March 2, 2010

EDITORIAL: Troublesome nomination for APA

Since the Adirondack Park Agency was formed in the early 1970s, it has been pounded hard by both environmentalists and, especially, by pro-development advocates. It's very hard to sit between two extremes and make decisions that are not going to alienate significant numbers.

Environmentalists have often argued that the agency hasn't done enough to protect the sublime, pristine, irreplaceable assets of the Adirondack Mountains. Developers and many residents have insisted that the arbitrary, oppressive rulings of the agency have made living and working in the Adirondacks an impossibility for all except the wealthiest.

It's an extremely difficult assignment the APA has — to protect nature while encouraging commerce.

The agency has taken on some powerful people and organizations. Lately, it has been and is being challenged over rules against the construction of farm dwellings and the size of a building in a cluster of other buildings of similar proportions. Those kinds of challenges lead many in the public to believe the agency is reaching for power, exaggerating its own authority.

Yet, sit with APA board members and staff, and you have the distinct impression you are among reasonable people determined simply to do what the State Legislature ordered it to do in 1971, impelled by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's resolve.

So the APA is almost unavoidably operating in controversy. Adirondackers had long held that they had been the best stewards of their land since people first lived here, and any government agency bent on usurping their authority was going to have its hands full.

The APA Board, like any other board, public or private, is fluid. People come and go. Currently, the state is filling a board seat to be vacated with the departure of Arthur Lussi of Lake Placid, whose term has already expired.

Wouldn't you think that the governor would take stock of the agency's history of existing in hostility and select a nominee most likely to engender some calming influence, if that is possible?

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