By Gwendolyn Craig
John Ernst will oversee a discussion on solar farms Thursday in the first meeting of the Adirondack Park Agency since he was appointed chairman.
Gov. Kathy Hochul tapped the New York City businessman and Adirondack retreat owner to the chairman post last month. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo had left the position vacant for nearly 900 days.
The agenda for the APA meeting at 9 a.m. calls for a review of regulatory roles for large-scale solar projects in the park. Staff will present a planning memo on the subject that indicates that solar farms are considered major public utilities and not buildings. As a result, the APA does not have the jurisdiction to set density restrictions.
The memo also states any changes to regulate where solar projects could go in the park would require an act of the state Legislature.
The meeting agenda is silent on a 120-unit subdivision proposal in the town of Jay, though Ernst and board members will likely hear about it during the public comment portion.
Last month developer Eric Stackman of Florida submitted the first part of an APA application for a luxury resort and townhome complex in Jay. The information is open for public comment until Dec. 3.
David Gibson, managing partner of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, submitted a letter to the APA outlining concerns with Stackman’s proposal. Gibson told the Adirondack Explorer he will bring the matter before the board during public comment on Thursday.
The first part of Stackman’s large-scale subdivision application is incomplete, Gibson said. The plans posted online are missing maps showing where open space will be protected, information on wildlife habitat and design principles meant for conserving natural resources, Gibson said. He does not believe the APA should consider the first part “received.”
“At present, the APA and the public are left to debate the absence of resource information, not the quality of that information,” Gibson said.
Stackman’s proposal is the second project to fall under the APA’s new large-scale subdivision application created in 2018. But in Gibson’s and other environmental organization’s minds, the APA’s application process fell short in its one and only project approval, a subdivision around Woodward Lake in Fulton County.
Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, said the Jay project “shows the need for revisions of the APA Act for conservation design standards in subdivision reviews.” Protect the Adirondacks, Adirondack Wild, the Adirondack Council and others have called on the state Legislature to pass a pending bill that would require subdivision applicants design their projects with more natural resource protections.
The board will also hear and vote on a permit renewal request for an eight-lot subdivision in Bolton in Warren County. The permit would authorize a single-family dwelling on one lot and a subdivision road on another. Both lots involve wetlands.
To access the meeting, go to tinyurl.com/MeetingNov2021Thu or listen in by calling 1-518-549-0500 Access code: 2340 066 4178. If you wish to comment during the meeting, send your name and phone number to [email protected]. The agenda offers comment times at the start and end of the meeting.