Township 40 Settlement
DEC Boundary Survey Update
As of August 18, 2014, the DEC surveyors have completed approximately 65% of their initial boundary survey field traverses around the required areas. The surveyors will continue to work toward their goal of completing all boundary survey traverses before winter sets in. Raquette Lake residents may see plenty of surveyor's flagging and traverse stations throughout the area. Many will notice the surveyors return to the same general areas as progress continues on the surveys. Presently, the surveyors have not set or marked any boundaries. Late this fall or next spring is the surveyors' target to begin marking the final boundary corners and lines. During this winter, the surveyors will complete boundary computations and begin preparing the survey maps. In the spring and early summer 2015, the surveyors will complete the marking of the final boundaries and finalize the survey maps, which will then be recorded in the Hamilton County Clerk's office.
Approval of Constitutional Amendment
On November 5, 2013, the voters of New York State overwhelmingly approved an amendment to Article XIV, Section 1 of the Constitution that allows the longstanding title dispute problem in Township 40 (in the Raquette Lake area) to be comprehensively resolved. On December 18, 2013, Governor Cuomo signed legislation adopting a new Title 19 in Article 9 of the Environmental Conservation Law that implements the amendment. The legislation establishes a process to clear title that will take approximately 2 ½ years to complete. The constitutional amendment and implementing legislation can be accessed by clicking on the links in the right-hand column. DEC looks forward to working cooperatively with the residents of Raquette Lake to complete the Township 40 settlement as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The process to resolve Township 40 title issues has already begun. DEC has received a certified list from Hamilton County Real Property Tax Services and the Town of Long Lake of the names and mailing addresses of all persons who are receiving tax bills for these disputed parcels. Using this list, DEC is sending certified letters, return receipts requested, to persons who are receiving tax bills for these parcels. Persons claiming more than one disputed parcel will receive a separate letter for each parcel. The letter will detail the process to be used to resolve township 40 title problems. If you claim a disputed parcel and do not receive one of these letters you should contact the Department immediately.
Within ninety days of their receipt of the certified letter, persons claiming contested parcels will be required to inform DEC if they plan to participate in the settlement. This is important, because if a person claiming title to a disputed parcel doesn't respond to the letter (or responds that they don't want to participate in the settlement) the disputed parcel they claim will be referred to the Office of the Attorney General for an action to quiet title. Therefore, if you receive one of these certified letters from DEC it will be critical for you to respond to DEC within 90 days after you receive the letter.
The legislation also requires the Department to survey the areas which are in dispute. The surveys will allow the State to relinquish its claim to the disputed parcels. Department staff will survey the exterior boundaries of the groupings of property to which it has a claim; they will not survey boundaries between adjacent parcels of contested property. Department surveyors have already begun some of the background work that will be required for these surveys, including some preliminary field work in Raquette Lake. Four Department crews will begin the on the ground survey work when weather permits in the late spring. If you claim title to a disputed parcel and have any surveys for the parcel, please mail a copy to Scott Orr at New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Real Property 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4526 or give a copy to one of the DEC surveyors when they are surveying in the late spring.
The legislation requires those participating in the settlement to make a payment to the Town to be used by the Town to buy land for inclusion in the Forest Preserve. The legislation includes a formula to be used to determine these payments, which includes a base fee of $2,000 per parcel, and an additional amount that is determined by a formula relating to the assessed value of the property including improvements. The total payment per parcel will average about $2,700. People claiming parcels that have a relatively low assessed value will pay less than $2,700 (but no less than $2,000) and those with a relatively high assessed value will pay more than $2,700. The amount of the required payments for each parcel will be included in the certified letters that DEC sends out in early 2014.
The legislation provides that payments can be reduced if a person claiming a disputed parcel conveys a portion of the parcel to the State for inclusion in the Forest Preserve, or conveys a conservation easement over all or a portion of the parcel to the Town of Long Lake. However, in no event will any such conveyance reduce the payment to less than the $2,000 base fee for each contested parcel.
It would be helpful for the Department and the Town to now have a rough idea of how many people might be interested in conveying a portion of a contested parcel to the State or a conservation easement to the Town. If you claim title to a contested parcel and are interested in doing this please let DEC know so DEC and the Town can assess future workload needs. If you now say you are interested in making such a conveyance you are not obligated to ultimately do so. You will be asked if you want to make a binding commitment to make such a conveyance in the certified letters that DEC will send out in late January or early February.
If you have any questions about the settlement process you can contact the Department at an e-mail box we have set up for township 40 questions (firstname.lastname@example.org). We will try to answer your questions promptly.