QUEENSBURY - The proposition to create a new village, "East Lake George," was defeated by a wide margin Aug. 26, with voters in the proposed new municipality rejecting it 189 to 370.
The turnout of more than 564 voters - amongst about 750 property owners eligible to cast ballots - was considered very heavy by local officials.
After helping count the paper ballots one by one, Queensbury supervisor Dan Stec sported a smile. He had opposed creating the village, which would have taken away both some lakefront property tax revenue from the town of Queensbury and authority over the municipal functions in the lakeside hamlets in North Queensbury.
"Both sides of the issue aggressively put their positions out there, and now we have a clear decision made by a tremendous turnout," Stec said. "Creating a new village would have added a layer of government and it made a lot of people nervous. For now, this chapter is closed."
Paul Ryan, a Fort Ann resident and vice chairman of a village incorporation committee, wasn't smiling after the vote count, which ended shortly after 10 p.m.
Ryan and others have fought for more than five years for lower lakefront property taxes. Ryan has argued the small 4.5 mile area that would have incorporated small lakefront hamlets of the towns of Queensbury and Fort Ann paid 45 percent of Fort Ann's budget and 24 percent of Queensbury's - an unfair proportion.
"As a group, we will stay vigilant," Ryan said. "The town now knows we'll stick up for ourselves and not blindly follow something that's illegal."
Controversy over high assessments and high taxes weren't the only issues pitting many of the lakefront residents against town officials.
Queensbury and Fort Ann had both disputed the village incorporation petitions in three legal challenges - but they were upheld in court. There were also disputes over who could vote in the special election - caused in part by state officials who had issued evolving opinions.
At first, local officials presumed only property owners registered to vote locally were eligible. Several days ago, the state broadened that guideline to include most of the property owners, and Judge Robert Muller was present Thursday at the poll site - the North Queensbury firehouse - to review eligibility of prospective voters. Those seeking Muller's review hadn't registered to vote by the Aug. 19 deadline, but now with the state's subsequent broadening of voter criteria, thought they'd qualify.
On Aug. 26, Muller approved the voting eligibility of 31 local residents who weren't registered locally, after examining their proof of local property ownership.
Stec said after the vote Queensbury government hadn't been trying to take away the voice of the residents of the local lakefront hamlets, including Assembly Point and Cleverdale.
Stec blamed the state for citing vague incorporation petition requirements, contradictory voting eligibility rules and the high lakefront assessments.
"This was not shenanigans on our behalf," he said of the town's legal challenges. "All we were doing was trying to follow the state's rules."
But Ryan said there had been a lot of needless miscommunication. After the vote, he said the vote itself had been a valuable experience for all.
"Getting to this point was a big step," he said. "Just the fact we're having a vote here is a victory for us."
Stec said although opposing the village, the Queensbury board was sensitive to the concerns the lakefront hamlet residents had raised.
"We know as a board there are issues we have to work on," he said.
The vote required two separate affirmative tallies from Queensbury and Fort Ann residents, but the proposal was defeated by both sets of voters. In Fort Ann, the proposition was downed by a 54-93 vote; among Queensbury residents, the proposition was defeated 135 to 277, plus five blank or voided ballots.