New York Township 40 Land Dispute Settlement Amendment, Proposal 4 (2013)

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Proposal 4
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:New York Constitution
Referred by:New York Legislature
Topic:Forests and parks
Status:Approved Approveda

The New York Township 40 Land Dispute Settlement Amendment, Proposal 4, was on the November 5, 2013 ballot in New York as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. It was approved.

The measure authorized the state legislature to settle longstanding disputes between the state and private landowners over ownership of parcels of land in the town of Long Lake, Hamilton County, located in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. In exchange for giving up claims to the disputed parcels, the state shall acquire land for the forest preserve from landowner payments over time. Estimations projected that landowners would pay $600,000.[1][2]

State Senator Betty Little (R-45) sponsored the measure in the state legislature as Senate Bill 4689.[3]

Prior to Proposal 4, there were 1,000 acres of land around Raquette Lake that were claimed by both the state and private landowners. According to reports, the dispute was generated by a series of possibly illegal tax sales in the late 1800s.[4]

Election results

Below are the official election results:

Proposal 4
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 1,744,371 72.66%
No656,37127.34%
These results are from the New York Board of Elections.

Text of measure

New York Constitution
Seal of New York.png
Preamble
Articles
IIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXIXIIXIIIXIVXVXVIXVIIXVIIIXIXXX

Ballot summary

The official ballot text read as follows:[5]

Settling Disputed Title in the Forest Preserve

The proposed amendment to section 1 of article 14 of the Constitution would authorize the Legislature to settle longstanding disputes between the State and private entities over ownership of certain parcels of land in the town of Long Lake, Hamilton County. In exchange for giving up its claim to disputed parcels, the State would get land to be incorporated into the forest preserve that would benefit the forest preserve more than the disputed parcels currently do. Shall the proposed amendment be approved? [6]

Constitutional changes

Proposal 4 added the following paragraph to the end of Section 1 of Article XIV of the Constitution of New York:[7]

Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, the legislature may authorize the settlement, according to terms determined by the legislature, of title disputes in Township Forty, Totten and Crossfield purchase in the Town of Long Lake, Hamilton County, to resolve longstanding and competing claims of title between the state and private parties in said town- ship, provided that prior to, and as a condition of such settlement, land purchased without the use of state-appropriated funds, and suitable for incorporation in the forest preserve within the Adirondack Park, shall be conveyed to the state on the condition that the legislature shall determine that the property to be conveyed to the state shall provide a net benefit to the forest preserve as compared to the township forty lands subject to such settlement.

Background

This is a map of Township 40 from 1900, the region where the land parcels are disputed. Click on the image for an expanded version.

Titles to 216 parcels of land, equating to approximately 1,000 acres, on the shores of Raquette Lake in Long Lake, Hamilton County, New York, were in dispute for the past century. The land was originally incorporated into New York, which was a colony at the time, as the "Totten and Crossfield Purchase" in 1771 and was known as "Township 40." The state claimed that the lands under dispute were purchased from private residents in tax sales in the late 1800s. Both the state and private residents, a utilities company, a fire department and a public school had conflicting ownership claims on the land. Some disputes were resolved in courts, but others were not due to the lack of ownership proof by any of the parties. Because the residents did not have clear and obvious titles to the land, many were denied title insurances and certain loans. Attempted once in 2007, private landowners backed out of an exchange due to what they deemed to be too high of fees demanded by the state.[8][9]

Support

The measure was sponsored by State Senator Betty Little (R-45) and was approved unanimously by the New York legislature in 2013.[7]

Supporters

List of Proposal 4 supporters:[10]

Officials

Former officials

  • Former Governor George E. Pataki (R)[12]

Organizations

  • Vote Yes for Prop 4 for Township 40[13]
  • Adirondack Council
  • Adirondack Mountain Club
  • Adirondack Wild
  • Natural Resources Defense Council[14]
  • Open Space Institute
  • New York League of Conservation Voters[15]
  • Protect the Adirondacks
  • New York State Association of Counties[16]
  • Adirondack Association of Towns & Villages
  • Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board
  • North Country Regional Council
  • Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce[17]
  • North Country Chamber of Commerce

A supporting campaign video by Vote Yes for Proposition 4

Arguments

  • According to Sen. Betty Little (R-45), "This resolution is very, very good. We'll save the state of New York a lot of money in litigation. And we'll save the people involved in those parcels of land a lot of money in litigation as well."[11]
  • The measure would remove financial costs and uncertainty surrounding the century long dispute, while making additions to the state forest.[8]

Opposition

Arguments

Arguments against Proposal 4 included:

  • The measure sets a poor precedent for other land disputes in the region. Approval would essentially invite other private individuals to dispute property.[8]
  • The appropriate means for settling these disputes is through the judiciary, which supplies transparency and independent authority, not a ballot measure.[8]
  • The fees accrued in the exchange will not be equivalent to the land being given away by the state.[8]

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of New York ballot measures, 2013

Support

  • Adirondack Daily Enterprise said, "[S 4689] would settle Township 40, the queen of all property title disputes, which predates both the Adirondack Park and the Forest Preserve...Never before has this mess been so close to being resolved. Please vote yes to unknot it, hopefully once and for all."[4]
  • Adirondack Explorer said, "The state loses nothing of real value, just theoretical claims to properties that have no public benefit. And it gains—at a bargain price—a tangible expansion of the Forest Preserve with direct benefit to canoeists and other members of the public. The amendment clearly deserves support."[18]
  • Albany Times Union said, “Proposal 4 would allow a series of land swaps of about 1,000 acres between the state and these homeowners to clear up these titles and allow all involved to close the book and save the cost of continued, needless litigation. We recommend a "yes" vote.”[19]
  • The Buffalo News said, "Proposal 4 would settle conflicts over land ownership in the Adirondack Forest Preserve dating back more than a century. Owners of more than 200 lots would pay a fee for a clear title to their land, and that money would be used to purchase other land elsewhere. Those landowners and the state would both come out ahead."[20]
  • The Herald-Leader said, “Together, the two state propositions would preserve Adirondack land and protect jobs - and cost taxpayers nothing. We see no logical reason to oppose the efforts.”[21]
  • Livingston County News said, “The amendment clarifies an ancient wrong and should be approved.”[22]
  • New York Times said, "It would allow the owners to stay and receive clear title; in exchange, they would donate property or money to purchase lands of equal or greater value that would be added to state’s forest preserve."[23]
  • The Observer said, “If passed, the amendment would allow private citizens to retain the land, and the government would buy other property for a net profit.”[24]
  • Post Star said, "Fairness is the issue with Prop. 4. More than 200 landowners in the Raquette Lake area have been paying taxes on property they bought in good faith. Granting them clear titles is the right thing to do, and the deal will benefit the state by enlarging and improving the Forest Preserve."[25]
  • Watertown Daily Times said, "The amendment clarifies an ancient wrong and should be approved."[26]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the New York Constitution

According to the New York Constitution, a majority vote is required in two successive sessions of the New York State Legislature in order to qualify an amendment for the statewide ballot.

Proposal 4 was referred to the ballot after being approved by both houses in successive terms by simple majority. S4689 was approved for a second time by the New York State Senate on June 12, 2013.[27] S4689 was approved for a second time by the New York State Assembly on June 19, 2013.[7]

Senate vote

June 12, 2013 Senate vote

New York Proposal 1, S4689 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 61 100.00%
No00.00%

Assembly vote

June 19, 2013 Assembly vote

New York Proposal 1, S4689 Assembly Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 141 100.00%
No00.00%

See also

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External links

Basic information

Support

Additional reading

References

  1. TimesUnion.com, "Questions that await you in the fall," June 24, 2013
  2. North Country Public Radio, "Landowners, green groups embrace Raquette Lake deal," June 20, 2013
  3. New York State Assembly, "Senate Bill 4689," accessed September 18, 2013
  4. 4.0 4.1 Adirondack Daily Enterprise, "Yes on Township 40, maybe on mining," June 22, 2013
  5. New York State Board of Elections, "Proposed Constitutional Amendments," accessed September 13, 2013
  6. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 New York State Assembly, "Senate Bill 4689," accessed July 12, 2013
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Lewisboro Daily Voice, "The Other Side of Your Ballot," September 25, 2013
  9. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, "Solution offered in Raquette Lake land disputes," June 8, 2013
  10. Vote Yes for Prop 4 for Township 40, "Township 40 Sponsors," accessed September 25, 2013
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 North Country Public Radio, "Cuomo, legislature back two land swaps in Adirondack forest preserve," June 22, 2013
  12. The Journal News, "Pataki: Propositions 4 and 5 good deal for everyone," October 27, 2013
  13. Vote Yes for Prop 4 for Township 40
  14. Natural Resources Defense Council, "Vote Yes on Proposition 4 in New York," October 24, 2013
  15. Eco Daily Politics, "Vote For Proposition 4 On November 5th Ballot," October 10, 2013
  16. NYSAC, "County Leaders Endorse Ballot Propositions for Adirondack Park and Sewer Project Debt Exclusion," October 15, 2013
  17. Adirondack Land Swap, "Adirondack Regional Chamber Says Vote YES For The Adirondacks," October 7, 2013
  18. Adirondack Explorer, "Amendments benefit public," September 2013
  19. Albany Times Union, "Editorial: A ballot full of questions," October 30, 2013
  20. The Buffalo News, "State proposals: Yes to casinos and Adirondack land deals, no to judicial retirement age," October 26, 2013
  21. The Leader-Herald, “Give OK to proposals”, October 29, 2013
  22. Livingston County News, “Voters are asked to OK 5 worthy proposals”, November 3, 2013
  23. New York Times, "New York’s Constitutional Amendments," October 31, 2013
  24. The Observer, “ENDORSEMENT: Propositions get backing”, November 1, 2013
  25. Post Star, "ENDORSEMENT: Land swap deals deserve support," October 29, 2013
  26. Watertown Daily Times, "Worthy proposals," October 27, 2013
  27. New York State Senate, "Senate vote on Senate Bill 4689," accessed July 18, 2013