Property Rights Foundation of America®

 

Supplementary Pre-Filed Testimony of Carol W. LaGrasse
June 28, 2002

Cold Brook Properties/Keith McHugh
Adirondack Park Agency Project No. 2000-158
Proposed Single Family Dwelling on Lens Lake, Stony Creek, N.Y.

 

Q. Do you have any observations about the Comment Letters received by the Adirondack Park Agency in connection with the Keith McHugh proposal?

A. Yes. I performed a study of the comment letters received by the Adirondack Park Agency prior to the monthly two-day meeting of the commissioners on August 9 and 10, when they decided that the project would go to a public hearing. The reason that I did this analysis of the letters was that the staff cited a large number of letters at the August 9 meeting as a reason that the project had great public interest, which would justify a public hearing.

I did a freedom of information request of the APA for the comment letters.

Exhibit No. 9 - List and Analysis of Letters Received from APA with their September 7, 2001 Reply to La Grasse FOIL Request

The list of letters that I received from the APA is presented as my Exhibit No. 9, which lists the cover letters contained the APA reply to my FOIL request, 103 letters comprising 121 pages. In addition to comment letters from the public, the FOIL reply included letters from the applicant, but particularly striking were the letters from William B. Hutchens. The list, which is Exhibit No. 9, indicates some aspects of the letters, such from and to whom, the date, page of the reply, and, most interesting of all, which were form letters of which type

These letters were all received before the critical APA commissioners meeting. I set about to analyze the letters. The letters surprised me. I expected to see letters from neighboring summer residents and others in opposition. Indeed, there were the predictable letters from the neighboring summer residents, letters from a neighbor William B. Hutchens' employee who is on the town board and his girl friend, who a realtor, and from a woman who is a DEC employee and an advocate of regulation and beautification.

But the surprise was that the freedom of information response chronicled what I would describe as the expert manipulation of a letter writing campaign by one neighboring property owner, William D. Hutchens, to create an impression of great public opposition to the project.

I did an analysis of the letters, determining that the use of pre-typed form letters was inflated the appearance of public opposition. The APA received about 80 letters in opposition, but 12 of these were from William D. Hutchens. Form letters, most likely pre-typed by him, account for 64 of the letters. Counting all of Mr. Hutchens letters and all of the pre-typed form letters, there were 98 letters in opposition received. But when his letters are counted as one letter, the total number of letters received by the APA before the critical August meeting drops to 87.

When the many individuals who signed more than one letter are deducted, the number of letters in opposition drops to only 54. Of these, 38 were pre-typed form letters.

Of the total number of all letters received, only 34 were personally written, when all 12 of those from Mr. Hutchens and the 5 letters from the applicant are included.

If the 12 letters from Mr. Hutchens are counted as one letter and the 5 from the applicant are excluded, there were only 16 personally written letters in opposition.

Of the 98 letters of every nature received by the APA including those by Mr. Hutchens and the applicant, 34 were personally written, and 64 were pre-typed form letters.

As a result, I wrote the report, "'Untouched' Lake Shore - The Adirondack Park Agency's Reply to a Freedom of Information Request Chronicles the Coordinated Opposition to a Single Log House."

This report was published in the New York Property Rights Clearinghouse, which is the newsletter published by the Property Rights Foundation of America, of which I am the founder and president. The report is submitted as Exhibit No. 10.

Exhibit No. 10 - "'Untouched' lake Shore - The Adirondack Park Agency's Reply to a Freedom of Information Request Chronicles the Coordinated Opposition to a Single Log House"

I will read from this report, showing through their chronology how the letters beyond those from immediate summer neighbors were generated, and showing from my analysis the actual number of letters of the various categories, those relatively few personally written and non-duplicative, and vast majority the pre-typed form letters of each style. My analysis proves that, contrary to the impression given to the commissioners at the APA meeting, there was not much public opposition to the construction of Keith McHugh's log house. In fact, the magnitude of the supposed opposition demonstrated by the flow of letters, including the bulk of them pre-typed form letters, was a product of the effort of William B. Hutchens.

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