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Concerns over tax payments, snowmobile trails raised in state's pending land purchase

STONY CREEK A town board meeting held recently to discuss the fate of 1,230 acres of former Finch, Pruyn & Co. land in Stony Creek now owned by The Nature Conservancy and slated for acquisition by the state ended with as many questions unanswered as when it started. Stony Creek Town Supervisor Frank Thomas launched the June 3 meeting, stating its purpose was to seek answers from representatives of the Conservancy and the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation about residents concerns. The Conservancy now owns all of the paper companys 161,000 acres of land in the Adirondacks and DEC is working with the group to acquire much of that land. Representing the Conservancy, Dirk Bryant said, Our biggest concern is the Finch land being cut up into thousands of parcels and being sold off. Bryant said that most of the Finch Pruyn land would remain in private hands, protected by conservation easements. He did not say the state is already slated to acquire outright about 43 percent of the northern holdings of former Finch Pruyn land to add to the states forever wild Forest Preserve. To date, however, the wording of these conservation easements has not been made public until the sale is transacted and the deeds are filed, which has raised eyebrows of property rights advocates in the Adirondacks. Thomas brought up the topic of payment of real estate taxes. DEC official Mike Curley answered that the state pays taxes on conservation easements. A question arose about whether the state would seek a substantial real estate tax reduction under section 480a of the Real Property Tax Law for parcels that are to remain in timber production resulting in loss of tax payments to the Town of Stony Creek and Warren County. Curley gave the impression that this issue was unfamiliar to him. Bryant pointed out that they were visiting town after town and had resolutions of support for their plans for the Finch Pruyn land from 80 percent of the 28 towns involved. The DEC and Conservancy officials said that they would be respecting the Stony Creek Town Boards resolution which voiced opposition to state acquisitions in town. This doesnt mean, however DEC would backtrack on its plans, apparently. DEC had once promised officials of the town of Black Brook theyd respect its resolution opposing state acquisition of 15,000 acres of International Paper land in that town. Instead of direct acquisition, however, the state had large private groups buy the land and then donate it to the state. The town of Black Brook then sued to preserve its veto right and won its first court battle this spring. Curley discussed a snowmobile trail the DEC was planning on the Finch Pruyn land within Stony Creek in the vicinity of Harrisburg Lake. He said that the trail would loop around steep slopes on the Finch Pruyn land. Potential routes for the trail include connectors west to Wells and down to the town of Day, he said. From the grand scheme of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks, this would be a rather long one, he said. This new trail, however, is isolated from other snowmobile trail routes, and a large contiguous parcel of state-owned land to the south could not be used for part of the new trail because the DEC has imposed a cap on the mileage of snowmobile trail in the Forest Preserve.

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