Vote Yes Coalition Continues to Grow for Ballot Proposal #3: Public Health and Safety Land Account

September 19, 2017

A diverse group of local governments, environmental protection organizations, business groups, recreational enthusiasts and others are asking New York State voters to help make the Adirondacks and Catskills safer for residents and visitors alike by voting Yes for Ballot Proposal #3 — The Public Health and Safety Land Account — this Election Day.

If approved by voters, Ballot Proposal #3 will eliminate the need for Adirondack and Catskill communities to obtain a state constitutional amendment any time they want to undertake road maintenance, utility installation and bicycle path creation projects that require the use of small portions of state Forest Preserve land. This is a prolonged and costly process that is not required in communities outside those areas. Ballot Proposal #3 will also allow public utilities, including broadband, to be installed within the widths of roads that cross Forest Preserve land.

Information about Ballot Proposal #3 can be found at VoteYesForTheAdirondacks.com and Facebook.com/VoteYesForTheAdirondacksAndCatskills. The group can be found on Twitter at @AdirondacksYes. The group’s public outreach effort is being led by the Adirondack Association of Towns & Villages (AATV). 

The growing list of organizations encouraging a Yes vote for Ballot Proposal #3 includes:

 

“A Yes vote for Ballot Proposal #3 is a Yes vote for public safety and common-sense public policy,” said Brian Towers, president of the AATV and supervisor of the Town of Wells. “People from across New York State enjoy the beauty and recreational opportunities available in Adirondack and Catskill communities. Now we’re asking for their help in making our communities even safer and more enjoyable.”

The Adirondack and Catskill Parks include millions of acres of forever-wild state Forest Preserve land. The Forest Preserve is an incredible environmental and economic asset for local communities, drawing visitors from around the world and providing unparalleled recreational and scenic experiences for those who make their homes there. 

But the “forever wild” classification, for all its good, also brings challenges to local communities when it comes to public health and safety improvements. For example, state law does not currently allow public utilities, including broadband, to be placed under roads that cross state Forest Preserve land. Ballot Proposal #3 will change that. In addition, in many places, state Forest Preserve land borders local and state highways. Any time a community needs to use a portion of that land to straighten a dangerous road, replace a culvert to prevent floods, create a safer

bike path, drill a water supply well or install other critical infrastructure, the state Constitution has to be amended to allow the project. This is, at minimum, a three-year process, requiring approvals by two successively elected state legislatures and a statewide referendum.

Ballot Proposal #3 removes this dangerous bureaucratic obstacle by allowing the state to create a “Land Bank” of 250 acres that Adirondack and Catskill communities could draw upon — without need for a constitutional amendment — when they have no other option but to use Forest Preserve land for these projects. Here’s how it would work:

    • New York State will first purchase and add 250 acres of land to the Preserve.
    • Adirondack and Catskill communities would then be able to use up to a total of 250 acres of existing Forest Preserve land to complete their important projects without having to obtain constitutional amendments each time — and without reducing the total acreage of the Preserve. In addition, any community that uses land from the bank would also have to pay the state fair market value for the land or donate land of comparable size and value to the state.

 

Because most of these community projects require just small pieces of Forest Preserve land, it is estimated that the 250-acre land bank would meet local communities’ needs — and help keep the Adirondacks and Catskills safe — for the next half century. 

The Adirondack and Catskill parks have been tremendous natural assets for New York State for more than a century. But modern-day infrastructure and communications improvements are essential to the parks’ futures,” said Bill Farber, Supervisor of the Town of Morehouse and Chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors. “By voting Yes for Ballot Proposal #3 this Election Day, you’ll help keep the Adirondacks and Catskills safe and healthy for today and future generations.” 

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