Within the 6 million acre Adirondack Park, about 2.6 million acres are protected by the New York Constitution as Forest Preserve lands. The constitutional protections make it difficult for small projects, such as bridge improvements, to be approved when they cross into the Adirondack Forest Preserve. All of that could change if two “land bank” bills, introduced by Senator Elizabeth Little, continue to find support.
Photo Credit: Gerry Lemmo
The proposed “land bank” would consist of Forest Preserve lands in both the Adirondack Park and the Catskills. 500 acres would be used for the Adirondacks, and 250 acres would be used for the Catskills, making it a 750 acre “land bank.” The “land bank” exists as long as there are acres to sell from it.
Basically, the bills would give New York State the authority to sell small amounts of state-owned Forest Preserve land, located in counties, to municipalities, towns, and other sponsors for local utility projects. Any funds received in exchange for Forest Preserve land would go toward the Forest Preserve expansion fund. This fund is currently used by the state to acquire additional lands for the Forest Preserve.
Previously, small utility projects that crossed into Forest Preserve lands required individual amendments to the New York State Constitution, which could take many years. Senator Little’s bill addresses Article 14 of the State Constitution, which completely protects Forest Preserve lands from these projects. If the bills are approved, utility lines and bicycle paths would be allowed on certain state lands, and the 750 acre “land bank” would be created for public projects.
In a New York State Senate press release, Senator Little said the bills will “accommodate ‘quality of life’ and public safety projects important to Adirondack and Catskill residents and visitors, while protecting the environment through numerous safeguards.”
Here are the rules associated with the bills:
- No single project can use more than five acres of state land.
- A town can use up to 10 acres from the “land bank,” and a county up to 15 acres, unless authorized by the State Legislature for more.
- The project sponsor must pay the state an amount equal in value to the land being used.
- Permits, authorizations, and public hearings must be considered before a project can be approved.
- The DEC must determine the environmental impact of the project and whether or not an alternative to state-owned lands is an option.
The resolution has found outside support, such as from the Adirondack Council and the Nature Conservancy. Although Little’s bills have already passed through the Assembly and await to be sent to Governor Cuomo, they must be approved by the State Legislature again next year before being presented to voters.
Do you think a “land bank” is the best option to get public projects underway faster?