Tug Hill Reserve Act
Planning Accord for Tug Hill
Dates towns enacted the Accord
Questions and answers about the Tug Hill Reserve Act
Questions and answers about Critical Environmental Areas
Tug Hill Reserve Plan Consultation Process
Glossary of terms for the Tug Hill Reserve Plan
Special Area Map
Special Area Guidelines Workbook
TUG HILL RESERVE ACT AND THE PLANNING ACCORD FOR TUG HILL
“LOCAL RESERVE PLANS” AND “SPECIAL AREAS” THE GRIST OF THE ACT
The Tug Hill Reserve Act (Chapter 486 of the Laws of 1992) recognizes that the Tug Hill region has statewide and national significance because of water, wildlife, forest, farm and recreational resources. The act provides for protection of those resources through the preparation of a “local reserve plan” by a council of governments in the Tug Hill region.
Once a local reserve plan has been completed, public agencies proposing development or reviewing development that could 1) directly affect a “special area” designated in a local reserve plan, and 2) change the nature of the town or village in which the development takes place, must consult with the affected towns or villages regarding the development’s consistency with the local reserve plan.
PLANNING ACCORD FOR TUG HILL
The first local reserve plan under the act has been prepared by the Cooperative Tug Hill Council, and is called “Planning Accord for Tug Hill”, or “PATH”.
PATH was several years in preparation, as the Cooperative Tug Hill Council virtually invented the idea of the Tug Hill Reserve Act. PATH describes the Cooperative Tug Hill Council area, and establishes the goal of retaining important headwaters, major rivers corridors, core forest and other areas important to the character and economy of the area.
RETAINS HOME RULE
While councils of governments play a crucial role in the Tug Hill Reserve Act, all key decisions and powers stay with the participating towns and villages. Towns and villages decide to be part of the local reserve area or not; they designate special areas; they provide the real teeth of the reserve act through their local land use controls and environmental review.
COUNCILS OF GOVERNMENTS SET RESERVE BOUNDARIES WITH TOWNS AND VILLAGES
The Tug Hill Reserve Act applies to any council of governments in the Tug Hill region as defined in law. The Tug Hill region today includes 41 towns and 21 villages, in a rough triangle formed by Watertown, Utica, Rome, and Oneida Lake.
The Act requires that a council of governments designate the boundaries of a local reserve area, as an agent for towns and villages working together. Of course, the choice of being part of a reserve area is strictly up to the individual towns and villages involved.
The Cooperative Tug Hill Council requested each town that wished to be in their local reserve area to adopt a resolution to that effect. Each town that wished to participate was also requested to pass a resolution adopting the goal statement of the PATH program.
“Special areas” are the driving force of a local reserve plan. Special areas are designated only by the towns or villages in which they occur. The council of governments preparing the local reserve plan would normally assist a participating town by developing criteria for special area designation, but leaving all decisions to the town or village. The council would also facilitate meetings between neighboring towns to help work out special area boundaries where they come to town or village lines.
For example, the Cooperative Tug Hill Council developed a special area guidelines book for all participating towns to use, and has held joint town meetings for neighboring towns to compare their work.
The Act gives examples of special areas. In the work of the Cooperative Tug Hill Council most common special areas have been the vast core forest of Tug Hill, major river corridors, municipal water supply areas, and similar critical natural resources. Some towns have also included scenic and historic areas.
Special area designation is done by the adoption of a resolution of a town or village board, following a public hearing.
LOCAL RESERVE PLAN ELEMENTS AND FILING
A local reserve plan has two main elements:
1. the goal statement approved by all participating municipalities, and
2. a map showing each town or village designated special area.
The final plan is filed by the council of governments with the state’s Secretary of State and any state and local government entities likely to carry out or review actions under the Act.
LOCAL RESERVE PLANS AND SPECIAL AREAS RAISE QUESTIONS, DO NOT STOP PROJECTS
The existence of a local reserve plan or special area does not in itself mean a particular project will be denied or approved. They do not stop eminent domain proceedings or other governmental actions.
Their existence does mean that a Tug Hill local government has determined a resource is important, and that state law requires consultation with the local government that has designated the special area, because of the importance of certain Tug Hill resources (as determined locally) to the State of New York.
The idea is similar to the state’s SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review Act) in that it requires a certain process, not a certain decision.