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Park Agency Offers Economic Planning Program To Adirondack Communities

Adirondack Park sign
Pat Bradley/WAMC

The Adirondack Park Agency is offering an economic development initiative to all 102 communities within the Blue Line following the completion of a pilot project.

The Hamlet Economic Planning and Assistance Program – or HEPA – is intended to help communities create economic development strategies that invigorate local hamlet areas.  Adirondack Park Agency spokesman Keith McKeever says the initiative benefits from and expands upon previous work in the park.  “What really is different about this program is it’s a community-driven program where agency staff works with local officials and local advocacy groups to facilitate a very public process where there is public input and really a grassroots effort to establish economic development plans.  And then the agency provides and facilitates the public process and also provide market analysis, feasibility studies and mapping services during the program.”

A pilot of HEPA was conducted in 2014 in the Fulton County town of Northampton and village of Northville.
The Fulton County Planning Department works with local planning and zoning boards. Planner Scott Henze assisted the Park Agency with the pilot program in Northville – a community of 1,100 residents on the Great Sacandaga Lake .  He says in the past the agency has been reactive to economic needs, while the HEPA program is a proactive economic initiative.   “I think it will work well because for one thing most of these small communities and hamlets do not have professional planners and staff. They can’t afford to hire someone.  This is really a no-cost option to the local municipalities. The Adirondack Park Agency does not charge a municipality to put this together.  So I think that you’ll find the majority, if not all, local municipalities in the Adirondack Park will partake in the initiative.”

Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board Executive Director and Town of Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe says most towns and hamlets in the Adirondacks have small budgets and will be challenged by the  new 0.73-percent  tax cap.  He says the APA Hamlet Economic Planning and Assistance initiative is welcome help.  “Many hamlets are kind of hemmed in because when the Adirondack Park Agency Act was passed and became effective in the early ‘70s the hamlet zones were mapped and the boundaries of the hamlets were pretty tight to what existed then. There’s some communities that want to expand their hamlets. Where they could feasibly expand I think it would help with that. It would also help avoid the cost of consultants, at least to some degree and just take advantage of some of the best information and best minds on community planning that otherwise might be beyond their reach.”

All 102 towns and villages in the Adirondack Park are eligible to participate in the Hamlet Economic Planning and Assistance Program.  The Adirondack Park Agency will work with communities on a first come-first serve basis and expects to be able to handle four each year.

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