Banking On It

By Gary L. Karl

Horicon Town Supervisor Matt Simpson urges you to vote “yes” on the land bank amendment to the state Constitution.

The “land bank” is officially called the Public Health and Safety Land Account and will be Ballot Proposal #3 this election day.

And please don’t confuse the land bank measure with Ballot Proposal #1, which asks whether to hold a constitutional convention—an unrelated and controversial question.

Mr. Simpson is busy this fall explaining the land bank to voters across New York State. The New York Times featured the Town of Horicon and Mr. Simpson in print and on-line articles on Proposal #3. So did the Associated Press. Local newspapers and commercial and public broadcasting news programs across upstate have also interviewed the Horicon Supervisor.

Mr. Simpson makes his case for Proposal #3 in easy-to-understand terms. He points to the Middleton Bridge connecting the towns of Horicon and Chester over the Schroon River. Authorities closed the single-lane, 115-year-old bridge in 2009 due to structural deficiencies. Although the towns have the funding lined up, the state Constitution thwarts their plans to replace it.

Why? Because the new bridge would cross two, 20-foot strips of state forest preserve land. The land needed for the new bridge amounts to just two-tenths of an acre, a tiny sliver of the 2.5 million acres of forest preserve in the Adirondack Park. But it’s “forever wild” under the state Constitution, so the towns cannot use the strips for a new bridge without a constitutional amendment.

That amendment would require approvals by two consecutive sessions of the state legislature followed by the voters of New York State from Hamburg to the Hamptons. That’s a lot of time, money, bureaucracy and luck necessary for a public project that could be done easily outside the Adirondack Park.

Communities inside the Blue Line run into similar forest-preserve problems frequently. Proposal #3 would solve them by creating a 250-acre land bank that the State can trade with local governments for public works projects in the Adirondack Park “with no net-loss to the forest preserve,” Mr. Simpson emphasizes.

Mr. Simpson told the Mini-Pearl that the land bank is “important to Horicon and the Adirondack Park.” It has broad support from environmental groups, pro-Adirondack groups, local governments inside the Blue Line, and politicians on both sides of the aisle.

For more about the land bank and many examples of its benefit to villages, towns and counties in the Adirondack Park, go to www.voteyesfortheadirondacks.com .

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