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Stop the Indoor Ski Slope in the Pine Barrens

June 27, 2008
Dear EPCAL Grasslands Coalition Members,
We have very disheartening news. State Senator Ken LaValle, a man who considers the passage of the Pine Barrens Protection Act one of his proudest achievements, has been pressured into a position that could undermine the landmark legislation that Long Island residents overwhelmingly supported 15 years ago, and undo his own greatest work.
A recent NYS Supreme Court decision incorrectly concluded that all “economic activity” constitutes a “public improvement” which, in turn, constitutes “non-development” under the Pine Barrens Protection Act – a ruling that effectively creates a loop-hole that would undermine the very purposes for which the statute was created – to control development in the Pine Barrens.
The decision arose from a conflict over jurisdiction at the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL), but the determination by the Court is not limited to the property at EPCAL; rather, it would extend to the Central Pine Barrens leaving the Pine Barrens Preserve vulnerable to development once again.
Fortunately, Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Senator LaValle himself quickly recognized the need for a clarifying amendment to close the newly created loop-hole, and together introduced Senate bill S8421 and Assembly bill A11465, precisely to limit the definition of “public improvement” to an action of government, not a for-profit entity, and to define it as limited to public health and safety or the maintenance of existing infrastructure.
The amendment was not intended to prevent construction at EPCAL, but to preserve the integrity of the Pine Barrens Act itself.
Then, after acting swiftly to protect his prized legislation, Senator LaValle suddenly changed his position when faced by Riverhead officials and a group of developers who felt the amendment would be troublesome to their pursuit of economic activity.
Fifteen years after standing up to powerful developers in order to pass this enormously impressive legislation, Senator LaValle, the co-author himself, has been bullied into saying he was “confused” by what the clarifying amendment he introduced would mean.
Senator LaValle’s change-of-heart is a devastating blow to the protection of the Pine Barrens. His refusal to support his own Chapter Amendment will jeopardize the future of the entire Pine Barrens region. He must know our tremendous disappointment in him.
If you have not already done so, we urge you to contact Senator LaValle and tell him that you know he shares your appreciation of the Pine Barrens, the protection of drinking water and the preservation of critical habitat, and that you support his Chapter Amendment to close the loop-hole in the Pine Barrens Protection Act. You can send him a letter modeled after the one attached or call him at (631) 696-6900.
If a group of pro-development lobbyists and a frazzled Town Board can change his mind in one day, perhaps an outpouring of letters from Pine Barrens supporters can change it back.
Additionally, the Group for the East East End has set up an on-line Action Alert for this purpose available at http://www.capwiz.com/groupforthesouthfork/issues/alert/?alertid=11512951.
Richard Amper
Executive Director
P.S. Please alert the members of your organizations as well.

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