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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 action.

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 environmental interests.

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 staff.

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, Essex County.

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.






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