Proposed Belleayre Resort Receives Final Approvals, But Lawsuit Against DEC Remains
After 16 years, the latest plans for the proposed Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park have been approved. But as WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne reports, a lawsuit against a New York state agency is holding up construction.
The Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park from developer Crossroads Ventures first was proposed in 1999 as a much larger project than proposed today. It’s scaled down version includes the Highmount Spa Resort and The Wildacres Resort and Highmount Golf Club. Earlier this month, the Towns of Shandaken in Ulster County and Middletown in Delaware County passed resolutions to allow for permits to move the project forward. A remaining lawsuit is the $365 million project’s sole obstacle, a suit Crossroads Ventures Project Coordinator Gary Gailes believes has little chance of succeeding.
“The project once it gets through… once that lawsuit gets settled can then move forward quickly to secure its financing and hopefully get a shovel in the ground some time before the end of the year,” says Gailes.
He says once construction begins, it would take up to three years to complete, a longer timeframe because of the following reason.
“Part of the reason for the delay is that, in accordance with DEC land disturbance regulations, we’re only allowed to open up so many acres at a time, get that acreage stabilized and then continue to move forward,” Gailes says. “That applies principally to the planned golf course that would be constructed next to one of the two hotels being planned.”
Kathy Nolan is chair of the Catskill Heritage Alliance, which along with three families filed the suit in November, against the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation.
“The Catskill Heritage Alliance brought an Article 78 action against the Department of Environmental Conservation for the way they completed the review of the project,” says Nolan. “And we’re saying that when the groups got together to try to mediate a solution back in 2006 leading to that Agreement in Principle, that they needed to have a unanimous decision that that mediation was successful. We do not agree that the mediation was successful, that the changes to the project are sufficient, and so we believe we’re entitled to be back in front of an administrative law judge as we were scheduled to be before that mediation effort was attempted.”
A DEC spokesman says the agency does not comment on pending litigation. Nolan says a smaller build alternative should have been and should still be explored.
“One of the issues for adjudication that had been set before the Agreement in Principle was a one-hotel, one golf-course alternative that needed to be fully developed and looked at,” says Nolan. “The Catskill Heritage Alliance feels that that is potentially acceptable and even good solution, but that was never developed as part of the SEQR process following the Agreement in Principle.”
SEQR stands for State Environmental Quality Review. The Agreement in Principle was reached in 2007 among Crossroads, environmental groups, New York City and New York state. Gailes says the resulting project is much smaller in scope than originally planned.
“1,200 of the total 2,000 acres were sold back to the state. That acreage is now in the forest preserve. The originally planned three golf courses have been reduced to one,” Gailes says. “There’s been significant reduction in land disturbance.”
Gailes says the resort would create several hundred jobs and positively impact the regional economy. The resort is to be sited on some 739 acres, adjacent to the state-owned Belleayre Ski Center. The Highmount Spa Resort will consist of 120 hotel units, 96 other lodging units, a spa that will include medical spa services, and food and beverage facilities. The family-oriented Wildacres Hotel will feature 250 hotel units, 163 other lodging units, a conference center, food and beverage facilities and a Wilderness Activies Center, along with an 18-hole public championship golf course.