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Bi-partisan Bills Tackle Eminent Domain Reform, Local Permit Uncertainty, Uniformity of Adirondack Regs with Statewide Rules, & Adirondack Economy

By Carol W. LaGrasse (June 2006)

Property rights bills have bi-partisan support in the New York State Legislature, as evidenced by support in both houses by members of the appropriate majority party for bills that would reform eminent domain under a variety of approaches, institute vested rights for permit applicants, and tackle many of the increasing difficulties with the thirty-three year old Adirondack Park Agency Act.

Eminent Domain Reform

Starting with the best bill to reform the state eminent domain law, Senator John A. DeFrancisco's (R - Syracuse) and Assemblywoman Joan K. Christensen (D - Syracuse) propose to restrict the definition of eminent domain to classical uses (S. 5938, A. 9079). Mr. DeFrancisco's constitutional amendment would accomplish essentially the same (S. 5961). Other bills involve problematic compromise, such as a bill proposed by Sen. Carl L. Marcellino that would define "economic development" in the context of eminent domain and require homeowner impact assessment (S. 5946). A questionably useful bill (S. 5936) would define "blight."

Included in two of these Republican Senate bills and a bill proposed by Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky (D - Westchester) is the requirement for local elected government approval before eminent domain by an authority. This would take the power of eminent domain away from hundreds of unelected bodies.

Assemblyman Brodsky has sponsored a bill to establish an eminent domain ombudsman to assist property owners faced with condemnation of their property (A. 9152). In the longer term, both the Senate and Assembly have proposals in various stages to establish a task force to study eminent domain reform, including definitions and compensation. In his recommendations summarizing the October 2005 Assembly hearing on eminent domain, Sen. James S. Alesi (R - Monroe County) has recommended that the task force study the idea of a property rights ombudsman.

Vested Rights for Permit Applicants

A bipartisan "vested rights" bill proposed by Senator Nicholas A. Spano (R - Yonkers) and Assemblyman Adam T, Bradley (D - White Plains) would guarantee the stability of the local zoning, planning, and environmental ordinances in place when an application is filed (S. 7322, A. 10686). This would stop municipalities from continually modifying existing laws and regulations at any stage in the SEQRA, site plan approval, subdivision or building permit process.

Up-to-date, Uniform Adirondack & Statewide Policies

Because the economies of the communities within the Adirondack Park are threatened by the drastic reduction of campsites and forcible closure of roads and snowmobile trails under new DEC Unit Management Plans, Senator Elizabeth O'C. Little (R - Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Teresa R. Sayward (R - Glens Falls) have proposed that no new UMPs for the Adirondacks be approved until the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan has been completed (S. 7746, A. 11274). Another bill, submitted by Sen. Little and Assemblyman Darrel Aubertine (D - Cape Vincent), would standardize private campground regulations across the state under the State Department of Health.

Sen. Little and Assemblywoman Sayward have proposed a much-needed bill to eliminate confusion in the Adirondacks by standardizing the definition of the height of structures to that of the state uniform building code (S. 7744, A. 10905).

A bill to impose a ten-year statute of limitations on some violations of the Adirondack Park Agency Act has been proposed by Sen. Little and Assemblywoman Sayward (S. 1053, A.1983). This bill would eliminate some of the uncertainty and difficulties experienced by property owners with long-standing inconsistencies of construction with the thirty-three year-old law. Another bill introduced by Assemblywoman Sayward would deal with the APA's current enforcement policy of relying on reports on property owners by neighbors and the like, instead of establishing a consistent detection procedure. The bill would require that local governments forward copies of building permits to the APA and give the agency thirty days to look for violations (A. 10903).

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