KIM SMITH DEDAM
Members of the Local Government Review Board were stunned by a rebuke from the Adirondack Park Agency.
The writ of contention was delivered in a letter read at the end of their monthly meeting here Wednesday.
In it, APA Chairman Curt Stiles reacted to the tone and tenacity of a White Paper issued by the Review Board last week.
Titled "APA: Under the Influence and in Need of Detoxification," the 17-page work documents local government views of park regulatory practice, the APA Act and a laundry list of problems borne by local townships and landowners through the APA Act's tendency to "legislate through regulation."
Review Board Chairman Fred Monroe sent the White Paper with a cover letter to Gov. David A. Paterson last week.
It worked like tinder on slow-burning tension.
Stiles admonished the Review Board through APA spokesman Keith McKeever, who read the letter after nearly two hours of listening and speaking with Review Board members.
"As (APA) chairman, I have earnestly listened to local government issues and honestly tried to work with local officials throughout the park," Stiles wrote.
"So I am extremely disappointed and troubled by the tone, inaccuracies bordering on fabrication and the inflammatory nature of this document.
"I believe it undermines any and all previous progress and dialogue and breaches the trust and sincere effort to bring about regulatory reform."
Stiles said that most of the issues referenced in the White Paper "were not regularly, thoroughly or even remotely discussed at (Review Board) meetings.
"I no longer believe that the (Review Board) represents the best interest of local government or even has a reasonable consensus or mandate from individual towns inside the park."
Stiles ended his response by saying the APA remains committed to regulatory reform.
LIST OF ISSUES
A stunned vacuum of silence afterward filled fast with defensive words.
"Mr. Stiles is incorrect that local government doesn't appreciate the Review Board," said George Canon, longtime supervisor of Newcomb and Essex County's representative to the Review Board.
Monroe listed the litany of issues that have come to bear on local governments, the people of the Adirondack Park and tax rolls in recent years:
▶ New boathouse regulations.
▶ Shoreline regulations that are being challenged by 12 counties in state appellate court.
▶ The APA enforcement program, which the Review Board says oversteps private-property rights.
▶ The futile struggle to set a statute of limitations on land-use violations.
▶ Policy-making by private environmental group agenda, another issue currently in federal court.
▶ A snowmobile plan derailed.
▶ Potential loss of tax payments on state land.
▶ The insecure hold Adirondack towns have on the property-tax base.
"I stand by that White Paper and the letter to the governor," Monroe said.
TURN TO COURT
The snowmobile-trail guidance measure is a perfect example of how regulation determines law here, he said.
Though environmental groups participated in creating the APA snowmobile rules with the Department of Environmental Conservation, they fought afterward to stop it.
It's the same with many Adirondack policies and programs.
"Then, when the plan is adopted, environmental groups run to court. And what happens—" Monroe asked. "Local government is kept out of court."
Canon said that when Stiles visited Essex County supervisors a few weeks ago, many were supportive of recent efforts to work more closely with towns.
"Maybe he considers that enough ammunition to take a shot at this body," Canon suggested.
Monroe said property rights built the foundation of this country.
"We're moving so far from those (original) rights, it's really scary."
Monroe said he wouldn't retract anything from the Review Board document.
"It you want to have a lap dog, then count me out."
"Fred, you're a leader," Cannon said, "and that's the pitfall. You're one of the targets."
Fulton County Review Board member Linda Kemper suggested their words have become louder and stronger in recent years.
"Maybe Mr. Stiles is getting a little heat. If you can't take the heat, then get out of the fire."
Cannon suggested board members — one from each of 10 counties in the Adirondack Park — get a resolution in support of the Review Board's position.
Stiles's letter, he said, "really raised the hackles on the back of the neck."
SURPRISED BY TONE
McKeever told the Press-Republican that Stiles expressed concern with the tone and content of the White Paper.
"We've been having productive, open conversations and were surprised it (White Paper) came out that way."
Stiles said in his response that an unavoidable conflict kept him from delivering the message in person.
Monroe said Stiles had called to explain why he was not at the meeting but did not elaborate.