Belleayre Resort land sale to state deadline missed

By Jay Braman Jr.
The deadline has come and gone.
It was over two months ago when environmental groups that signed onto an agreement with the developers proposing to build the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park warned they would back out of the deal should those developers not transfer 1,200 acres of land in Big Indian to the State of New York for protection within 60 days.
But well past the November 13 deadline they imposed on Crossroads Ventures LLC for action, those groups have still not back peddled out of the deal, which if moved forward would spare those 1,200 acres from development but also allow a $400 million project to be constructed just a couple of miles away.
Discussions on how to proceed now that the deadline has passed, however, are taking place, according to Eric Goldstein, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Nothing new yet, but we expect to hear from the other parties shortly and will be back in touch with you as soon as there is something to report,” said Goldstein in an e-mail Monday in response to questions about the status of the matter.
Gary Gailes, a consultant working on the resort project for Crossroads, said that the plan to sell the land is still on.
“There’s little to report except that everyone involved in the land transfer is pushing forward as fast as possible to complete the transaction as quickly as the state bureaucracy will allow,” he said, also via e-mail. “I believe the various organizations who wrote to Crossroads several weeks ago about the land transfer know that Crossroads is proceeding in good faith to complete the transfer as quickly as possible, and to the extent it is taking more time than expected, it is the result of what some might describe as typical bureaucratic delay.”
On September 15 a letter signed by representatives of seven environmental groups that joined then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer in forging the “Agreement in Principle” that was signed in September 2007 was sent to Crossroads.
The groups — including Riverkeeper, Trout Unlimited, the Arkville-based Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, the National Resources Defense Council, the New York Public Interest Research Group and the Zen Environmental Studies Institute — said in the letter to the developer: “We are writing to you today because of our continuing concern that, despite the passage of more than 730 days, the necessary action to conserve these lands has still not taken place. Indeed, we believe that the failure to complete a contract for sale of this parcel to the state, or to a recognized land trust, within the next 60 days would constitute a breach of ... the spirit of the Agreement in Principle.”
The agreement was reached after more than eight years of review of Crossroads’ plan to develop the 1,200 acres as part of a golf resort next to Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. Under the agreement, the 1,200 acres will be sold by Crossroads to the state and stay “forever wild,” and Crossroads, which is owned by a partnership led by Oliverea resident Dean Gitter, will be allowed to develop its remaining land that surrounds the state-owned Belleayre Ski Center more than originally planned.
The agreement also calls for the state to spend money to expand the ski center.
Under the latest plan, the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park is to straddle the border of Ulster and Delaware counties and comprise two complexes: one with a 250-room hotel and 139 townhouse-style lodging units surrounding an 18-hole golf course; the other with a 120-room hotel and spa, 60 lodging units in two buildings and 60 detached units in up to 52 buildings.
Gailes also said Monday that those eagerly awaiting the long anticipated Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) from Crossroads, a document that responds to environmental concerns about the proposed project, would have to wait longer. The Draft, first expected back in to be out in the spring of 2008, has been delayed, just as all other matters pertaining to this project have since first announced a decade ago.
“As for the SEIS, it would appear that the public and various public officials will be spared from having their Christmas/New Year’s holiday interrupted by reviewing another lengthy document. They will have to wait until “early” in the new year,” Gailes said.