Crossroads unveils new resort plans; lodging units and profile are reduced
By Jay Braman Jr.
Dean Gitter, the mastermind behind the proposed Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park, unveiled last week an architectural rendering of the latest plans for the project. This represents the most recent and perhaps last of several transformations made to the plan, first announced and under review since 1999.
The architectural renderings are part of the long awaited Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) that Gitter needs to prepare before the project can proceed. He and the Crossroads Ventures team have been working on that document for two years and counting, and Gitter says it’s near completion. The SEIS is a necessary and crucial part of the project’s review process under the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which will decide whether the project will avoid or mitigate any damage to the environment should the project be allowed.
The last alteration to the project came in the fall of 2007 when Crossroads signed an agreement with the state and several environmental groups to downsize the plan from its original, three golf course, three-hotel size to one golf course and two hotels.
Now, according to Gitter, the size has been reduced again.
The hotel planned for the Highmount section of the Belleayre Resort has been redesigned, with the changes reducing the project’s total number of lodging units from 772 to 629. The new hotel design is by Emilio Ambasz, an award-winning industrial designer.
In response to complaints from the Hardenburgh area that part of the project sits too high up on the mountain and can be seen from the Hardenburgh side, Gitter appears to have gone great lengths to make the structures as camouflaged as possible. Models built and on display in his office show a design concept that shapes the hotel into the mountainside with “green roofs’ made of vegetation. Individual homes have similar rooftops.
“It’s a startling piece of design, one I think will early on attract the attention of most of the world’s architectural magazines,” Gitter said.
But not everyone shares his view.
Members of the Catskill Heritage Alliance (CHA) attended an Ulster County Chamber of Commerce meeting last week where Gitter presented the latest version of his plans.
CHA spokesman Steven Kent said in a prepared statement that, “CHA’s position on the current proposal is that it remains too large, too exclusive and too high up….. Mr. Gitter’s presentation had little new substance in it, and lacked specifics. The chief innovation of the new proposal is the design of the Highmount Spa, which would be partly in-ground with vegetative cover. But that would be no remedy for the many environmental threats the project poses, including very steep slope development, extensive blasting, erosion, runoff, flooding, sensitive habitat loss, density and stress along 49A, a scarred viewshed, light pollution and other impacts.”
On Monday Gitter said he was not surprised at CHA’s position, and expects to hear more from them during upcoming public review of the proposal.
“Let’s not kid ourselves. There are still opponents to this project in any form and they will have their day,” he said.