Court cases, headquarters funding and policy news
By Gwendolyn Craig
The Adirondack Park Agency made news for many of its policy decisions, court cases, as well as its plans for $29 million in state funds for a new headquarters.
The agency celebrated its golden anniversary this year, aligning with when the state Legislature adopted the Adirondack Land Use and Development Plan in 1973. This plan classified private lands into six varying levels of development. Others, including the Adirondack Explorer, had marked the agency’s 50th anniversary last year to align with the 1972 adoption of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, the APA’s leading policy document governing public lands.
As the APA reached this milestone year, it spent multiple meetings debating a policy question that has gone unanswered this last half century. The board determined a mileage cap on roads in wild forest areas of the park, and determined that some roads, open only to people with disabilities, should not be included in the cap. The policy drew criticism from both those that wanted more road access and environmental groups, who wanted less. Several groups also criticized the board’s decision for adding a caveat that future members could interpret the policy differently.
The APA was the subject of multiple court cases this year, many of which will continue into 2024. In the span of two days in early 2023, the agency lost two court cases, one involving its wetland regulations and another involving an aquatic herbicide application.
The public also learned more about the agency’s plans for $29 million in taxpayer funds to go to a new APA headquarters. APA Executive Director Barbara Rice announced that the agency’s “preferred” choice was to renovate the former Paul Smith’s Power and Light Building and to build new offices behind it on Main Street in Saranac Lake. The proposed move from the agency’s current headquarters in Ray Brook drew cheers from Saranac Lake officials, and criticism from many current and former APA staff. Rice told the public in November that a feasibility study of the Saranac Lake location may be done in March.
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