being told 25 miles down the road that there'd been a slight mistake at the starting line -- that the officials had sent us off in the wrong direction.

DEC's changes to the proposed rules, approved by you, would have a disastrous impact on the quality of life of lake home owners and on property values. If they become legal, the day will come when we'll see wet T-shirt and beer-guzzling competitions ... on the lawn in front of the Sacandaga Bible Conference. Why did Sodom and Gomorrah bring down wrath from above? Just glance out the front window!

Some other proposed rules are equally priceless. One rule originally said that you "have the right" to keep your permit area free from parked vehicles, campers, etc. Now the rule says that you "shall keep" it free from parked vehicles, etc., making it mandatory. I'm eager to see how my elderly neighbors, some of whom are disabled, deal with infractions by a party of bikers or drunken teen-agers.

Then there's the rule that states: "Each access permit holder shall be responsible for keeping and maintaining his access permit area in a clean and sanitary condition." So after the public revelers have left our permit areas -- leaving behind paper plates, beer cans, broken glass, soiled diapers, and other items I really don't care to describe -- you expect us to act as the state's janitor. I hope that you at least plan to furnish us with rubber gloves, trash barrels, and 10-foot-poles.

Fortunately for us, in your rush to placate DEC, you got sloppy. In 2007, when you first submitted the proposed rules to the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform, you also supplied impact statements required by the State Administrative Procedures Act, including a cost-benefit analysis, and the State Environmental Quality Review Act. For the latter, you said that the rules would have a "negative impact." Last month, when you voted to send the latest rule changes to GORR, you did not change those outdated statements.

Do you seriously believe that a rule change that will reduce lake property values by a total of hundreds of millions of dollars, with disastrous consequences for tax revenues, has no economic impact? Do you seriously believe that a rule change that will allow the public to swarm onto a 129-mile-shoreline open 24/7, with no police supervision or rest room facilities, will have no environmental impact?

I hope to see you in court -- soon!

Thank you.