Belleayre Resort developers bring project to local planners

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By Jay Braman Jr.
Representatives for Crossroads Ventures LLC appeared before the Shandaken Planning Board Thursday to get the ball rolling on local review of their $365 million resort project.
The sparsely attended meeting was quite different from the last time Crossroads appeared before the board 13 years ago.
In October of 2000, when plans for a new resort set to surround Belleayre Mountain Ski Center were first unveiled, it was standing room only at town hall as project mastermind Dean Gitter outlined plans for a 2,000 acre project. On Thursday the only people present were Crossroads representatives, a reporter and the planning board.
That first plan presented in 2000, quickly dubbed a “mega resort” by critics, left the planning board level after that evening for review on much higher levels, all the way up to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. In 2007, after years of debate and stalemate, former Governor Elliot Spitzer stepped in and brokered a deal between the developers, environmental groups and all the related agencies in the review process. The deal scaled the project back to a size that most, but not all, of those parties found acceptable.
Now, the site consists of 739 acres adjacent to the existing New York State owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. Information supplied by Crossroads states that of that amount, 218 acres will be developed. The overall resort centers around two distinct hotels; Wildacres Resort with an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Davis Love III and Highmount Spa Resort, both with an extensive program designed to give visitors access to the many specialized outdoor experiences unique to the Catskill Region.

Many years have passed
Gitter, who now lives in Maryland, was not there Thursday, leaving things this time around to Project Coordinator Gary Gailes and Project Attorney Terresa Bakner.
Introducing her, Gailes joked that Bakner was “a young lawyer” when all this began.
“My daughter was eight when we started,” Bakner laughed. “She’s 21 now.”
Although it has been a long time, Crossroads appearance before the planning board is still early. Gailes said the board cannot can take any formal action on the project until the state has issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project, developers submitted their applications to the town to get the local process going and give planners ample time to study the documents, all 7,000 pages, that has been supplied.  
Rather than hand each board member a big box of paper, the Crossroads team put the information on compact discs with special indexing tailored to the planners.

Up to the planners
Speaking informally after the meeting, Gailes said the ball is now in the planner’s court. Crossroads, he said, will come back whenever asked to, but due to the magnitude of the data the planners must look over, he doesn’t expect to be called anytime soon.
“Maybe in February,” he said.
By then the planning board will be a little different. Member Faye Storms was just elected to town council so she will be replaced in January. Also planners are working now to fill another vacancy left by the retirement of longtime member Joan Munster.
Because the project, located atop Highmount at the westernmost portion on Shandaken and Ulster County, spills over the border into Delaware County Town of Middletown, that planning board must review the project also. Bakner and Gailes will be appearing before that entity on November 14.
However, most of the project will be built in Shandaken. While the two hotels are set to be on the Ulster County side in Shandaken, Bakner said most of the golf course will be in Middletown.
Crossroads plans to build the Wildacres Resort and the golf course first.
“Because the project spans two towns in two counties, it is important for each town to know what the other town is looking at and considering,” said Gailes.  “We gave it to both towns the same day and look forward to having each town coordinate their review process wherever it makes sense to do so.” 
Developers are hopeful that the state’s review can conclude sometime in early 2014 and that the planning board decisions will follow shortly thereafter. 
“We hope that by spring we can move the project forward,” said Gailes.