The New York State Supreme Court in Ulster County has ruled in favor of Catskill Heritage Alliance (CHA) in one of two lawsuits brought by the citizens’ group concerning the proposed Belleayre Resort. The court ruled that the Shandaken Planning Board acted beyond its authority in granting a special use permit to developer Crossroads Ventures for some of the buildings planned for the resort.
The project, slated to be built on the side of Belleayre Mountain in western Ulster County and eastern Delaware County, includes two hotels, an 18-hole golf course, a spa, a conference center, and multiple attached and unattached multi-unit lodges and duplex structures, to be marketed as time-sharing units. The Court’s decision requires that planning board “request that the ZBA [Zoning Board of Appeals] determine whether the proposed lodges and duplexes are permitted” under the Shandaken zoning code.
The code specifies that all buildings associated with a resort project but separate from the main hotel must be for “accessory purposes” — i.e., for related activities but not for housing. Unless the ZBA interprets the law to mean that residential time-sharing units are permitted as accessory structures, the approval of these structures will require a use variance.
CHA chair Kathy Nolan stated, “We think it would be hard for the ZBA to find that these are accessory buildings, since the judge did not find that. The conditions for granting a use variance are very strict. We don’t think Crossroads could meet them. The condition cannot be self-created, whereas Crossroads clearly knew the zoning laws.”
Crossroads spokesman Gary Gailes expressed confidence that the ZBA would provide an interpretation favorable to the existing plans. He pointed out that CHA had presented several challenges to the planning board’s approval, and they were all thrown out by the court except for the one issue. “What the judge ruled was that the planning board needed a clarification from the ZBA that those detached lodgings conform with the existing zoning code. That’s what remains to happen.”
He added that when the Shandaken’s zoning code was adopted in the 1970s, time-sharing units were not yet a reality, whereas today they are common at such ski resorts as Hunter and Windham. “The resort is not selling the land under the structure,” Gailes said. “It’s basically selling time,” a number of weeks per year to each customer. “The zoning code probably needs to be updated to reflect real estate conditions that exist today. It’s a name issue — identifying a current name for real estate.”
Nolan, however, said the zoning regulations are designed to protect existing property owners from construction of nearby development that will diminish their enjoyment of their land. “There are different zones with different levels of intensity of activity. We’re not trying to just slow things down there; we think there are flaws in the project, and we feel if it goes forward as designed, its sets a bad precedent for other kinds of development in the future, going into residential zones where people would not want them. The question is, does the zoning code apply to everyone in the Town of Shandaken, or will these boards look the other way on some of these problems because the members feel favorably inclined toward the project?”
CHA’s other recent legal action against the resort was brought in November 2015, charging that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation did not sufficiently scrutinize the project before giving state approval. All papers have been filed, and a court decision is pending upon completion of judicial review.