Judge tosses out lawsuit by Crossroads resort foes

By Jay Braman Jr.
Crossroads Ventures officials announced this week that they were “elated” by the recent court ruling to dismiss a lawsuit that challenged the 2007 Agreement in Principle that is, in effect, the blueprint for the latest version of the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park.
But the people who filed that lawsuit said Saturday that they are not ready to give up.
State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly dismissed the suit Wednesday, noting an environmental review of the project still is under way and permits for the project have not been issued. He said the claim is not ready for judicial review and added that the plaintiffs have not shown they have standing to bring the suit.
In a prepared statement released Thursday, Crossroads spokesperson Joan Lawrence-Bauer said she was not surprised.
“We are elated by this ruling,” she said. “While we had little doubt about the outcome, it is always gratifying to have these things behind you.”
According to Crossroads Attorney Daniel Ruzow, Judge Connolly agreed with Crossroads’ defense that the agreement, put together by former Governor Eliot Spitzer, was not a final action by New York State and New York City and that those filing the lawsuit had no standing to bring the suit because they had not demonstrated any injury or harm from the Agreement.
“The Agreement in Principle is just that, an agreement in principle,” said Ruzow. “It provided guidance on how the parties would approach revising the project proposed, but it only provided guidance. The underlying elements of the agreement are still subject to…review, which includes more public review of the project and is still subject to review by all permitting agencies and authorities.”

Proposed in 1999
The $400 million resort, which would straddle the border of Ulster and Delaware counties, first was proposed by developer Dean Gitter in 1999, but was modified as part of the agreement. Under the current plan, the resort would 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 another 60 detached units in up to 52 buildings. The deal also calls for about 1,200 acres of woodland near the resort to be sold by Crossroads to the state to be protected.
Several environmental groups signed on to the deal, but the project’s remaining opponents claim the resort would disrupt the otherwise rural area.
The suit was brought by Catskill Heritage Alliance, the Pine Hill Water District Coalition and Benjamin and Idith Korman, a couple that live near the site of the proposed resort. Their lawyer, Robert Feller, said the plaintiffs still were reviewing the decision. He also said they will be active in the review process and that they could file a challenge in the future.
On Saturday the Chairman of the Heritage Alliance, Richard Schaedle, said the group is undaunted by Judge Connolly’s decision.
“Obviously we are disappointed with the ruling,” he said, “But we are considering an appeal.”
Schaedle said his group was caught between a rock and hard place because, while they only had a small window of opportunity to file a lawsuit against the deal, details of the deal were still unresolved. But, he said, by filing the lawsuit when they did they have kept the opportunity to challenge the deal alive.
He expects that an appeal will be filed, and in the meantime many of those details that are currently lacking will become fully formed, and subject to challenge.
Lawrence-Bauer noted that the developers are now working to complete the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Schaedle hopes it is done soon.
“We have several months to put our appeal together,” he said.