Niagara Gazette

Opinion

October 22, 2013

CONFER: A look at state propositions 4, 5

Niagara Gazette — Of the six statewide propositions on November ballots, items 4 and 5 will likely see the least amount of attention and care from voters on this side of the state since they are focused on issues in the Adirondacks. Some Western New York voters won’t make a selection at all on those items, while others might randomly choose yea or nay.

That’s a poor, even selfish, approach to fulfilling our obligations as citizens, especially since we are empowered to make decisions that, while not affecting us personally, can affect people, economies and environments elsewhere.

So, to help you to make informed choices, here’s a quick analysis of those propositions.

Proposition 4 settles a longstanding land dispute between the state and residents, businesses and local governments in Long Lake and Raquette Lake. The disagreement over ownership of 216 parcels dates back to the 1800s when the state took – or attempted to take – ownership of lands from property owners who were allegedly delinquent in taxes but likely weren’t due to shoddy recordkeeping on behalf of the government.

Despite numerous lengthy and costly court cases through the years — some won by the state, others won by individuals — definitive answers regarding ownership haven’t yet been determined.

This proposal would finally bring closure by giving the property owners, most along the shoreline of Raquette Lake, clear title to their lands. In exchange for the benefits of full ownership, they would pay the state a fee equal to a portion of their assessed value. The state would then use the funds to buy more than 200 acres of wild, forested land between Raquette Lake and the Eckford chain of lakes, add that land to the Adirondack Forest Preserve and protect it from development and forestry, ensuring public and environmental benefit.

Proposition 4 is a win-win for all involved. The landholders can finally rest assured that their property is truly theirs (something that their predecessors didn’t have the ability to) while we (the state) gain a critical piece of forest that serves us greater benefit than ownership of those homes and cabins ever would have.

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