Adirondack Park Agency

Land Use Area Classification

The process of determining how the Agency's regulations apply to development on private lands begins with an examination of how the land is classified.

What does classification mean?

In the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan (APLUDP), all private lands in the Park are classified into six categories, identified by color on the Park Plan map: hamlet (brown), moderate intensity use (red), low intensity use (orange), rural use (yellow), resource management (green), and industrial use (purple).

The classification of a particular area depends on such factors as:

  • existing land use and population growth patterns;
  • physical limitations related to soils, slopes and elevations;
  • unique features such as gorges and waterfalls;
  • biological considerations;
  • public considerations

The intended purpose of the classification system is to channel growth into the areas where it can best be supported and to minimize the spread of development in areas less suited to sustain such growth.


Private Land Classification Definitions

The following are the land use area classifications of the
APLUDP, and a general description of their purpose:


These are the growth and service centers of the Park where the Agency encourages development. Intentionally, the Agency has very limited permit requirements in hamlet areas. Activities there requiring an Agency permit are erecting buildings or structures over 40 feet in height, projects involving more than 100 lots, sites or units, projects involving wetlands, airports, watershed management projects, and certain expansions of buildings and uses. Hamlet boundaries usually go well beyond established settlements to provide room for future expansion.


Most uses are permitted; relatively concentrated residential development is most appropriate.


Most uses are permitted; residential development at a lower intensity than hamlet or moderate intensity is appropriate.


Most uses are permitted; residential uses and reduced intensity development that preserves rural character is most suitable.


Most development activities in resource management areas will require an Agency permit; compatible uses include residential uses, agriculture, and forestry. Special care is taken to protect the natural open space character of these lands.


This is where industrial uses exist or have existed, and areas which may be suitable for future industrial development. Industrial and commercial uses are also allowed in other land use area classifications.


Overall Intensity Guidelines

The land classifications in the APA Act are designated to channel development into areas where it is best supported and to control the overall density of development. While very few types of activities are prohibited by the Act, some activities are prohibited in certain land use areas.

By setting limits on the amount of building—and accompanying roads, clearing, support services, etc.—the Act contemplates that the Park will retain its natural, open space character while communities in the Park continue to grow in an environmentally sensitive manner. Overall intensity guidelines are established by land use classification. While the intensity guidelines prescribe average lot sizes for building, they are not minimum lot sizes; different minimum lot sizes are also established by the Act. Only the lands owned by the project sponsor are considered when applying intensity guidelines. Existing or proposed buildings on neighbors’ land do not count.

Land Use Area
Color on Map
Avg. # Principal Bldgs. (per sq. mile)
Avg. Lot Size (acres)
no limit
Moderate Intensity Use
Low Intensity Use
Rural Use
Resource Management
Industrial Use
no limit


For more on Land Use Area Classification, see page 2 of the Citizen's Guide to Adirondack Park Land Use Regulations (pdf 370kb).

How is my land classified?

To determine the land use area classification for an individual parcel of land, you should write or call the Adirondack Park Agency office.

The Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map and State Land Master Plan Map reduced facsimile can be viewed online here...


Local Land Use Programs

The Adirondack Park Agency Act allows any local government within the Park to develop its own local land use programs which, if approved by the Agency, may transfer some permitting authority from the Agency to the local government’s jurisdiction.

Towns with Agency Approved Local Land Use Programs
Essex County: Chesterfield, Newcomb, Westport, Willsboro
Fulton County: Caroga
Hamilton County: Arietta, Indian Lake
St. Lawrence County: Colton
Saratoga County: Day, Edinburg
Warren County: Bolton, Chester, Johnsburg, Lake George, Lake George Village, Hague, Horicon, Queensbury

Within these towns, a landowner should always consult the local code administrator or enforcement officer, in addition to the Adirondack Park Agency, in those circumstances where the following guidance and checklists suggest a permit may be required by the Adirondack Park Agency Act.


Jurisdiction Summary Chart...

Though we don't suggest starting with this chart due to its complexity, the chart Summary of Adirondack Park Agency Authority Over Land Use and Development and Subdivisions covers issues of jurisdiction in the six private land use area classifications.


State Land Classification Definitions...

In addition to private land, the Adirondack Park also contains state owned lands. There are seven state land classifications in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.