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Monday, February 7, 2011

Review Board replies to Adirondack Council

Last week the Adirondack Council criticized the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board for urging the state to abandon plans to buy Follesnby Pond and some 65,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands. The council argued that the board had overstepped its legislative mandate in commenting on state-land purchases. It also suggested that Fred Monroe, the board’s executive director, and George Canon, who until recently was the board’s chairman, had conflicts of interest in that both belong to hunting clubs that will be forced to shut down or move if the state buys the Finch, Pruyn lands. Monroe has issued the following written statement in response to the council’s critcisms.

The Adirondack Council press release regarding the Review Board resolution opposing fee acquisition of former Finch and Follensby lands is typical Council response to positions taken by organizations that do not hold the same views as the Adirondack Council. The truth is that neither Fred Monroe, the executive director, nor George Canon, the former chairman of the Review Board voted on the resolution.  Mr. Monroe does not have a vote.  Contrary to Council assertions, Mr. Canon was not even present.

The Adirondack Council has criticized the Review Board before for commenting publicly on state land purchases – in this case saying it had no business making a statement. It sounds like the Council is trying to revoke the First Amendment — not only free speech, but the right to petition the state government for a redress of grievances.

The major concerns of Adirondack local governments are the jobs and building rights that will be lost in the Follensby and Finch purchases.  The lost jobs will further harm the Adirondack economy.  The lost building rights will make the affordable housing problem in the Adirondacks worse.  When the supply of building rights is restricted and demand remains steady, or increases, land prices increase.

The Review Board represents twelve counties.  All Review Board representatives are appointed by those county legislatures.  Those counties have a population of more than one million.   One hundred and thirty thousand live in the Adirondacks.  Counties, towns and villages have legitimate concerns.  The representatives appointed by the counties did their jobs by considering the facts and unanimously passing a well-reasoned resolution.

The Review Board believes that the APA has a responsibility to insure compliance with the State Land Master Plan which specifically provides that the state should not usually make bulk purchases of highly productive forest land in fee because of the importance of the forest products industry to the economy of the Adirondacks.  That provision has been ignored in fee purchases of state lands in the past.  It appears that, unless policies change,  it will also be ignored in the Finch and Follensby planned purchases.

The Review Board is statutorily (Executive Law Section 803-a) required to:  advise and assist the APA; advocate for its constituents, and periodically report to the legislature, the governor and the counties that make up the board.  That is what the Review Board did.

The Review Board executive director sits as a non-voting official at Adirondack Park Agency Board meetings, with a spot on the APA’s agenda each month for “Review Board Comments.” The comments that the Board offers are compilations of comments, concerns and approvals heard on specific issues and general issues from the constituents who are represented by the twelve members of the Review Board appointed by their counties. These are the people who live and work in the Adirondack Park, whose life and livelihood is affected, for better or worse, by each and every decision made by the APA.

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

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30 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    Are state land purchases the domain of the APA?

    I’ve heard conflicting opinions…

    Because if they are NOT, then this review board has clearly overstepped its mandate.

    If they are, then it seems they are well within their mandate.

    On another note, trying to use the free speech argument is almost laughable. This is a review board with a legislative mandate, not a private citizen. They should be commenting on issues that fall within their legal responsibility, nothing else.

  2. Paul says:

    Dave I agree. I think it is quite clear that the APA has some responsibilities regarding state land purchases. I was under the impression that they did not until I looked into it recently regarding this discussion on the Finch lands. The Adirondack State Land Master Plan developed by the APA contains the guidelines for the acquisition of state land within the Adirondack Park.

    From page 6 of the plan:

    “The Agency has an important interest in

    future state land acquisitions since they can

    vitally affect both private and public land

    within the Adirondack Park. As a result the

    Agency recommends that the following

    guidelines should govern future acquisitions

    of state lands within the Park”

    I am not sure where the myth that the APA has no part in state land acquisition came from, but it appears to be just that, a myth.

    Now this response to the Council should have been done differently. Or not done at all, why stir the hornets nest? First, like I said you don’t need to point to the US constitution. Just look at the legislative mandate I have outlined above.

    Second, what is this about?:

    “The major concerns of Adirondack local governments are the jobs and building rights that will be lost in the Follensby and Finch purchases.”

    The TNC isn’t going to allow development rights no matter who the next owner is? Jobs are a legitimate topic but I think development is off the table at this stage. If the lands were in different hands maybe but I don’t think it is an issue now.

  3. Shocked says:

    Guys:

    All of the Park Agency’s responsibilities toward state land come after the purchase is complete. The APA has no role in deciding which specific lands are purchased and which are passed over. It is outside the realm of the APA’s expertise.

    The APA can make recommendations to DEC about some park issues, but it has no formal role in land purchases whatsoever. DEC doesn’t ask for its advice and APA doesn’t give it.

    We can quibble all you want about what ought to be true. Reality is what counts.

    Can the Review Board ask the APA to object to DEC’s actions? Yes. All day long. But that is not what the Review Board is doing or has ever done.

    If DEC’s Forest Preserve Advisory Council started telling the Health Department what to do, everyone would be justified in telling the FPAC to stop. This is exactly the same situation.

    The Review Board is attacking DEC directly, using money the APA gives the Review Board. It acts like a private lobbying group, but uses public money to accomplish its ends. You cant do that.

    It is worse that most of that money is collected from taxpayers who strongly disagree with the Review Board’s point of view. Worse still that it is being done to protect a private luxury.

  4. Phil Terrie says:

    How utterly ridiculous for the LGRB to claim that these 2 purchases will have any impact whatever on the pool of affordable housing! That is as red a herring as you’ll ever see.

  5. Pete Klein says:

    Phil is absolutely correct in saying, “How utterly ridiculous for the LGRB to claim that these 2 purchases will have any impact whatever on the pool of affordable housing!”

    If the Review Board gave a damn about affordable housing, it would encourage the construction of apartments and two family houses, rather than egotistical great camps and boathouse.

    It is obscene that people go homeless while boats get better housing than do the people who live year-round in the Adirondacks.

  6. Paul says:

    “All of the Park Agency’s responsibilities toward state land come after the purchase is complete. The APA has no role in deciding which specific lands are purchased and which are passed over. It is outside the realm of the APA’s expertise.”

    Shocked from what I have read I find this to be incorrect.

    Look here from the ASLMP drafted and approved by the APA:

    “11. Due to the importance of the

    forest products industry to the economy of

    the Adirondack region, bulk acreage

    purchases in fee should not normally be

    made where highly productive forest land is

    involved, unless such land is threatened with

    development that would curtail its use for

    forestry purposes or its value for the

    preservation of open space or of wildlife

    habitat. However, conservation easements

    permitting the continuation of sound forest

    management and other land uses compatible

    with the open space character of the Park

    should be acquired wherever possible to

    protect and buffer state lands.”

    These are not baseless claims, these are APA documents, ones that are considered law in NYS.

    Now please tell me how this is not involvement prior to a purchase. These resolutions are simply asking the APA to adhere to their own guidelines in these cases???

    You continue to make this claim that the APA has no responsibilities pre-acquisition, please back that up with something.

  7. AnotherView says:

    Paul says: “You continue to make this claim that the APA has no responsibilities pre-acquisition, please back that up with something.”

    No Paul, you need to explain exactly what role the APA plays in the land acquisition process? What exactly are they required to do? Do they hold hearings? Do they issue a permit? Do they vote on it?

    Why is the LGRB writing letters to the Governor? They are supposed to advise the APA when the APA has a project or other business before them. That is not the case here. The LGRB has a specific legislative mandate associated with the APA (hence the name Review Board). It is supposed to review APA actions, not be a State funded PR group so local governments can comment on anything Adirondack. They already have the AATV to do that. The LGRB should only be commenting on specific APA jurisdictional activities.

    Fred Monroe should not be leading the charge against the Finch Pruyn purchase – he has a big personal conflict of interest with the private lease issue.

    It seems to me the SLMP policy is being followed. The overwhelming bulk of the Finch-Pruyn lands are staying in forestry. The acres being added to the Forest Preserve is the smallest segment of the total.

    Monroe’s press release is full of unsubstantiated claims about loss of jobs, affordable housing, future development, building rights etc. if the State buys a portion of the Finch Pruyn lands. And he fails to mention TNC has committed to selling parcels of Finch Pruyn lands to municipalities so they can build affordable housing.

    And finally, Monroe is a lawyer and should know the definition of “agreement”. TNC listened and bent over backwards to accommodate local government concerns and all 27 towns approved the plan. But TNC now finds out the word of local government politicians is worthless and they get double-crossed.

  8. Paul says:

    “No Paul, you need to explain exactly what role the APA plays in the land acquisition process?”

    Anotherview, apparently you are not looking at th specific legislative documents that I am citing. Shocked and you are giving your opinions. I am pointing you to just what you are asking for.

    Again, if you READ the ASLMP (a document written by the APA and having the force of law) you will see that the APA sets the guidelines for other state agencies (the DEC as one example) on specifically how they should go about the aquisition of state land. The LGRB (as a part of the APA) is telling the whole agency that they are not following their mandate.

    “It seems to me the SLMP policy is being followed.” How can you make this claim? If 60,000 acres isn’t a “bulk acreage purchase” or “highly productive forest land” as defined in the ASLMP than what is?

  9. Dave says:

    “How can you make this claim? If 60,000 acres isn’t a “bulk acreage purchase” or “highly productive forest land” as defined in the ASLMP than what is?”

    I don’t think the comment was referencing the acreage of the land… it was referencing the fact that most of the land will remain in forestry – which was also part of the APA recommendation you pasted.

    And to that point, I still do not see anywhere – from anything you have posted, or from anything I have read elsewhere – that states that land purchases are the domain of the APA. I see nothing that suggests the APA has any actual control over these purchases. It looks like, at most, they recommend guidelines for purchasing land. Clearly there is a difference between recommending guidelines and having control over the actual purchase… right?

    It sounds like your gripe is that you think the DEC and the state are not following the APA guidelines you have posted. But that has little to do with the issue of the Review Board overstepping its legislative mandate.

    If the Review Board’s legislative mandate is restricted to the business of the APA, then at most they should be commenting on the APA’s recommendations. Not on the actual decision to purchase or not, which is not in the hands of the APA.

  10. Paul says:

    Dave, The ASLMP and Environmental Conservation laws are just that, laws governing how the state should go about it’s business. In this case land acquisition. One of these laws, the ASLMP, was drafted and written by the APA. It is revised by the APA. The APA is partially responsible for making sure that these laws are followed. Clearly this law has not been followed. It is within the APA’s jurisdiction to tell the DEC that they are not following the ASLMP or ECL in this case. The LGRB certainly has the duty to raise this issue. They have clearly made this point in the past to the full agency. Anotherview, if the full agency will not listen the LGRB then needs to go to the legislature or the governor.

  11. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    Looks like a letter written by some teabagger – full of fears, half-truths and pretty much total nonsense.

    The private patchwork of human filth interspersed with public forest preserve was a DISEASE that New York state allowed to remain when it created the Adirondack Park – and now they’re having a hard time quarantining that disease.

    If you DON’T like the Adirondack Park and what it is about, and you DON’T want to improve upon it, then don’t let the blue line hit you in the ass on the way out.

    All these people living in paradise and crying about the fact that they can’t make it into a developed dump fast enough. Jesus Christ.

  12. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    “Pete Klein said…

    This argument will go on and on for one main reason.

    There are groups such as the Review Board who are opposed to the Adirondack Park in general and any expansion of state owned land.

    Period.

    2/09/2011 4:14 PM”

    THAT’S EXACTLY RIGHT.

    And personally I feel that people have been too cordial and civilized around here on this subject. These BACKWARD people that live in the PARK and don’t want this to happen should just LEAVE. THERE – I SAID IT.

    You live in a @#$%ing PARK.

    GROW THE #$%^ UP.

  13. AnotherView says:

    Some have been trying to make an anti-Forest Preserve argument by saying the Finch Pruyn land is not under any threat of development and doesn’t need to be protected. However, Monroe says if the State acquires the land the loss of development and building rights would have a serious impact on the local economy. Sorry, you can’t have it both ways.

  14. AnotherView says:

    Mr. Monroe is a member of one of the clubs that will lose its exclusive lease when the State purchases the land from TNC. He has a personal interest in the outcome. It is true Mr. Monroe is not a voting member of the LGRB. However, as Executive Director of the LGRB he is an employee of a State funded Board. Since his salary is paid by State and local government funds what ethics rules and regulations apply to Mr. Monroe? State employees have very stringent ethics requirements to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. It would be a very serious ethics violation if, for instance, an employee at DEC was involved in a land acquisition process and stood to personally gain from the State’s action. Mr. Monroe is an attorney and should know that even the appearance of a conflict of interest should be discouraged to avoid ethics issues and he should recuse himself from this particular subject entirely.

    Over the years the Local Government Review Board has expanded its activities beyond its legislative authorization to advise and assist the APA. They are now commenting on all sorts of issues regardless of the APA’s involvement. The LGRB does not have First Amendment rights. The LGRB is a creation of the legislature and its rights of expression are subject to the limits imposed by the legislature. That Mr. Monroe suggests the LGRB has First Amendment rights only shows that he confuses his rights as an individual with the LGRB because he has come to think the LGRB exists to promote his personal views.

  15. Paul says:

    Tim, Your childish rants are exactly what we can expect when you are stuck with logic that you cannot argue your way around.

    There are legitimate arguments for and against adding the lands to the Forest Preserve.

    Join in the debate like an adult or get lost!

    Anotherview, I can understand your concern regarding conflict. But on one point you make, does Monroe receive a salary? According to the APA act the members of the LGRB do not receive any compensation. Am I missing something?

  16. AnotherView says:

    Paul,

    LGRB members are reimbursed for expenses, presuably for travel, etc. Monroe does receive a substantial salary as an employee of the LGRB and his wife is on the payroll also as a secretary.

  17. Paul says:

    Anotherview, all I see in the Act is that no one on LGRB receives compensation, so I assumed that he also received nothing other than expenses. Do you also think that because he receives a salary as part of the APA, like other employees that it is a conflict for him to do his job?

    One thing I noticed while looking at the Act is that the LGRB are supposed to report to the APA, the legislature, and the Governor. Didn’ you ask earlier why they were writing to the Governor? I guess because they are supposed to.

  18. AnotherView says:

    Paul,

    Check with the LGRB or on-line, Monroe’s salary should be public information.

    As I said, if his salary is paid by State and local government funds what ethics rules and regulations apply to Mr. Monroe? If they are the same as with state employees I would think any involvement by Mr. Monroe regarding the Finch Pruyn issue as a paid staff employee of the LGRB is a conflict of interest, or the appearance of such at best.

  19. Paul says:

    Anyway here is my final take on this. The conflict related to Monroe being a member of one of these hunting clubs is perhaps a valid issue. But with that said, I don’t think that there is any doubt that long before this transaction it was clear that the LGRB feels that adding additional land to the Forest Preserve is not something in the best interest of local communities. There are valid arguments for not adding this land to the Forest Preserve. I will say that the LGRB has not done a very good job in articulating what those arguments are. On the question of whether or not is was appropriate for the LGRB to provide advice on this transaction, it seems like that is something well within their scope of responsibility. The APA clearly has drafted and approved rules (with the force of law) that define if and how such transactions are to take place. If this isn’t within their scope of responsibility I suppose the Governor can just put this in the circular file with other resolutions and letters that the LGRB has sent to Albany in the past. I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens. Thanks for the discussion.

  20. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    Paul, it’s not a childish rant to point out that this IS a park, and it’s OBVIOUS that it should be improved upon and made whole every opportunity you get to do it. If people living within the park cannot make the economy within the park work AROUND these facts then maybe THEY should leave. I’m not the one acting like a child here. HINDERANCES TO the park living WITHIN the park are the ones acting like children here.

  21. Paul says:

    “Paul, it’s not a childish rant to point out that this IS a park, and it’s OBVIOUS that it should be improved upon and made whole every opportunity you get to do it.”

    Tim, clearly you do not understand what the Adirondack park is all about.

    The “ranting” is your name calling and other kooky stuff you start to throw around when you feel like you are on the losing side of an argument. Grow up.

  22. Paul says:

    Tim,

    Let’s try this. Under what circumstances would you not think it is a good idea to add land to the Forest Preserve?

  23. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    Under NO circumstances do I think it’s a bad idea to add land to the forest preserve. I’m in agreement with the Adirondack Council that ALL significant forest covered land be added to the forest preserve as it becomes available. Like I’ve said before – these are NO BRAINER parcels of land – THIS is the kind of land you add to the forest preserve, without any excuses for why it can’t be done. It’ll have a marginal affect on the economy, with the exception of perhaps bringing more tourist money to the towns surrounding these parcels – and as far as the state being in a pinch financially – let them cut in other areas to make this happen. Besides, I think it has been established that it will be purchased from different sources and funds – sources and funds MEANT for this kind of land acquisition.

  24. Paul says:

    Tim,

    I kind of figured that there were NO circumstances where you would think that adding land to the Forest Preserve is not a good decision.

    The rest of us will debate in the real world.

  25. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    And I think the circumstances that you claim are good reasons to not add more land to the forest preserve are not convincing.

    The pros outweigh the cons, even if you do not believe that to be the case.

  26. Paul says:

    “And I think the circumstances that you claim are good reasons to not add more land to the forest preserve are not convincing.”

    Of course you feel this way. You have already said there are no circumstances no matter what they are. Obviously you and I are not debating anything, my comments are for anyone else who cares to listen and debate.

  27. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    I AM debating you Paul – in my opinion (and many others) your reasons for thinking that it is not a good idea to add these particular parcels (especially) to the forest preserve don’t stand up to the reasons that I believe it has to get done. It gives full protection to key areas. It goes one step further towards making the park whole and less fragmented. And it creates more world-class recreation destinations within a few our drive of tens of millions of people.

    Not to mention that it BETTERS the only real wilderness east of the Mississippi.

  28. Paul says:

    “It gives full protection to key areas.

    It is going to be open for public recreation. How is that “full protection”. Again you are trying to use the preservation argument for your want of more public recreational property.

    Again I ask, why wouldn’t a deed restriction not allowing any development and much more limited recreation not be a better way to “fully” protect the land?

    The state constitution can, and very well may be changed, to allow the sale of Forest Preserve land (or some limited rights on those lands) in the future, especially if the state continues to way over extend itself. If an owner wants his or her land protected in perpetuity with deed restrictions it is almost impossible to break that contract.

    But again like I said, Tim you have already said there is no circumstances so there really isn’t a debate.

  29. Paul says:

    Tim, If you think that fragmentation is an issue you should advocate for easements in this case. Use state funds for smaller parcels that would not be attractive as easement parcels. It is only larger tracts like this that will fit that model well.

  30. HikingBlog.net» Blog Archive » Review Board replies to Adirondack Council says:

    […] Source: http://adirondackexplorer.org/out-takes/2011/02/07/review-board-replies-to-adirondack-council/ […]

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