QUEENSBURY -- The proposal to create a new village of East Lake George failed on Thursday night after voters rejected it 370-189.
More than 550 residents out of more than 750 eligible voters cast paper ballots on Thursday, a turnout of more than 73 percent. Queensbury officials finished counting ballots at 10:04 p.m.
In Queensbury, 277 voters voted against the proposal, while 135 voted for it and five ballots were void. In Fort Ann, 93 voted against it, while 54 voted for it. As officials counted the votes, a crowd of nearly two dozen on both sides of the issue sat around waiting for results.
"I think both towns acknowledge that they got a lot of work to do in our communities," Village Incorporation Committee Co-Chair Paul Ryan said. "They know that we're here and we're paying attention."
Kim Bender, the leader of a group opposing the village, said she wasn't surprised by the vote.
"People in Pilot Knob didn't want this," she said. "People will be relieved."
"I didn't think it would pass," Queensbury Town Supervisor Dan Stec said, adding that he was surprised by the nearly identical margins in the two towns. "A decisive victory one way or the other is good for both teams."
Fort Ann Town Supervisor Gayle Hall was also glad the proposal did not pass.
"I have one statement: I'm pleased Pilot Knob wants to remain Pilot Knob," she said.
In order for the proposal to pass, a majority of voters in Fort Ann and Queensbury would have had to vote for it.
Residents who sought to create the village argued that its creation would lower property taxes, and they released a hypothetical budget showing numbers with which it could accomplish that.
But critics and opponents of the new village have called those numbers conservative, and argue that a new layer of government could never result in lower taxes.
Thursday's election came after a five-year battle that made its way to court after officials in Fort Ann and Queensbury rejected various petitions asking for the matter to be put to a vote. Last month, a judge ruled that officials must accept the latest petition, and the matter had to go before the public for a vote.
The voting began at noon and went past the original 9 p.m. deadline.
When the polling place opened, Queensbury Town Clerk Darleen Dougher said, there was a line at the door.
Stec and Hall were on hand at the fire station as election inspectors. Stec said state law calls for the supervisors of both towns to serve in that capacity.
However, some voters said they were uncomfortable with Stec's presence given his staunch opposition to the proposal.
"I found him to be an intimidating factor," Queensbury resident Peter Rief said. "He just started following me around. He was within feet of where I was marking the ballot."
Lisa Sheridan of Fort Ann said she voted for the proposal, and saw it as a way to stand up against the status quo.
"I think that it's great that the community has at least tried to stand up and say, ‘We matter, and our situation is not a good one,' she said.
Other voters were hesitant to share how they voted.
At the end of the night after the votes were tallied, the crowd dissipated quickly, bringing a five-year battle to begin a new village to a brisk end.