APA cashed fines and caught flack in 2021
In its 50th year, the Adirondack Park Agency oversaw controversial enforcement cases, reviewed several major development and renewable energy projects and seated a chairman after more than 2 ½ years without one.
An enforcement case that took center stage in 2020 continued with the state attorney general’s office seeking a more than $420,000 judgment against a former Hudson River retreat partner, Jeffrey Lee. The APA had found Lee and property owner James John McDonald in violation of several APA rules and regulations involving their rental business formerly called “The Brampton.” McDonald settled with the attorney general this year for nearly $30,000. Lee had not paid his $420,000 fine as of November, and the state is pursuing payment.
Two other enforcement cases led to five-figure fines this year for residents accused of building illegal decks.
The first involved Hamilton County retirees fined $28,500 for building a deck outside of APA regulations on Lake Algonquin in Wells. The agency also fined a Long Lake business owner the same amount for what it said was an illegal deck near Jennings Pond.
The agency approved its first large subdivision under a new application and began the process for a second. The first, a 32-home complex near Great Sacandaga Lake on Woodward Lake, was criticized by environmental organizations. They argued the development was not protective of natural resources. The APA is also looking at a luxury resort proposal in the town of Jay.
The APA was in the midst of controversial projects and litigation this year with Forestport residents fighting a proposed granite quarry and Santa Clara residents suing over development in a subdivision on Upper Saranac Lake. The agency won a state Supreme Court case against Thomas Jorling, a former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Jorling sued the APA, DEC and a marina on Lower Saranac Lake over the marina’s expansion project. Jorling, who asserted the APA was not protecting the park, has reserved his right to appeal.
In light of the state’s carbon emissions reduction goals and with more solar developers seeking permits, the APA also faced solar siting questions. The agency has approved 35 megawatts of commercial solar to date.
At the end of October, Gov. Kathy Hochul appointed New York City businessman and Adirondack retreat owner John Ernst to chair the agency. The APA had been without a full-time board leader since Karen Feldman resigned in May 2019.
— Gwendolyn Craig