An attorney for one of the Belleayre Resort’s neighbors, as well as the local environmental organization Friends of Catskill Park, said last week that as far as he could tell, the Shandaken Planning Board may be jumping the gun in its site plan review for the massive project. That’s because there’s no final environmental impact statement, or plans that have been accepted by the state yet. Which also means there’s still a strong chance that’s what’s being looked at now could change.
Attorney Bob Feller, of the Albany-based firm Bond, Schoeneck & King, was speaking about a still-pending legal motion made by several parties to reopen a legal process halted nine years ago when Gov. Eliot Spitzer declared an Agreement in Principal with a number of project opponents. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is also part of the plans being reviewed now — to expand its Belleayre ski center exponentially and link it to the two-part ski, golf and spa resort — has determined that its own commissioner will decide whether that legal process be followed, or considered moot.
“You’d think there’d be time to wait, to take more time with public comments,” Feller said in reaction to Shandaken Planning Board Chairman Don Brewer’s statements that public comment would be limited henceforth. “The town can’t make any final decisions on site plans until there’s a legitimate final EIS.”
Complicating matters, Feller said that his client, Ben Korman — who owns the historic Galli Curci mansion across from a conference center to be built as part of the resort — has raised serious issues not addressed in the state’s current paperwork because he had never been part of any “issues conferences” that occurred before changes in the resort plans occurred following Spitzer’s AIP announcement.
A second large nearby landowner, the Gould family (descendants of 19th century financier and railroad builder Jay Gould), is also part of the current effort to see that the legal process is completed before anyone moves forward with reviews, including Shandaken’s site plan okays. The family own thousands of acres to the west of the current ski area, with their historic Furlough Lodge able to see lights from the new development.
Korman’s C&K Properties is a major real estate developer with commercial properties in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and other large cities. Kingdon Gould Jr. is a former ambassador to The Netherlands; both he and his son Kingdon III are significant developers in the Washington, D.C. area.
“Just to deny the rest of the hearing and not give any of us the chance to respond to what’s happening is not right,” said family spokesperson Melissa Gould this past week. “They’re not giving people a chance to rebut their rebuttals and have sidestepped their own administrative law judge. We have a lot of concerns.”
Both neighbors have raised the possibility of filing lawsuits over any decisions made, down the line, although Feller said this week that “to be honest there’s still some process going on and I’d rather not jump the gun on such things, although it’s always in the background.”
Gould has expressed similar statements, saying she’s “waiting and watching” to see what the state does, along with local planning boards. The Catskill Heritage Alliance has similarly noted that it will keep its own legal options open.
Adjudication issue stalled
As for statements that resort developers at Crossroads Ventures, and project supporters, have put out touting state DEC decisions on behalf of closing past adjudication processes, Feller said the final decision is not with DEC staff, but the commissioner and DEC Office of Hearings. As for the propriety of a reviewing agency’s staff making public recommendations…he chose not to comment.
The attorney did, however, point out that while settlements are a major part of all adjudication processes, they must be unanimous to be “complete.”
“The remaining parties who never signed off on the AIP have rights to have their day in court,” he said, mentioning the his client, the CHA and the Sierra Club in particular.
As do involved neighbors with their own connections, attorneys, and deep pockets.
Speaking on behalf of the state, DEC spokesperson Peter Constantakes said merely that “The issue of further adjudication for the Modified Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park is before the Office of Hearings and Mediation Services” and that nothing is moving forward at this time.
To complicate matters, he added that, “the proposed amendment to the Ski Center Unit Management Plan was developed by DEC with the assistance of ORDA, and if adopted, implementation will be under the direction of ORDA.”
That’s one more issue no one has had a chance to comment on yet.