Found in violation, business owner protests Adirondack Park Agency’s enforcement process
By Gwendolyn Craig
A Long Lake business owner will pay a fine and remove his deck after the Adirondack Park Agency ruled he had built it illegally.
The APA fined George Carrothers $28,500 but suspended $27,000 if he removes the deck by Nov. 1 and pays $1,500. The agency found him in violation of the Adirondack Park Agency Act for building a deck within 50 feet of the mean high water mark of Jennings Pond without a variance. Carrothers, co-owner of boat rental and café business Another Paradise Cove, said he will abide by the APA’s order but plans to fight the decision in other ways.
That is to say Carrothers plans to bar the public from accessing a causeway and island on Jennings Pond behind his Main Street property. The area has historically been used for launching the town’s fireworks displays and hosting a children’s fishing tournament, besides being a place for tourists and residents to walk. It was also a spot where snowmobilers could use a right-of-way.
“If government is going to come down on me, I’m not going to work with the government, no matter what the government is,” Carrothers said in an interview on Aug. 12. “I’m challenging them by communicating to the masses how out of touch the APA is with the needs of the Adirondack Park.”
“Understand, I don’t want to do any of this,” Carrothers added. “Everything was fine. Everyone was happy.”
Carrothers plans to close off the area after Labor Day. He hopes the public outcry will influence the APA to change its mind and change its enforcement process.
Long Lake Supervisor Clay Arsenault did not have much to say about Carrothers’ plans except that he was going to meet with him.
“At this time, the town attorney, town surveyor and my office are all researching the facts regarding the easements, property lines, and other agreements going back to 1933 when Jennings Pond dam was built creating Jennings Pond,” Arsenault wrote in an email.
Carrothers is a retired Dutchess County architect with experience renovating old mansions and building custom homes. He purchased the Main Street building, which used to be a snack bar and later a diner, and turned it over the years into a boat rental shop and bakery business. Originally Carrothers wanted to build a French provincial cottage on Jennings Pond, but APA rules and regulations hampered the process, and he decided to revamp the existing building instead.
With his architect’s eye, Carrothers described how his scalloped wood shakes on the building’s siding, new entryway and other design elements distract from the “the ugliest roofline you can have.” An added deck would serve as a ramp entryway to meet accessibility requirements and be a place for visitors and locals alike to sit and have coffee and pastries on the water.
The APA enforcement decision filed on July 30 came after an APA enforcement hearing at the board’s July meeting. The case dates back to 2019. Records show Carrothers originally proposed expanding the Main Street building, including the addition of a deck. Staff advised he would need a variance and in August 2018, Carrothers applied for one. In September 2018, staff asked for more information on the variance request, but Carrothers didn’t supply any.
In May 2019, staff received a complaint that Carrothers had built a deck. APA staff visited the site in June 2019, found the deck to be within the shoreline setback and issued a proposed settlement to Carrothers in September 2019 to remove the deck and pay a fine.
Carrothers, however, said after talking with APA staff before building the deck, he thought he no longer needed a variance. Carrothers originally wanted to build a much larger deck, but he said staff talked him into a smaller one. During that conversation, Carrothers said, an APA staff member had said that the smaller deck would be OK. He said the conversation was a negotiation so that he wouldn’t need a variance, otherwise, he added, he would have applied for a variance for his first-proposed larger deck.
Carrothers isn’t the only Adirondack Park homeowner to have this kind of miscommunication with APA staff in recent enforcement proceedings.
Joseph Cotazino Jr. had a similar complaint over a house and deck he built in the town of Wells. Cotazino’s home plans had been approved by all the necessary municipal parties but then the town warned him his house was so close to the road a snow plow might hit it.
Cotazino then asked APA for help as to where he could put his deck and house on his building lot. APA staff came out to the property and put stakes down where Cotazino could build his house and deck and not need a variance. Cotazino said he built his retirement home within the stakes, but APA staff said that he didn’t. APA fined him the same amount as Carrothers for building a deck within 50 feet of the mean high water mark of Lake Algonquin in the town of Wells. He also has been ordered to remove his deck.
There are many more things that make Carrothers angry about the APA’s enforcement decision, like how the APA won’t tell him who complained about his deck. Cotazino also had a neighbor file a complaint. Both complaints led to the enforcement proceedings.
Carrothers thinks the APA waited too long to issue him a violation, too. Staff came out to his property to look at the deck and then five months later mailed him a violation. In those five months Carrothers continued to invest in his new bakery with the idea that customers could sit out on his deck.
During the July APA board meeting, attorney Jennifer Hubbard said agency staff don’t issue violations on site. Enforcement committee chairman Art Lussi said “we tried that in the early days and there were gunshots, so that’s why we don’t do that anymore.”
That comment also shocked Carrothers.
“That to me is appalling that there’s a state agency that’s so out of touch with the community, so out of touch with the people that live in the Adirondack Park that they’ve created that level of animosity and that they know it,” Carrothers said. “Why wouldn’t they fix that?”
For now Carrothers plans to pay the $1,500. He balked at APA’s suggestion of picnic tables to replace his “architectural piece of work.”
“I don’t put picnic tables out in my yard, and I don’t shop at Walmart,” Carrothers said, “and that’s elitist on my part.” He laughed.
He plans to keep his business operating, close off the public access and remove the deck before Nov. 1. He also plans to apply for a variance for another deck.
“The whole thing is really stupid,” he said.
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