Will the APA board listen?

To the editor:

On Tuesday, Aug. 3, Essex County Judge Richard Meyer granted seven homeowners’ request for a temporary restraining order against the homeowners of Deerwood Lot 9 on Upper Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks.

The order prohibits the owners of Lot 9 from cutting any more trees on the property, doing anything to disturb the wetlands and from taking any action to construct or commence the construction of an on-site septic system.

Over the past several months the homeowners of Deerwood Lot 9 had used a segmented approach as guided by APA staff to garner permit amendments that went against the lot’s original 1987 deed restrictions approved by the APA in order to protect wetlands.

The homeowners also proposed an amendment to cut trees from the shoreline a distance of 500 feet to the building site in order to have a view of the lake. The area proposed for cutting is located within Category 1 wetlands that has streams that provide fresh water to the north end of the eight mile long Upper Saranac Lake.

Equally concerning is the Permit Amendment that APA granted to allow the placement of an on-site septic system 100′ from running water; a stream that runs through the wetlands directly into the lake. The 1987 APA Permit required that the septic system be away from the wetlands at a designated field dedicated for Lot 9 and one other lot. All other lots in the Deerwood subdivision needed to be at least 200′ from the wetlands and streams. It should be noted that the New York State Department of Health minimum distance of septic systems is 200 ‘ as well!

The wetlands impacted by this project are part of an approximately 25 acre wetlands that contains a rare Category 1 wetlands, and provides habitat to loons, herons, fish, rare orchids and bobcats.

These are the most egregious of the problems with the APA’s review process for this development. Only APA staff have reviewed and made decisions allowing the Permit Amendment. It was important to some internal APA staff that the elements of this project be reviewed separately, using the novel “APA -guided segmentation approach” so that the proposed permit amendment could be classified as “non-material” and not require a decision at the APA Board level or any public notification per standard APA policy. The permit amendment allowing the relocation of a septic system to Lot 9 in close proximity to wetlands is VERY “material” in scope as a threat to the ecology of the wetlands. The elements of the proposed project, individually and collectively, are material and deserve to be reviewed in total before the APA Board Members.

To be clear, no one is denying that there is a suitable location on Lot 9 to build a home. We only ask that the homeowners abide by the current and original APA Permit 87-74 put in place by the APA to PROTECT THE WETLANDS and to protect the water quality of Upper Saranac Lake.

As one of 7 of the Petitioners in the Article 78 proceeding, I am hopeful the APA Board members will now take notice of the serious threat to wetlands that has until now been kept hidden from them by their own staff.

It’s time for the APA to show some leadership at the Board level and immediately revoke this decision that was made in error, so that this wetland and lake is protected for years to come.

Mary Ann Randall

Upper Saranac Lake