CHA claims resort findings flawed
By Jay Braman Jr.
The citizens’ group Catskill Heritage Alliance (CHA) has released the results of several new studies whose results claim that the benefits of the proposed Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park have been grossly overestimated and its costs grossly underestimated, including the cost of damage to local businesses, and that the resort’s developers have not adequately addressed the environmental impacts of the project.
However, a spokesman for the developers dismissed those same studies and along the way criticized CHA as being an organization that does little to benefit the region.
The reports were issued by consulting firms commissioned by the CHA to review developer Crossroads Ventures LLC’s proposal to build a $365 million, 629-room private, resort adjacent to an expanded state-run Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. In a prepared statement, CHA states the reviews showed that the proposed resort is oversized for the market, with negative consequences for existing businesses.
In addition, again according to CHA, the reviews found that the $74-million ski center expansion, which would require public funding, would be oversized for realistic skier growth and climate change, at a significant cost to taxpayers.
“The new reports assemble evidence showing that assumptions underlying the resort proposal are simply false,” said Kathy Nolan, chair of the CHA. “They find the project as proposed to be ill-conceived, vastly oversized and a threat to the local economy. They also outline much better alternatives. CHA supports New York State spending far less money on ski center expansions, especially since spending less will achieve a much better result.”
On Monday, Crossroads spokesman Gary Gailes reviewed CHA’s statements and said that they are out of sync with current, widespread opinion. He also said they would be addressed in the weeks to come as part of the environmental review process.
“The Catskill Heritage Alliance has long been opposed to the Belleayre Resort Project and now apparently seeks to also limit development at the Belleayre Ski Center,” said Gailes. “This opposition continues despite the hundreds of local and regional supporters who appeared at a recent public hearing to demonstrate and speak in favor of both projects…. the CHA has done little since its inception to actually help build a sustainable economy in our region or bring good jobs that can help us re-build our communities.”
CHA has submitted both reports, along with technical environmental reviews, to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as part of the public comment process on the Belleayre expansion and resort project, which concluded on July 24. It has also posted them on its website, www.catskillheritage.org.
DEC spokeswoman Wendy Rosenbach would not provide any details on the amount of comment the projects garnered. “DEC staff are still recording public comment submissions as they come in and the public comment period just closed July 24,” she said. “It is premature to report on the number and/or breadth of comments. DEC does not tally up for/against since this is not the purpose of a public comment period. After the close of the comment period, DEC reviews the submitted public comments on the two draft Environmental Impact Statements,” she went on to say.