Adirondacks propositions, and other non-casino measures, pass easily

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ALBANY—A proposition to swap a piece of protected Adirondack parkland for a much bigger chunk of private land was approved by voters on Tuesday. Voters also approved a measure that would end a century-old property dispute in the Adirondacks.

Proposition 5, which early results showed passing 54 to 46 percent, would allow NYCO Minerals Inc. to use 200 acres of the park for mining purposes, in return for 1,500 acres owned by the company. NYCO has reached the edge of its property that borders the 2.5 million-acre Adirondack park, and would revert the open-pit mine back to the park once it is closed.

NYCO mines wollastonite, a silicate of calcium that is used in paint and plastics, as well as an asbestos substitute.

NYCO spent more than $400,000 to promote the swap, most of that on advertising in the New York market, where most voters would be unfamiliar with the measure.

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The measure was supported by unions, business groups and some environmentalists because they felt it guaranteed work and grew the park. Other environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, opposed the swap, claiming it would set a danger precedent by allowing a private company to obtain land protected under a 19th-century law.

The park is protected from development by an 1894 law that promises to keep the Adirondacks “Forever Wild,” and requires any changes have to be first approved by the legislature and then voters.

Proposition 4, which was passing 73 to 23 percent in early results, will end a fight between the state and private landowners over ownership of land parcels surrounding Racquette Lake in Hamilton County. 

There are currently 216 parcels on which both the state and landowners claim to hold title, and the proposal would transfer the disputed land to the landowners. In turn, they'll have to pay some fees in to a fund that will be used to purchase nearby land that will become part of a forest preserve.

It's unlikely many voters understood the details of the proposal, since no money was invested in promoting the measure, which had no visible opposition. Environmentalists, homeowners and local business leaders all supported the proposition.

Proposition 2, which would give veterans additional credit toward civil job hiring and promotions, was also widely approved by voters statewide Tuesday, leading 84 to 16 percent in early returns.

Veterans currently receive five extra points on civil service exams and two and a half points toward a promotion. Disabled veterans can receive even more points.

However, the current bump is just for a one-time use, so veterans who are certified as disabled after they've already used their points don't get the additional points to which they are entitled. The measure closed that loophole.

Voters also enthusiastically approved a measure that will allow municipalities not to count debt related to sewage construction against statutory debt limits, by a 61 to 39 percent margin. The practice has been in place for 51 years, and the approval of the proposal means it can continue for another 10 years, at a time when many cities, towns and villages have to deal with deteriorating infrastructure.

Many upstate cities pay for sewer and water system upgrades through revenue-backed bonds and the approval means that practice can continue.