FAQs About the SPC, HRBRRD and the Current Permit Controversy
Why doesn't the SPC propose giving the land back to the permit holders and then allow those landowners to pay taxes on that land......get rid of the whole permit system?
We have considered this proposed solution, and there are many issues to consider. If it were just as easy as the state giving the people who surround the lake the land to allow more local control of the flood plain or buffer zone we would have made that solution our first priority. There are several key reasons why this is not a practical short term solution and why we are working on incremental steps to protect our rights and then obtain a permanent fix.
The state is not going to give away the land, nor are they going to sell the land to individual permit holders; it would require a group to purchase on behalf of all permit holders. To give away or sell land inside the Adirondack Park would require a New York State constitutional amendment. A constitutional amendment requires 2 successive legislative sessions approving the amendment and a positive statewide vote. Another requirement is a land swap, which historically has been 3 to 12 times more land within the Park being given to NYS in exchange for the land acquired. We are talking about approximately 3300 acres of land that surround the lake; we would have to have land under contract to purchase before the process begins. The total purchase price would be well in excess of $2,000,000.00 for undeveloped land within the Park to exchange for the land around the lake.
The statewide election would be an expensive and difficult project. It would require an extensive advertising and educational campaign explaining what and why we want to do this. We expect major opposition from very well funded environmental groups, and a positive vote in a statewide election is far from certain. We know we would need several million dollars for the advertising campaign, plus legal and lobbying fees. The consequences for a failed statewide vote would be catastrophic.
Assuming we were successful with all of the above, there are more issues. We do not think every one that has a permit will purchase their “permitted land” and then agree to pay taxes on it. Not all permit areas are the same depth, raising valuation and property tax issues. Would people with a 50’ wide x 700’ deep permit pay the same as a 50’ wide x 30’ deep permit? And who will pay the taxes and liability insurance on the land that permitees don’t buy? These issues would require ongoing fund raising and management issues. And this is just the beginning of a long list of issues we would need to work out.
We would need professionals to manage this entire project; it’s just not a reasonable expectation that volunteers could complete a project of this magnitude.
We are pleased we have been successful so far in returning to the status quo that existed before the HRBRRD and DEC began the rule making process, and are committed to working towards a legislative solution that provides long term stability and peace of mind to the entire community.
The HRBRRD has advised that any permit holder that would like their sign replaced should contact the HRBRRD and formally request replacement.
I thought the Governor squashed the permit change process!
The Governor put it on hold. The Department of Environmental Conservation said they are reviewing the impact but still plan on pursuing the issue!
How much will the attorney fees cost?
There is no way of knowing. The issues at hand are State and Federal, and involve FERC, APA, DEC laws and regulations, as well as Constitutional law. The going rate for legal work in this specialized field is over $200/hour. By doing this as a group, we can get much more bang for the buck. There will be a large number of lawyers and clerks working on this project so the initial research alone will be significant. We won’t have many chances to get this right, so we had better make the investment now.
Isn’t this all about the permit fees?
The permit fees may be the least of our worries. The whole permit process, and in particular, the exclusive use of the permit area, is in jeopardy. In addition, if the HRBRRD and DEC has their way, everyone would conceivably have access to the shoreline right up to our property lines. For many, that means right up to the houses! Also consider the fact that the DEC is saying no mowing, no vehicles, no fireplaces, no picnic tables, etc.
How many times will we be asked to cough up money for legal fees? Every year?!
There is no guarantee. This is all new territory for us, as well as the State. Our hope is that we can raise enough to have a war chest so every time a new move is made by the State, we can counter it without having to send out fund raising letters and waiting before we respond.
How will we be informed of the progress being made?
Articles will be written in the Sacandaga Express and Edinburg Newsletter, and any other papers that show interest. We will post updates on our web site. We already have an archive of news articles there. All local news publications and television outlets are sent information. Our hope is that we will ultimately get the e-mail addresses for a majority of the permit holders so we can send updates directly and avoid postal and printing costs.
Who are the attorneys and what experience do they have in the issues being discussed?
The legal firm selected is Hodgson & Russ. They have roughly 200 attorneys who have experience in all of the areas mentioned in question 2 above. At least one of the principals in the firm has a vested interest in the lake. They have offered us a reduced rate and attractive retainer conditions.
What agency is really behind the proposed changes?
This is a little more complicated as over time, all of the agencies involved have added to the problems. The most serious issue is one raised by the DEC with its conclusion that the buffer zone is “forest preserve.” That could potentially mean that no vehicles, no mowing or cutting of vegetation, no structures and more importantly – no exclusive use for paying permit holders! On top of this, various agencies involved in the debate have admitted they themselves do not know who exactly has the reining jurisdiction over the Sacandaga Lake when it comes to these kinds of decisions.
What powers do the HRBRRD members really have?
The HRBRRD has the power to regulate the operations of the reservoir. The HRBRRD can make rules regarding the permit system, but they must be approved by the DEC. However, it seems unclear as to who has the last word on these issues, other than the Governor.
How much are people contributing?
The average contribution so far is just under $200 and we've had several donations of over $1,000. A Fiscal Oversight Committee has been established by the SPC and we will be audited by a certified public accountant to assure fiscal fiduciary responsibility in the collection, deposit and payments of contributed funds.
What are the villages, towns and county doing about this?
All of the affected villages, towns and counties have approved resolutions supporting the Sacandaga Protection Committee’s goals. Some have allocated funds for their legal battles and will do so in conjunction with us, as well as parallel challenges on issues they have as municipalities.
How do the property owners who do not have permits or property on the lake feel about the situation? What will be the impact of these proposed changes on them?
Once the non-permit property owners learn about and understand the impact on these changes would have on them, they are very supportive. If permit-holders’ property values go down, our taxes go down. If that happens, the rest of the property owners will have to pick up the slack! The Fulton County Chamber of Commerce fully endorses our efforts. They understand the impact not only on property taxes, but on business, as well, which could experience a significant downturn as a result of these proposals.