DEC resort decision expected any day


By Jay Braman Jr.
With the unofficial end of summer fast approaching, many in the region are waiting with baited breath for the promised announcement by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on the fate of the Belleayre Resort and the expansion of that department’s own Belleayre Ski Center.
Touted by supporters as the most reviewed development project in state history, the $365 million resort plan has been under the microscope for the past 14 years. Along the way, controversy over the project’s perceived benefits and or problems for the region have pitted neighbor against neighbor, spawned well organized opposition groups, and in general caused quite a stir in an area which has never seen a project this big.
So, when the DEC announced it would complete its review in August, many breathed a sigh of relief, as reaching that milestone would, at least, spell out what the developers, Crossroads Ventures LLC would be allowed to build on Highmount, and what the state intends to do at Belleayre.
But in this final week of August, however, there was no official word on when exactly the news would break.
Project spokesman Gary Gailes reminded that, although told to expect word this month, Crossroads has not been given specifics.
“We have not been informed of any specific date that DEC staff will complete their review,” he said.
Usually, when the DEC completes review of a project, called a Final Environmental Impact Statement, it is announced with little ceremony in the agency’s weekly periodical called the Environmental News Bulletin, published on Wednesdays, with a deadline for submission of notices being close of business the previous Wednesday.
At press time, efforts to find out whether or not the Belleayre Resort fate would appear in the August 27 issue were unsuccessful.

The final hurdle
Once the state has completed review, the resort project approaches the final hurdle of local level planning board review. Since the project is slated to be built in both Delaware and Ulster counties, within the towns of Middletown and Shandaken, respectively, the planning boards in both communities must look it over, hold public hearings, and decide whether or not to approve.
Both planning boards have been unofficially reviewing the project plans, all 7,000 pages, since last November. Legally they cannot take action on the proposal until the DEC completes its review.
The last time Crossroads appeared before the planning boards was all the way back in October 2000.
The first plan, at 2,000 acres, much larger than what’s on the table now, quickly was dubbed a “mega resort” by critics. It then moved up through various levels of government, ultimately reaching the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Deal was struck
In 2007, after years of debate, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer brokered a deal between the developers, environmental groups, and agencies involved in the review process for a scaled-down project that most, though not all, parties found acceptable.
Now, the $365 million proposal is focused on 739 acres adjacent to the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, and Crossroads says only 218 acres will be developed. The resort is to comprise two hotels; the Wildacres Resort, with an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Davis Love III and the Highmount Spa Resort.
Go to /enb/enb.html to view the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Environmental News Bulletin.