Protect the Adirondacks supports this proposed Constitutional Amendment to Article XIV of the State Constitution. This is Proposition 4 on the state ballot. PROTECT does so with grave reservations as to its future implementation by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), based upon its recent failures to complete necessary work to finalize the Route 56 power line and Raquette Lake water supply Constitutional Amendments, both of which were troublesome “after-the-fact” actions.

Despite concerns about DEC implementation, PROTECT believes that this Constitutional Amendment will resolve century-old land title disputes that have plagued many properties around Raquette Lake.

The proposed Township 40 (Proposition 4) amendment would allow the Legislature to settle, on terms determined by it, century-old title disputes involving over 200 parcels totaling slightly over 1,000 acres on the shoreline of Raquette Lake in Township 40 of Totten and Crossfield’s Purchase, Town of Long Lake, Hamilton County.

The pictures above show various properties in Raquette Lake with clouded titles that would be resolved by this Constitutional Amendment, including (from the left) the former elementary school, the community firehall, and the state Forest Ranger station. More than 100 properties around Raquette Lake have clouded title.

The State acquired title to many parcels in the “Forever Wild” Forest Preserve in the 19th century as a result of tax deeds conveying escheated lands. A number of private parties did as well, and in some cases there exists a “double chain of title.”

Since the State has no authority to stipulate to compromise an action involving title to lands in the Forest Preserve, it has in the past sought to litigate to establish its claimed superior title, at times winning, and at other times losing.

Under this agreement, in brief, the persons who claim ownership of disputed parcels are to be afforded an opportunity to opt in to a settlement by which they are to pay the Town of Long Lake (a) $2,000 plus (b) the total assessed value of the parcel, less the assessed value of any portion of it provided to the Town in fee simple as a gift, divided by the total assessed value of all disputed parcels multiplied by $200,000. This formula provides for a total payment far less than equal value.

The Town is to use the payments to acquire land purchased without the use of state-appropriated funds, and suitable for incorporation in the Forest Preserve within the Adirondack Park, which shall be conveyed to the state on the condition that the Legislature shall determine if the property to be conveyed to the state provides a net benefit to the Forest Preserve as compared to the Township 40 lands subject to such settlement.

Those who occupy the disputed parcels may also convey, by gift, a conservation easement restricting development over all or part of such a parcel to the Town. The State is given a “secondary right of enforcement” as to such easements. Once the acquisition by the State is complete, the state will be prohibited from suing to prove title to the lands of those who opted in. Lastly, the Attorney General is required to sue to determine title to any disputed lands outside the settlement.

Vote Yes: PROTECT says vote yes on Proposition 4.