RAY BROOK - The state Adirondack Park Agency has issued a formal response to a report that took a critical look at the agency.
"Policy Perspective - October 2010," a 13-page memo from the agency, has been distributed to Gov. David Paterson, state lawmakers and local government groups in the Park. The document is a response to the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board "white paper" titled "The Adirondack Park Agency: Under the Influence and In Need of Detoxification," which was sent to the governor last month.
The white paper, authored by LGRB Executive Director Fred Monroe, cites concerns about the agency's impacts on the people and local government of the Adirondacks. In it, the LGRB blames the APA for contributing to the economic deterioration of the Park and calls on the governor to reform the agency.
APA Chairman Curt Stiles
(Enterprise file photo)
The agency's initial response came in a Sept. 29 memo to the LGRB written by APA Chairman Curt Stiles. He called the report inflammatory and inaccurate, and questioned whether the Review Board "represents the best interest of local government or even has a reasonable consensus or mandate from individual towns inside the Park."
Stiles' comments sparked a firestorm of criticism from some elected officials and prompted state Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward to call for his resignation.
At Thursday's APA meeting in Ray Brook, Stiles took a much more conciliatory tone.
Instead of questioning the credibility of the Review Board, Stiles said the white paper "demonstrates the need for constructive dialogue."
"We invite the LGRB and Mr. Monroe to the agency to begin a new dialogue that changes the tone and the content of the conversation and focuses on reform and relationships with the APA," Stiles said.
However, Stiles said he was still "troubled" by the way the Review Board's report portrays the agency.
"If one were to broadly categorize the allegations and points made in the white paper, many do not fall under the purview or mandate of the Park Agency," Stiles wrote. "Many do not reflect practice, policy or circumstance as we know them to be today. And many issues are litigation related."
The white paper accused the agency of "legislating by regulation," imposing more restrictive requirements than it is authorized to do by law and working in concert with environmental groups.
The LGRB asked the governor to allow it and local governments to bring judicial review lawsuits or intervene in lawsuits involving the agency. The report also called on the governor to support legislation that would give local governments more say in how inside-the-Park commissioners are appointed to the APA board.
Paterson was also asked to cap the maximum fine the APA can levy and implement a statute of limitations on violations to the APA Act.
The APA, in its response, argues that its rule-making process has been rigorous and "has been undertaken with public involvement, including the Local Government Review Board's participation at the table."
Instead of local governments trying to sue state agencies, which the APA said is prohibited by the state Constitution, the agency suggested local governments try to "influence public policy, legislation, promulgation of regulations and rule making through procedures set up under state law."
As for the APA nomination process, the agency says any local government or advocacy group, including the LGRB, can suggest candidates for the agency board and influence the governor's selection process through the Legislature.
The contention that the APA is out to impose maximum fines was also rejected in the agency's response to the white paper. It says the APA staff tries to work with property owners to "ensure timely settlements and takes into consideration when violations occurred during a prior ownership." If a civil penalty is issued, it generally is "modest," the agency says.
Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian Houseal also took aim at the Review Board's report on Thursday.
"It was disheartening to see a report that's full of innuendoes, inaccuracies and misinformation, and how far the Review Board has moved from its mandated purpose to assist the APA in carrying out its duties," Houseal said during the meeting's public comment period. "We find the Review Board lacking in any oversight or accountability. Hopefully a reform-minded governor will come in and take a look at what works well and doesn't work well with the APA, starting with the Review Board."
Response to the response
After skimming through the agency's memo Thursday, Monroe said it "seems to take the approach that there isn't any problem" between the APA, local government and the Park's residents.
"It just indicates that everything is fine and we don't need to change anything," Monroe said. "It's kind of troubling to me, just glancing through this, that there's no recognition that there is a problem."
Still, Monroe said he's open to forging a new dialogue with the agency. He credited Stiles for his past attempts to reach out to local government officials in the Park and said neither he nor the Review Board is calling for the chairman's resignation.
"What I would hope for is a meeting with APA commissioners, the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages Executive Committee and the Review Board to seriously talk about these things," he said. "I know there's been a lot of animosity as a result of the white paper, but if the end result is it brings about a meeting or is a catalyst for that, it's for the better."