NY’s Township 40 and the battle for property rights

posted at 8:01 am on November 5, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

I’ll be the first to admit that this story doesn’t apply to everyone… but it could. As you have no doubt been reminded numerous times, election day has arrived, and even though it’s an “off year” for the majority of us, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be getting out there casting your ballots for what you believe in. Many states don’t have a lot of big ticket races taking place, but local and state elections are going on, and that’s where so much of the real electoral power resides. (Particularly when it comes to setting electoral lines after the next census.) Here in New York we don’t have any high profile races outside of New York City (and honestly… who cares?) but like many other states, we have some important ballot initiatives up for consideration.

Particularly if you’re in the Empire State and heading out to vote today (but also for others who could someday find themselves in this position), I’d like to call your attention to one measure up for a decision. It’s called Proposition 4 and it involves a patch of land in Upstate which you’ve probably never heard of and may never hear of again. Hidden well up in the Adirondack Mountains, this patch of real estate is so renowned that it’s known only by the name, “Township 40.” Many years ago, the state decided to take this particular section of lake and mountains and declare it wild and vacant state land. Many states do this to preserve uninhabited wilderness areas for future generations, but in the case of Township 40 there was one problem… the land was occupied, and had been since the 1800′s.

Generations of families have been fighting for the right to their own property in the Adirondacks for over 100 years.

“The state entered the whole Township 40 as wild and vacant state land even though there’s people living there, even though there’s people paying their taxes,” said Ken Hawks, who owns property on the north shore of Raquette Lake in Township 40.

His family has been paying taxes on the property since 1949 and the title chain goes back to the 1800′s. But, as long as Township 40 is part of the forest preserve, 216 properties will have conflicting claims.

“There’s always this threat of the state coming in and saying ‘ejectment, you’re out,’” said Hawks.

Township 40 can be removed from the preserve through individual court cases or a constitutional amendment. That’s where Proposition 4 comes in. If it passes, “It becomes my property. It becomes my land free and clear and that’s what this is about. There’s this cloud that’s over people’s heads,” said Hawks.

Full disclosure: As long time readers of Hot Air know, particularly those who read my completely pointless fishing updates every summer, I have a dog in this fight. I have family and friends in this area and it’s where we go camping every year. But the people who live there have had a generations long battle going with the state over their right to retain their historical rights. The state, frequently abetted by environmental groups, has been trying to variously inconvenience or outright eject these families from their land, deny them electrical and phone service, and otherwise make matters miserable on and off longer than the living memory of most. And yet that same state has happily collected untold millions of dollars of taxes at the same time. This irony is not lost on the residents.

By getting this initiative passed, they can finally have clear title. (And even then it’s coming at a price no other homeowner would face in “normal” residential areas. Read the article for full details.) This is nothing short of a clear, real life example of the state vs the private land owner, where the state has traditionally held all the cards. This is a chance to recognize the rights of these taxpayers and set a very old wrong to rights. So even if you weren’t aware of this before, if you are voting in New York today, please consider tossing a vote in favor of Prop 4.

Thanks.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

…soon…the word “private”…will disappear…from America!

KOOLAID2 on November 5, 2013 at 8:07 AM

I’ll be the first to admit that this story doesn’t apply to everyone

.
To be fair, that’s exactly what I thought, right off the bat…

ExpressoBold on November 5, 2013 at 8:10 AM

If you like that title to your land…you can keep that title to your land…

workingclass artist on November 5, 2013 at 8:11 AM

…soon…the word “private”…will disappear…from America!

KOOLAID2 on November 5, 2013 at 8:07 AM

.
Say it ain’t so, Private Pyle!

ExpressoBold on November 5, 2013 at 8:15 AM

ExpressoBold on November 5, 2013 at 8:15 AM

…LOL!

KOOLAID2 on November 5, 2013 at 8:22 AM

Great story Jazz, and I wish I could vote for this one. My own town seized land for a private real estate developer and, while these cases are very different, they are similar to the extant anyone cares about the state taking land without the permission of the owner.

MTF on November 5, 2013 at 8:25 AM

Here in New York we don’t have any high profile races outside of New York City (and honestly… who cares?)

Uh, Jazz?

katy the mean old lady on November 5, 2013 at 8:28 AM

If you like that title to your land…you can keep that title to your land…

workingclass artist on November 5, 2013 at 8:11 AM

PERIOD!…GUARANTEED!

NavyMustang on November 5, 2013 at 8:28 AM

…soon…the word “private”…will disappear…from America!

KOOLAID2 on November 5, 2013 at 8:07 AM

And the word “property.” It will all be “government holdings.”

If you think you own your house, stop paying taxes on it and find out who your absentee landlord really is. You’re just renting it.

Wino on November 5, 2013 at 8:28 AM

…soon…the word “private”…will disappear…from America!

KOOLAID2 on November 5, 2013 at 8:07 AM

Except as it pertains to abortion.

CJ on November 5, 2013 at 8:33 AM

It’s about time we took this state back. Let’s start with Township 40 and Proposition 4.

And despite the propaganda and nonstop mailings, I am voting NO on Proposition 1. There is no way the state’s fiscal problems will be solved with gambling. That’s another utopian dream that will ultimately end up costing taxpayers millions.

The state of NY already has a balanced budget amendment that is evaded by the legislature in Albany through shell games. It’s about time that stopped.

Marcus Traianus on November 5, 2013 at 8:37 AM

This proposition is the only reason I am going out to vote today. Oh, and the vile gaming proposition. The interesting thing in NYS is that NYC is about to vote in a Sandanista as its new mayor.

IdrilofGondolin on November 5, 2013 at 8:40 AM

I’ll be the first to admit that this story doesn’t apply to everyone… but it could.

You’re right, it could. Here in DC, the owners of the key piece of property for the proposed new soccer stadium found out that they were “selling” when they read the story in the WaPo. Seizing property for the public good is one thing. Seizing property so that a soccer league can build a stadium is something else entirely.

And BTW, the property involved in the Kelo case was never actually developed as promised. Which IMO puts a big question mark behind the wisdom of stealing private property based on a developer’s promises about what they will do with it.

Happy Nomad on November 5, 2013 at 8:40 AM

This proposition is the only reason I am going out to vote today. Oh, and the vile gaming proposition. The interesting thing in NYS is that NYC is about to vote in a Sandanista as its new mayor.

IdrilofGondolin on November 5, 2013 at 8:40 AM

Gaming proposition? What? The Indians aren’t making enough to keep harassing the NFL?

Happy Nomad on November 5, 2013 at 8:41 AM

The politicians have owned the Adks since the forever wild clause in the state Constitution back at the turn of the century. The APA is their hammer. No more tent platforms, no camps and burn down the “Duck Hole” talk about state control.

tim c on November 5, 2013 at 8:45 AM

Hmmmm, I would invoke adverse possession I think. Of course, I’m sure that’s been tried at some point in all these years. Maybe voting limited government conservative (redundant, I know) would have helped.

GWB on November 5, 2013 at 8:48 AM

Phew- I knew nothing about the Prop when I voted but cast in favor based on what little I had read while there. It was 50-50 based on the pamphlet’s positioning of the issue.

Bensonofben on November 5, 2013 at 8:48 AM

And to think the American Revolution was started over some tea.

Wine_N_Dine on November 5, 2013 at 9:18 AM

Will do, Jazz.

paul1149 on November 5, 2013 at 9:34 AM

I don’t understand how this started. If the state government wanted the property to preserve it as a forest, why didn’t they just take it by eminent domain and pay off the owners a hundred years ago? The state would have been allowed to take the property for much less “public” causes than that (see Kelo v. City of New London).

J.S.K. on November 5, 2013 at 9:35 AM

Probably 40 years ago California published a book on how they wanted to restore the Feather River. Described improvements parks, parking lots, etc.

One parking lot across a bridge just happened to be my uncles home and the park area down river was private land my grandfather had sold to a private owner. Same old stuff new day.

CW20 on November 5, 2013 at 10:00 AM

I don’t understand how this started. If the state government wanted the property to preserve it as a forest, why didn’t they just take it by eminent domain and pay off the owners a hundred years ago? The state would have been allowed to take the property for much less “public” causes than that (see Kelo v. City of New London).

J.S.K. on November 5, 2013 at 9:35 AM

Why pay all that money when you can take it for free, and along the way demonstrate to the peons who the real boss is?

slickwillie2001 on November 5, 2013 at 10:24 AM

I’ll do my part today and vote yes.

magicbeans on November 5, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Here in New York we don’t have any high profile races outside of New York City (and honestly… who cares?)

Uh, Jazz?

katy the mean old lady on November 5, 2013 at 8:28 AM

I used to live in the same area as Jazz, and frankly people in upstate New York don’t give a a darn a NYC. It is just a money pit where their tax dollars go.

This story is disturbing because it demonstrates that if you own your land and pay taxes on it, you really don’t own it, according to some Albany politicians and the environmentalist land grabbers.

I was having a conversation this past weekend with a friend who lives in the area known as the Southern Tier of NY and he was also talking about Prop. 4 and the implications. If you do live in NY state, you should be voting for this yes.

simkeith on November 5, 2013 at 11:10 AM

I disagree. This does apply to everyone. I vote in NY and after reading the article voted yes on Prop 4 for you. Good luck.

jams on November 5, 2013 at 3:47 PM

If it passes, “It becomes my property. It becomes my land free and clear and that’s what this is about. There’s this cloud that’s over people’s heads,” said Hawks.

So property taxes are eliminated forever? Otherwise its not free and clear. You still have to pay extortion to keep it.

kylearane on November 5, 2013 at 6:20 PM

If you want to get really serious and look deep you will realize that No one owns proterty . We only “rent” our property from the Government.
If you don’t pay property taxes, they take your land. If you want to build or improve your land, you have to get a permit. Then you have to get it approved with inspections to be sure your improvements or new construction is up to Govt. standards.
You really are just renting from the Govt. as they have almost the same say over what you do with your property as a landlord of a rental…….

jtpcamp on November 6, 2013 at 12:06 AM