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Judge Issues Ruling In Belleayre Resort Case

A state Supreme Court judge has ruled that New York’s previous Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner was justified in approving the proposed Belleayre Resort in the Catskills. A group that brought the suit is considering an appeal.

In a decision dated December 5, the judge upheld then DEC Commissioner Joe Martens approval for permits for the $365 million project. Gary Gailes is project coordinator with Crossroads Ventures, developer of The Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park.

“The decision speaks for itself. Everyone has had an opportunity to be heard. The court has rendered a judgment,” Gailes says. “So the way I look at it, it’s time for us to move on and hopefully move this project forward after a long 16 years.”

Kathy Nolan is chair of the nonprofit Catskill Heritage Alliance, which, along with some landowners, brought the suit against the DEC and Crossroads Ventures.

“The decision in this case from the judge in Albany is disappointing for our many members,” Nolan says. “And we are seriously considering whether or not to appeal the decision.”

Catskill Heritage Alliance had petitioned the court to overturn the outgoing DEC Commissioner’s decision to cancel a planned adjudicatory hearing concerning the DEC permitting of the Belleayre Resort project. The group sought such a hearing to adjudicate aspects of the project it felt the DEC had failed to consider adequately before issuing the permits.

“We are arguing that the lower build alternative, one hotel and one golf course, is environmentally much less damaging and therefore should have been the one chosen,” Nolan says. “The judge in that case said that the economics made the one hotel, one golf course alternative infeasible, but our experts show that that’s not the case.”

The proposed Belleayre Resort consists of The Highmount Spa Resort and Wildacres Hotel plus golf course. The resort would be built in both Ulster and Delaware Counties, in the towns of Shandaken and Middletown, respectively.

Depending upon whether Nolan’s grassroots group appeals the decision, another legal obstacle for Crossroads Ventures remains, in Shandaken. Catskill Heritage Alliance also had filed legal action asking the state Supreme Court to vacate the Shandaken Planning Board’s approval of permits for the project. The judge partially agreed, directing the planning board to have the Zoning Board of Appeals review the circumstances for a special use permit. Again Nolan.

“The case for the zoning issues is related to whether or not Crossroads Ventures can have multiple detached units in addition to their two large hotels,” says Nolan. “And we are arguing that they cannot have those and should have to take those out.”

Crossroads Ventures’ Gailes comments on this aspect.

“So after 16 long years of multiple issues raised before the courts as it relates to environmental concern about the project, we’re now reduced down to how do you define a lodge in a vacation resort,” says Gailes.

The Shandaken planning board is holding a public hearing on the permitting matter December 21 in town hall.  

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