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Raquette Lake could be near the end of a century-old land dispute with New York state.  Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Raquette_Lake,_New_York.jpg">DzikieKwiaty</a>, public domain
Raquette Lake could be near the end of a century-old land dispute with New York state. Photo: DzikieKwiaty, public domain

Settlement to century-old Adk land dispute in the mail

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New York state is sending hundreds of letters to homeowners in Long Lake offering to settle land claims as part of the "Township 40" deal approved by voters last November.

The move is part of an effort to resolve boundary disputes around the tiny community of Raquette Lake that date back to the 1800s.

In all, more than 1,000 acres of land around Raquette Lake are affected by the boundary dispute, which was sparked originally by conflicting title claims, decades of lawsuits, and poor survey maps.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

Brian Mann has been covering this story and he spoke with Martha Foley about where the process goes next for the people in Long Lake and Racquette Lake. 

Some people are angry that they have to pay the state again for clear title to land that they think they own free and clear. But this has been a problem for more than a century
Martha Foley:  Brian, how many people will be getting these letters?

Brian Mann:  It's a little unclear.  State officials say more than 200 hundred individual properties are affected. How many owners that includes is a little muddled.  But it's a lot of people.  Really a big chunk of Raquette Lake was affected by this.

MF:  What happens when they get the letter?

 BM:  People will then have 90 days to return a notarized form "opting in" to the deal.
 
The agreement requires property owners to make a payment to the town of Long Lake, based on their property assessment, to secure clear title to their land — that's money which will eventually be used to buy new land for the state forest preserve.

MF:  In a statement, state Conservation commissioner Joe Martens said people can choose not to be part of the settlement.  He says people should make an informed choice.  Is it possible that a lot of people will opt out?

BM:  It's going to be interesting to see.  Some people are angry that they have to pay the state again for clear title to land that they think they own free and clear.  But this has been a problem for more than a century.  It's affected the community's ability to grow and think about its future.  There's hope in Raquette Lake and Long Lake that this will finally resolve the matter. 

MF:  And the revenue from the settlement will be used to buy new forest preserve land?

BM:  That's right.  The exact parcel hasn't been chosen - but the goal here is for the community to get out from under this legal cloud, while also raising funds to purchase land that could be valuable for recreation or preserving sensitive eco-systems.

NYCO's Mark Buckley points to the border between mine-owned lands and the state forest preserve.  In November, voters approved the deal to open park land to mining, but green groups say questions remain. Photo: Brian Mann
NYCO's Mark Buckley points to the border between mine-owned lands and the state forest preserve. In November, voters approved the deal to open park land to mining, but green groups say questions remain. Photo: Brian Mann
MF:  This Township 40 project was not controversial - it was approved by voters statewide last November by a really wide margin.  But there was also this other land swap, the NYCO minerals mine in the town of Lewis in Essex County.  Where's that at now?

BM:  NYCO hopes to do test drilling soon - that would be the next step for them to establish whether there's really enough wollastonite there to warrant expanding their quarry.

But a growing number of green groups have continued to argue that there are more legal and regulatory steps that New York state and NYCO have to take before the company can mine part of this land — roughly 200 acres — that was part of the forest preserve.

Basically what environmetnalists are saying is that voters approved the land swap back in November, but there are still other rules and review steps that have to be done by the Adirondack Park Agency and the Conservation Department before any work goes forward. 

So far, no lawsuits have been filed there, but unlike Township 40 this looks like an issue that could flare back up and be controversial going forward.

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