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Carol W. LaGrasse, from New York Property Rights Clearinghouse, Vol. 2 No. 3 (PRFA 1995)

Jim and Joan Morris with seven of their children

 Jim and Joan Morris with 7 of their children

Lest We Forget
Reflections on Unconstitutional Government in New York
1. The Family
State environmental zoning agency follows family to bankruptcy court

Civil libertarians subscribe to an axiom that the treatment given one unusual person or minority exposes the threat to the civil liberties of all of us.

Jim Morris is not politically correct. He has ten beautiful children. Jim Morris's dream for his large family was certainly unusual. He bought 272 acres in Johnsbury for $52,000 in 1988 to divide into 28 lots among his children and future grandchildren for their inheritance. After he bought the property, which was amply sized for the eight-acre lots the State's special Adirondack law required, he was wrung out very hard by the Adirondack Park Agency, known in the dark consciousness of every Adirondacker as the APA.

The low point of Morris's virtual career before the agency was when Commissioner Anne LaBastelle, the woman who once announced at the official agency meeting her estimation of butterfly mortality per vehicle-mile driven in the Adirondacks, quipped at Morris's wife Joan, "Do you have birth certificates for all those children?"

The "native" townspeople ignored his plight when, after four years and over $120,000 in lawyers, engineering and other costs over and above the purchase costs, his project was shunted to the town zoning board. The preservationist newcomers who controlled zoning in the town rolled Morris around to their heart's content, apparently, because no "real" local folks were effected.

For Morris, one of the Town's most arbitrary requirements in its history was a "fire protection" Catch-22. The Town pronounced the property at the end of an old town road dangerous to his children, because it was "inaccessible" for their fire trucks, and imposed expensive sprinkler protection for the interior of all buildings.

After another year, the APA grasped jurisdiction of Morris back because of a 15-foot "wetland crossing," for which he is waiting 2 years for a permit. By comparison, environmental lobbyist David Sive received a permit for a 467-foot wetland crossing in 42 days.

Finally after six years Morris ended up physically broken and bankrupt, the project barely begun and dramatically cut in scope by the government from his original intent.

A man who paid every bill and managed his family's financial affairs with care and pride, Morris now has his assets supervised in total by the government; his checks read "debtor in possession" below his name and address.

The Adirondack Park Agency apparently could not bear the potential grief that anyone would unknowingly buy part of the Morris family subdivision, which was restricted to "gifts" to the family.

In a burst of APA bureaucratic initiative, Barbara Rottier, the Counsel of the APA, officially wrote the bankruptcy administrator, "Please be advised that if any land is considered to be an asset of Mr. Morris, then they have apparently failed to fully execute the gifts they intended. If this is the case, the sale of the lots as shown on the subdivision map would not be lawful, as a permit is needed for the sale of those parcels, which permit has not been obtained."

In addition, Ms. Rottier took the trouble to write the bankruptcy administrator about a small parcel Joan Morris acquired to increase the parcels adjacent for the children, because it "should be of interest to you."

Bankruptcy is not death, therefore hardly a way to allude the APA.

- Carol W. LaGrasse

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