The Belleayre Resort’s long march to final permits and construction, which has included a promised build-out of the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center’s facilities for at least half of the project’s life now, may have added on several more years of legal processing now that lawsuits have been filed against those overseeing the projects’ review in state government.
And, as has become rote with all things related to the proposed resort throughout its decade and a half regulatory journey, last week’s announcement that the Catskill Heritage Alliance (CHA) had filed suit against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in the Albany County Clerk’s office on November 10 brought in more controversy with two prominent members of the Ulster County Legislature railing against the legal action as “bullying” in their own press release earlier this week.
In the release from CHA, one of a handful of local environmental organizations that refused to sign on to then-Governor Eliot Spitzer’s 2007 Memorandum of Agreement that arguably cut Crossroad Venture’s massive golf-oriented proposal in half while tying it to state expansion at its ski center, the lawsuit’s reasoning was summarized as being about the state’s “refusing to return the proposed Belleayre Resort project to an adjudication process required under the New York State Environmental Conservation Law.”
“On July 10, 2015, DEC announced it would accept developer Crossroads Ventures LLC’s current plans for the proposed Belleayre Resort, including its two hotels, a spa, an 18-hole golf course, and 629 various lodging units on 739 mountainside acres,” the CHA’s release said. “The DEC later accepted documents proposing a potential $75 million ‘full build-out’ of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, with New York State using public funds to purchase the former Highmount Ski Center from Crossroads and connect it to Belleayre…After careful analysis, CHA has concluded that DEC did not carry out its review of the resort and the proposed expansion at the Ski Center properly, and that to correct that, we need to seek assistance from the courts.”
CHA chair Kathy Nolan’s explanation of how the organization reached its decision to sue the state DEC includes much about the 2006 adjudicatory hearing into a number of key issues that she posits were never adequately addressed, or legally concluded through executive action last summer just before then-DEC Commissioner Joe Martens left his position. She says that as a result, a less impactful alternative to what’s headed for approval was never adequately considered, as required by state environmental quality review (SEQR) law.
A missive from Ulster County Legislative Chairman John Parete and Vice Chairman David Donaldson on Tuesday, November 17, however, not only called the CHA’s lawsuit “bullying,” but purported to name the suit’s financial backers and to tie Nolan to both County Executive Mike Hein, along with a list of what they seek to group as anti-tourism activities.
“Whether in schools, workplaces or elsewhere, there has been a nation-wide push to curb bullying. Unfortunately, the practice is alive and well in the Ulster County Catskills,” Parete and Donaldson’s “Business of Bullying in the Catskills” release starts off. “The Catskill Heritage Alliance is using their deep pockets and intimidation maneuvers to try to bleed dry the developers of the Belleayre Resort, a $365 million project that has been 20 years in the making.”
Stating that any environmental concerns related to the private and state projects have already been addressed, the two Democratic legislators reference a Daily Freeman story in which Crossroads Ventures spokesman Gary Gailes said “the filing was made on behalf of the Gould and Korman families, Beverly Rainone and the Catskill Heritage Alliance. I leave you with the question of who exactly is paying the legal fees on this…”
The legislators’ release went on to call them “well-known wealthy developers… reminiscent of Robber Barons of old who took what they wanted then prevented others from enjoying these precious resources.”
Both families — the Goulds with ties to the area going back over 200 years — have previously said they would be open to filing Article 78 lawsuits seeking reversal of permits, at a later date.
Parete and Donaldson also characterize Nolan as “County Executive Mike Hein’s appointment” and “an advocate for continuing the CMRR lawsuit and the leader of the quest to remove the railroad” and state that “the Ulster County Legislature is on record as supporting the Belleayre Resort and Ski Center and we encourage the Executive to join us in supporting this important economic stimulator and job creator.”
Hein said he had not seen the Parete/Donaldson release.
Oversized, destructively sited…
Nolan wrote of the rationale for the suit. “CHA and other citizens groups have opposed this oversized, destructively sited project since it was first proposed in 1999. We have long been on record raising important issues about it before the DEC and the public,” she continued in her press release. “We have explained repeatedly how the resort as currently proposed is too large and too environmentally sensitive to be viable, and would end up harming the environment and the local economy…We are hopeful that the court will agree and will require Crossroads Ventures to go before an Administrative Law Judge for a hearing on the [smaller] Wildacres-only alternative. Unless all the involved parties agree on a compromise, a complete review of the project requires a return to the originally scheduled adjudication.”
Planning boards in Shandaken and the Delaware County Town of Middletown, over which the resort spans, have yet to schedule final sessions on needed permits. According to secretaries at both boards, which held their public hearings on the resort and ski center plans last winter, they need final “findings reports” from the state DEC before proceeding.