Are There Unique Concerns When Buying or Selling Land in the Adirondacks?

The Adirondack Park is unique among the country’s state and national parks. At over six million acres, the park has 3.4 million acres of privately-owned land where the State of New York and residential, commercial, and industrial property owners have all staked claim to their own piece of this protected reserve.

As you might expect, owning land in the Adirondack Park comes with its own unique restrictions and responsibilities. As a result, when buying or selling property in the Adirondacks, it is not unusual to run into a number of potential concerns. Two of these potential concerns include:

  • Permit Violations
  • Property Taxes

Two Key Considerations When Buying or Selling in the Adirondacks

1. Is Your Property (or Future Property) In Violation of the Adirondack Park Agency’s Permit Requirements?

All privately-owned lands in the Adirondack Park are subject to certain permit requirements, as established and managed by the Adirondack Park Agency (the “Agency”). The permit requirements vary depending on a particular parcel’s location and classification, with the least-strict requirements applying in the park’s hamlets, and the most-strict applying in its resource management areas (where residential development is still permitted).

When buying or selling a home in the Adirondacks, whether as a second home or as a primary residence, it is important to determine whether there are any current permit violations on the property. The fact that a permit is required does not necessarily mean that a permit was obtained. As a seller, a permit violation (for example, building a dock or boathouse without a permit in certain shoreline areas) could spell trouble during the closing process. As a buyer, it could mean expensive remedial work (and/or litigation) down the line.

2. What Is the Current Property Tax Assessment?

A second issue that comes as a surprise to many first-time buyers in the Adirondack Park is the issue of property tax. Higher-than-expected tax assessments are not uncommon, and it also is not uncommon to see spikes in tax assessments within the park. These can occur for a number of different reasons. As a result, for buyers, just as important as the current property tax assessment is how high the assessment might go in the future.

When it comes to property taxes, full-time residents and second home owners in the park can face differing concerns. For many full-time residents, the incursion of vacation home development has resulted in increased property tax assessments that, for some, can become unsustainable. Second home owners, on the other hand, may feel as though they are carrying too much of the tax burden given their limited or seasonal use of the park’s public facilities. Regardless of the type of property you intend to purchase, it will be important to understand the property tax implications and make sure you are comfortable shouldering the additional monthly escrow contributions or annual payments. If you feel that the current tax assessment is too high, you may be able to challenge the assessment.

One potential way to mitigate your property tax obligations in the Adirondack Park is to apply for an exemption under Section 480-a of the New York Forest Tax Law. The law only applies to large parcels – 50 acres or more – and there are a number of requirements involved. But, if you qualify, the benefits of securing the exemption can be substantial. While the Adirondack Landowners Association has worked with the Department of Environmental Conservation to open up the law’s tax exemption to more property owners within the park, to date its efforts have been unsuccessful.

Are You Buying or Selling Land in the Adirondacks? Contact Attorney William M. Finucane For More Information

If you are planning to buy or sell a first or second home in the Adirondacks, attorney William M. Finucane can assist you in navigating the unique local issues involved. To speak with Mr. Finucane, call (518) 873-6351 or submit your contact information online today.

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