Crossroads tax break plan tabled by Shandaken Board

By Jay Braman Jr.
They didn’t say yes and they didn’t say no, but by tabling a measure that would have implied that the Shandaken Town Board might support a plan to create some tax breaks for the yet to be approved Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park, the board said maybe.
Talk of creation of what is called an Empire Zone at the proposed site for the project dominated a four-hour board session Monday, and when all was said and done it was agreed that more information was needed and that there was no real rush for the board to make any decision.
Crossroads representatives were on hand at the session hoping the board would adopt a resolution drafted by Crossroads lawyer Dan Ruzow, who said the firm only wanted to see which way the board was leaning on the issue so they could begin to prepare the financial information for the resort as part of the review the project is going through.
City of Kingston Mayor James Sotille, who is in charge of overseeing the state-run Empire Zone program for Ulster County, gave a presentation to the board about the nuts and bolts of the program, but insisted that he and his assistant Steven Finkle would not discuss the politics of the resort proposal, which has been on the table since 1999.
Shandaken Supervisor Peter DiSclafani was well prepared to discuss the specifics of the Empire Zone, and noted a need for clarification on how exactly it would benefit the town. As an example, DiSclafani mentioned a letter previously prepared by Crossroads managing partner Dean Gitter that outlined the town benefits, but the formula used by Gitter included the entire resort plan. It turns out that the empire zone could only be about 15 or 20 acres of the resort, which is expected to include two hotels, a golf course and 250 residential units all on about 650 acres of land right next the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center at Highmount.
Ruzow said it was hoped that the two hotels could be fit into the Empire Zone.
The rest of the project is eligible for tax break programs that Ruzow said yield less benefits to the town. Should the town turn down the empire zone plan, it is expected that Crossroads would try and include the entire project in one of the less lucrative programs.
Resort opponent Judith Wyman noted that under at least one other tax program the public has a say in the matter.
The Empire Zone program is a New York State economic development program designed to encourage businesses to locate, expand and create new jobs in the state.‚ÄÇ The purpose of this program is to enable businesses to operate free of New York State taxes for up to 10 years.‚ÄÇ In order to qualify for the benefits of this program a business must be located in an empire zone, make new investments within their business and create new jobs.