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Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan
30th Anniversary Tribute - May 22, 2003
Remarks made at the May 8, 2003 Adirondack Park Agency Meeting
held at the Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths, NY.
Chairman Frenette noted that May 2003 was also the 200th anniversary
of the beginning of the exploration by Lewis and Clark, as well
as the anniversary of a speech by President Theodore Roosevelt
in Portland, Oregon in which he commemorated Lewis and Clark and
set the nation in the direction of leaving our children and children’s
children an even mightier heritage than the one we have received.
He noted that while a more formal celebration would take place
in October, the Agency was taking the opportunity at this time
to mark this important occasion on May 22. He then read aloud an
April 25, 2003 letter from Governor Pataki which recognized the
30th anniversary of the Plan, a copy of which is attached and which
he requested be placed in a position of prominence at the Agency’s
Ray Brook Headquarters.
Mr. Kissel introduced special guest Richard A. Persico. In doing
so, he reminisced about his own introduction to Mr. Persico in
1972 and his early years as Counsel to the Agency. He noted the
important role of Dick Wiebe and Mr. Persico in both the formulation
and early months of the Agency, followed by Mr. Persico’s
appointment as Executive Director of the Agency. He also noted
Mr. Persico’s dedication to public service which included
his careers with the Governor’s Office, the Agency, DEC and
ORDA. Mr. Persico’s personal hobbies were also noted, including
his authoring of two Italian cookbooks. Mr. Kissel described Mr.
Persico as “the father of the Land Use and Development Plan,” having
taken a tremendous plan and map and putting it into legislative
form, working with Governor Rockefeller’s staff and the Legislature,
and finally bringing it to a point where it became law in 1973.
Mr. Persico thanked Chairman Frenette and the Agency Members for
inviting him to participate in acknowledging the 30th Anniversary
of the Adirondack Park Private Land Use and Development Plan.
Mr. Persico recounted the early days of his involvement with the
Agency leading up to the enactment of the Adirondack Park Land
Use and Development Plan. The Temporary Study Commission on the
Future of the Adirondacks had presented a report to the Governor
in 1970, with the core recommendation for the creation of an Adirondack
Park Agency and the assignment to that agency to prepare two comprehensive
plans, one for management of State lands of the Adirondacks and
the other pertaining to controls over private land uses in the
Adirondack Park. The report’s opening sentence was “A
development crisis is looming in the Adirondacks”; and the
Commission’s intrepid leader, Chairman Harold Hochschild,
signed the accompanying letter to Governor Rockefeller urging immediate
During this period huge residential project proposals such as
Ton-Da-Lay (over 9,000 units) and Wambat Realty were overwhelming
the local governments of the Adirondacks, who were hardly equipped
at that time to deal with this onslaught of development. Also about
that same time, Laurence Rockefeller, Chairman of the State Council
of Parks, had proposed the creation of a national park in the heart
of the Adirondack Park. There was universal opposition to this
proposal from the State, Adirondackers and environmentalists alike.
Governor Rockefeller heeded Chairman Hochschild’s advice
and in September 1971 signed into legislation the law creating,
on an “interim” basis, the Adirondack Park Agency.
This was a nine-member board, with two ex-officio members, which
included Dick Wiebe, the Director of the Office of Planning Coordination
(Mr. Persico was its legal counsel). Mr. Wiebe, a brilliant man
who was very close to the Governor, was directed to monitor the
Agency and ensure the completion of its task of preparing the plans
in a timely and successful manner. He had a razor sharp mind and
an equally sharp personality. Mr. Wiebe assigned Mr. Persico to
work closely with him on this assignment.
Dick Lawrence, the man at the helm of the Agency, was a carryover,
along with Peter Paine, from the Temporary Study Commission on
the Future of the Adirondacks. Dick Booth, in his eulogy at Mr.
Lawrence’s funeral not too long ago, remarked on how Mr.
Lawrence “led with strength.” Mr. Persico could only
add, “and with dignity.” He was quiet and reserved,
but inspirational. Mr. Lawrence should be credited with shepherding
the program through that interim period during the preparation
of the Plan that is being celebrated today. He was the right person,
in the right place at the right time.
Jim Bird, also a member of the original Agency, was a true Adirondacker
from Raquette Lake, a practical man who never let us forget the
rights and entitlements of the landowners. He provided a balance
to Peter Paine, a brilliant, energetic lawyer who represented the
The aforementioned men were very important in forging the Agency
ahead at a very crucial time; and they did the job well.
Mr. Persico pointed out the dedication and competence of the small
staff, which included, among others, Bill Kissel, Bill Curran,
Gary Duprey, George Davis, Clarence Petty, and Ray Curran. They
were remarkable people and he thought of them as pioneers. When
the Agency became permanent, they became the core of Mr. Persico’s
Peter Paine was most instrumental in the development of the State
Land Master Plan, which was submitted to Governor Rockefeller for
executive approval. He did so in 1972. Following meetings with
the Park’s local governments, and Park industries, the “preliminary” private
land use plan went to public hearing, exposing to the public for
the first time the map that accompanied the Plan. Much was at stake
for Adirondack land owners, and they were now able to see the proposed
color and density classification of their land. There was much
consternation, but one did show some humor. Art Jubin, who owned
significant land in Black Brook, sent an early St. Patrick’s
Day message to the Enterprise thanking the Agency for lots of green.
Nevertheless, this was serious business.
Mr. Lawrence steered the Agency through extremely stormy hearings
where much was accomplished, and the attendance was overwhelming.
He was courteous and attentive to all who spoke, including those
who were most cantankerous. It was interesting to note that in
his persistent efforts to protect these mountains, how little he
was aware that he was one himself. Over 600 people attended the
hearings and hundreds of written comments were submitted, most
of which were from Adirondackers. School auditoriums were overflowing
with standing room only. Hearings were held in each of the twelve
counties in the Adirondack Park, as well as in New York, Buffalo
and Rochester. Some attendees expressed themselves in peculiar
ways. In Fort Ann, a large man sitting near the front, fully dressed
in Native American regalia, sat quietly with arms folded. At the
close of the hearing he said, “Now that you’ve taken
our land, show us the way to the reservation.”
Changes were made to the Plan after the hearings. The most important
one involved prohibited and permissible uses. The initial version
proposed a list of prohibited and permissible uses which, after
the hearings, were converted into compatible uses, and the Plan
shifted to a reliance on density control as its primary regulatory
tool. As a result the only prohibited uses remaining were those
that conflicted with the overall intensity guidelines.
While the Plan was in the final stages, Mr. Persico’s brother,
Joe Persico, who was speech writer for Governor Rockefeller at
that time, called Mr. Persico one day at his office and said the
Governor was preparing his State of the State Message and wanted
to include some remarks about the Adirondack program. The draft
speech included a recommendation that the Legislature take favorable
action on the plan about to be submitted to the Governor and Legislature
by the Agency. Mr. Persico’s immediate reaction was to tell
his brother to exclude that statement as it was premature for the
Governor to make this recommendation. When the Governor delivered
his message, however, clearly Mr. Persico’s advice went unheeded,
as it was word for word as originally drafted. As his brother Joe
told him, “The trouble with you is you think like a Persico;
this was written for a Rockefeller.”
Seven Agency Members approved of the Plan, while Bill Foley, a
local member from Old Forge, voted against it and wrote a minority
report, and Jim Bird abstained. Mr. Bird’s decision to abstain
rather than vote against the program was actually rather courageous
for a local member. He could easily have voted in the negative
without changing the outcome.
The Private Land Use and Development Plan was submitted to the
Governor and Legislature in March, 1973. Mr. Persico was given
the task by the Governor’s Office to compile the Plan into
bill form, and provide for its administration and enforcement.
The State Land Master Plan was easily accomplished as it had already
been approved by the Governor and was simply incorporated by reference.
The inclusion of the Private Land Use Plan was almost as easy as
it was essentially set forth in what now is §805 of the Adirondack
Park Agency Act. Mr. Persico’s primary drafting responsibility
was in enforcement of the Agency law, project jurisdiction and
the project review procedures (§809). After long days and
nights, Mr. Persico submitted his draft bill to Mike Whiteman,
Counsel to the Governor, and his assistant, Harry Yohalem. The
draft was finally refined for presentation to the Legislature.
In the final details, Mr. Whiteman asked Mr. Persico for an effective
date, and Mr. Persico suggested a projected date so as to provide
sufficient notice to the people and to familiarize them with the
Plan before it became effective. He suggested August 1, his birthday.
Negotiations immediately began with legislative staff, primarily
with Senator Stafford’s office, and in particular Andy Halloran,
an astute aide and young lawyer from Minerva who went on to become
the first legal counsel for the Local Government Review Board.
Today, he is the Honorable Andrew Halloran, Family Court Judge,
The most significant concession that was made to the Legislature
involved the shorelines, particularly reductions in the minimum
lot widths in the Low, Rural and Resource Management areas. To
this day, there is a great deal of criticism for having done that;
however, at the time there was consensus by all that it was crucial
to assuring the Legislature’s passage of this bill.
In closing, on May 22, 1973, the Adirondack Park Land Use and
Development Plan became law. In June, Mr. Persico became the Agency’s
Executive Director, which is a story for another day.