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APA opens hearings on boathouse rules

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The Adirondack Park Agency convened the first of four public hearings on new rules for boathouses last night at its headquarters in Ray Brook. The proposal limits new boathouses to 900 square feet in size, 15 feet in height, and sets a minimum roof pitch for a boathouse. Contractors, architects and environmentalists turned out to comment. Chris Knight reports.

(The APA has scheduled three more public hearings on the revised boathouse definition: tonight in Old Forge and Thursday in Albany and Lake George.)

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Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

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Eight people spoke during the public hearing, most of whom raised concerns about the revised boathouse definition, which only affects the construction of new boathouses.

John Wilkins, an attorney from Lake Placid, said the restrictions would only allow for a boathouse that could store a maximum of two boats, neither of which could be longer than 26 feet. He said the proposed definition of the term boathouse effectively limits the number of boats a [property owner can keep, by limiting the available space to store boats, both in the summer and during the winter.

This is the second time in the last eight years the Park Agency has revised the definition of the word "boathouse" in its regulations. A prior re-write in 2002 limited boathouses to a single story, with no bathroom or kitchen facilities, no heating systems and no living or sleeping quarters.

APA counsel John Banta said the new rules clarify the agency's regulations and protect shorelines in the Park. "Why square footage and roof pitch, as well as height?" Banta asked. "Together they minimize the environmental impact to the structure on water quality and vegetation at the shoreline, while providing a reasonable opportunity to birth two boats, or three boats that are smaller, inside the structure."

Banta noted that shoreline property owners can apply for a variance from the new rules.

Several contractors said the limitations would hurt business. John Hamilton is the owner of Adirondack Classic Designs in Tupper Lake. "Thirty-five percent of my business currently is in boathouses," he said, adding that will be reduced "significantly" by the new rules.

Others said boathouses will be so small that equipment that's normally stored in a boathouse will end up outside, cluttering the shoreline.

Michael Bird, an architect who lives in Saranac Lake, said the new regulations will hinder the tradition and style of Adirondack great camp architecture. He also objected to the APA enacting park-wide boathouse regulations that supersede many local regulations already in place. "Let boathouses in the park continue to be an interesting mix of unique structures," Bird said. "Let local governments establish limits they see fit at their locations. Most of all I urge you not to impose limits on boathouses when the Legislature itself did not choose to do so. This will only create unattractive and unimaginative boathouses."

Supporters of the proposed regulations spoke during Tuesday night's hearing, too.

Dan Plumley of Protect the Adirondacks! said the regulations will help to protect the park's shorelines, which he said are threatened by development.

Plumley pointed to even tighter regulations already in place on Lake George. The limit there is 700 square feet. "I think the 900 square foot measurement is adequate," he said. "Not everyone is going to like it," he added. "If you've got four boats and you have a 35-foot Hacker-Craft, you're going to be limited. But if 700 square feet is good enough on Lake George, where we probably have more Hackers than anywhere else in the park, 900 square feet park-wide is a reasonable standard."

The APA has scheduled three more public hearings on the revised boathouse definition: tonight in Old Forge and Thursday in Albany and Lake George.

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