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Resolution to shoreline access dispute sought

November 1, 2010
By JAMIE CURTIS, The Leader-Herald

Assemblyman Marc Butler is asking Gov. David Paterson for his help in resolving a dispute over people's access to shoreline property along the Great Sacandaga Lake.

An ongoing neighbor dispute in Broadalbin resulted in conflicting statements from the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, which regulates the reservoir and issues property permits to property owners, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regarding access to the lake's shoreline.

The DEC?says shoreline property may be used by anyone who accesses it legally. The regulating district says property permit owners should decide who may access the property.

In a news release, Butler, R-Newport, urged the governor to "reaffirm the principle of exclusive-use permitting for property holders on the lake, that the land is under the Hudson River- Black River Regulating District's control, and that you oversee the creation of a reasonable means of enforcement for this system."

According to DEC spokeswoman, Lori Severino, "the DEC is responsible for ensuring that state lands, including the Forest Preserve, are appropriately used and managed. This includes ensuring public access to state lands. This shoreline area ... is considered state owned land and therefore does not hold exclusive-use rights. The state will not enforce against pedestrian access as long as the access was legally obtained."

The issue resurfaced several weeks ago when an incident occurred between property owners Thomas Campanile and Robert Gorka of Broadalbin. Campanile has been the primary complainant in a series of issues involving neighbors and waterfront access.

"What kicked off this most recent incident was the fact that I was looking for a swimming platform," Gorka said. "I was walking with my grandkids and their basset hound, and as I was walking on the beach by Mr. Campanile's house, he came running down from his house and confronted me. He took my picture and said I didn't have any right to be there, and threatened to have me arrested. I reached out to [DEC] officer John Ellithorpe, who advised us that we had every right to walk on the beach," Gorka said.

Ellithorpe had sent an e-mail to Gorka and Campanile on Oct. 9 reaffirming the DEC's stance on access.

Campanile could not be reached for comment.

Regulating district Acting Executive Director Michael Clark said access should be determined by the permit holders, and that trespassing issues should be dealt with by local law enforcement agencies.

The regulating district issues about 4,586 non-commercial permits annually to residents with properties that are either adjoining or within a mile of state- owned land around the lake. This land is maintained by the regulating district. In May, the district endorsed the past practice of exclusive use.

The Sacandaga Protection Committee shares similar views to the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District on exclusive use.

The committee formed in 2009 in response to proposed changes to the 80- year-old Sacandaga Lake permit system.

"The SPC has been working toward a permanent legislative solution to protect permit holders and the community," SPC Co-chairman Joseph Sullivan said. "If we lose exclusive use, our property values would plummet, and other properties in Fulton County will see their taxes go up."

Sullivan said the SPC and DEC have been trying to work out their differences.

"The DEC is not going to enforce anything until they have clear direction."

Jamie Curtis can be reached at



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