Monday, April 14, 2008

Hai, I b takin ur monies

A Bumper Crop of Bureaucracy

ESSEX, N.Y. — When Salim B. Lewis and his wife, Barbara, began building three suburban-style homes in 2006 for the workers on their 1,200-acre organic farm here, they didn’t realize they were wading into a regulatory brawl with the state that apparently set off an interagency dispute...

in March, the Adirondack Park Agency, which has varying degrees of jurisdiction over the nearly 6 million-acre Adirondack Park, assessed a $50,000 civil penalty against the farm, equaling the second-largest fine the state agency had ever imposed.

While the Lewises had obtained local building permits, the park agency said that they failed to obtain permits from it, even though it had not sought permits for a house in three decades. Most farms in the area limit themselves to building mobile homes for migrant workers, and the agency had scant records that it had even required permits for those. Mr. Lewis, a former Wall Street investment executive, is most likely the only farmer in the region wealthy enough to build large, comfortable houses for his workers

Critics of the agency saw it as an odd position to take for a regulatory body with environmental concerns at its core. Should the Lewises sell their farm, as they have threatened to do, a developer could build 30 homes on the property. Local lawmakers called it an example of the park agency overreaching its authority...

Mr. Lewis said he feared that if the park agency was granted jurisdiction over his farm, he would be bombarded with permit requirements. Should that happen, he added, “we’re out of the farming business.”

“No other farmer can fight it,” he said, referring to the agency “All of them have told me you’re the only guy who can fight this.”

Interesting because he can fight it. Most farmers I know that have disputes with the government simply have to go out of business, usually silently, though often marked by an empty booth at the farmer's market.

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