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Oct 28, 2013 11:29 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Propositions On Tuesday's Ballot Include Legalizing Casinos In New York

Oct 29, 2013 11:25 AM

On the front of the ballots next Tuesday, November 5, will be a sprawling catalog of names, political parties and public offices that will draw most voters to the polls on Election Day.

But the back of the ballots also will feature several columns for marking votes on six separate state propositions and one county proposition—and, for Southampton Town voters, one local measure—that voters are being asked to weigh in on, the key one being whether New York State should legalize gambling. The six state measures are all proposed amendments to the State Constitution, though mostly very administrative ones. Just three of the state ballot measures would have any bearing on the East End at all.

The state proposal to legalize gambling on a limited basis is, understandably, getting the most attention of the propositions. After first being proposed two years ago by Governor Andrew Cuomo as a major potential revenue generator, the measure has been approved by the State Legislature twice, as required by law for any constitutional amendment. The approval of voters is the final hurdle to the amendment becoming law and gambling being legal in a handful of designated locations.

The constitutional amendment would make casino gambling, in facilities not owned by Native American tribes, legal in the state. The amendment also caps the total number of privately operated casinos at seven. It makes no reference to where the casinos would be located, but state lawmakers have already approved accompanying legislation that outlines the allowances for a first phase of private casino development—the siting of four casinos in upstate counties.

Additional legislation would need to be approved by the State Legislature before the other three casinos could be built, though much debate has focused on whether any or all of those would be approved for development in New York City or on Long Island.

“The implementing legislation speaks to the siting of the first four casinos in upstate New York—none would be in New York City or Long Island,” State Legislator Fred W. Thiele Jr. said. “The last three could be. That would take an additional act of the State Legislature.”

The second proposition, authored by Mr. Thiele, asks voters to allow military veterans to receive veterans credits on a second taking of their civil service tests if they are wounded or disabled as a result of their service. Military vets currently get a five-point credit on any civil service test if they were honorably discharged and five additional points if they were wounded during their service. The latter credit may only be applied once.

If approved, the amendment would allow soldiers who took a civil service exam but were recalled to active duty before accepting a position—and who do not return to civilian life until after the five-year validity had expired—to receive five additional points on their second taking of their tests if they were wounded or disabled during their recall.

The third proposition asks voters to allow municipalities to pierce the state’s 2-percent tax cap for improvements to sewage treatment facilities. The proposition is requested primarily by upstate municipalities that have been limited in their ability to improve and upgrade sewage treatment plants by the tax cap.

The fourth and fifth propositions both seek voter permission to allow two land-swap proposals to move forward. Both take place upstate; one is regarding mineral rights, and the other a tax dispute. In both instances, a private landowner is asking to have land falling within state forest preserves to be conveyed to them, in exchange for the gifting of a commensurate amount and value of land into a state preserve.

The sixth proposition asks voters to raise the mandatory retirement age of state judges by 10 years, from 70 to 80.

A proposition for Suffolk County voters only asks the electorate to approve a measure that would make library, fire department and other emergency buildings eligible to receive drinking water protection development rights credits transferred from parcels preserved from development, which would allow for expansion of facilities when not otherwise allowed by county Department of Health codes. The measure would expand on a long-standing, voter-approved use of such credits for creating affordable housing.

The bill at the root of the ballot measure was proposed by Legislators Jay Schneiderman of Montauk and John M. Kennedy of Smithtown. Mr. Schneiderman said he was spurred to ask that library districts be included in the bill by the plight of the Westhampton Free Library, which has been barred from using all of its top floor by county septic flow limits based on square footage and lot size.

Southampton Town voters will additionally be asked to cast ballots on a proposition, also related to a land swap of sorts. Voters will be asked to allow an East Quogue homeowner, who is not identified by name, to place a scenic and slope easement over a portion of their property, in exchange for extinguishing scenic and slope easements on another portion that were put in place during the subdivision approval process in the early 1990s.

The property in question is in The Pines subdivision of the Southampton Pines development off Montauk Highway. When the property was first developed, errors by both surveyors and the Building Department allowed a house and swimming pool to be built on a portion of the property that had been encumbered by the scenic and slope easements imposed during the Southampton Town Planning Board’s review of the subdivision plan. The errors were not discovered until the owner of the house, Raymod Uriarte, looked to sell, and a new survey was conducted.

“There were a whole series of errors on many different sides that resulted in this situation,” said attorney Lisa Kombrink, who represents the title company that discovered the errors. “I wouldn’t say anyone was at fault, but the homeowner was faced with either having to remove a number of features of the property that had been in place for years, or not being able to sell their house.”

To remedy the error, the owner will place new easements over approximately 6,000 square feet of the property, and the existing easements on about 5,600 square feet of land will be extinguished, if voters approve the move on Tuesday.

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