State, landowners seek to resolve century-old $20 million land dispute

RAQUETTE LAKE - A 100-year-old land dispute between the state government and Raquette Lake residents has finally come to a head as the state is claiming ownership of approximately 1,000 acres encompassing downtown Raquette Lake, formerly known as "Township 40."

Like other longstanding Adirondack issues, an amendment to the Constitution would be required to resolve the Township 40 situation at-large with a potential land swap, officials said this week.

In June of 2008, the state Assembly and Senate passed a Constitutional amendment to allow a land-swap. Like any such measure, it requires a second affirmative vote in both legislative bodies before going out for a public vote.

"The strange thing about this is that we have had to go through the amendment process and this assumes it is state land," state Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) said May 18. "This isn't either state or private land, it is contested land."

Sayward said that negotiations are ongoing between the state Department of Conservation, several environmental groups and the residents.

"With the push for the state to clean up all of their old business, this resurfaced," Long Lake Town Attorney Carl Ferrentino said last week. "I don't believe this land is something the state wants to have anyway."

Ferrentino said that the state is claiming ownership of approximately 1,000 acres encompassing 220 individual parcels.

The "Township 40" dispute dates back to the 1840s, when New York State sold several large parcels to private landowners. Throughout the last century, state officials claim that much of the property was re-acquired by the state through tax sales, but official documentation has often proven hard to come by for nearly half of the disputed parcels, officials said.

"The issue of title disputes in Township 40 continues to be one of the most contentious and difficult to resolve issues in the Park," The Adirondack Park Agency stated in a 2007 local Unit Management Plan.

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