Start small, build smart

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To The Editor:
 Goodness, what an explosion of outrage from John Michelotti. The object of his choleric diatribe? The Catskill Heritage Alliance, whose members, according to Michelotti, rant, are irrational and deceitful, feign concern for the environment, and in general are “just another loud group of extremists” who are “forcing” their opinions “onto the entire community.” Really? I doubt very much that any individual, much less an “entire community,” can be forced to adopt a particular opinion. Persuaded maybe, but forced? I don’t think so.

 Mr. Michelotti of course has every right to his outrage. He even has a right to misrepresent the CHA, as he does in his letter, although his doing so undermines his credibility. I once served as chairman of CHA and ask the editor for an equal right to correct Mr. Michelotti’s remarkably wrong statements about the organization.

First, with some 600 dues-paying members, we are not the “small” organization Mr. Michelotti claims we are.

Second, we have never taken a position opposing cell towers.
Third, we are not against the expansion of the Belleayre Ski Center.

 As to the contention that CHA is against “unrestricted public use of newly acquired state lands,” I don’t know what Mr. Michelotti means; if he refers to the new state land to be acquired as part of the $74 million “full build-out” at Belleayre, that course of action has yet to be authorized, and the money has not yet been approved.   In only one particular is Mr. Michelotti correct in his characterization of CHA: We are indeed opposed to the Belleayre Resort as proposed, and for the following reasons:

We believe it is too big to be absorbed by this market. So far from revitalizing the region, we believe it will therefore swamp it with empty hotel rooms and unused facilities that will undercut existing businesses.

What Mr. Michelotti calls the “state of the art facilities” resort designers have proposed to address storm water runoff are based on projections for gentle slopes and flat land—and on old, pre-flood data. Meanwhile, 215-forested acres of steep slope would be cleared and hardened—funneling runoff straight down to Fleischmanns, and beyond. We believe that poses a severe danger to life and property and is a foolish thing to do.

The proposal asks taxpayers to fund a “full build-out” that would particularly benefit the private guests of the resort; the developer is asking $5 million of the funding as his price for the former Highmount Ski Center. We oppose the use of public money for private profit.

We are not convinced by Mr. Michelotti’s assurance that “any possibility of organizing gambling at the resort was extinguished forever through deed restrictions.” History is littered with the corpses of “eternal” deed restrictions that went belly-up when another interest proved them not so eternal after all. Our governor is intent on dotting the state with casinos, and a local legislator has said he “intends” to locate three casinos in our region. Where?

We understand the proposed project to be a real estate speculation that has invited numerous local “business leaders” to participate in what all hope will be a quick cash-out. More power to them for putting up their money in hopes of gaining more. But where private interests butt up against public interests, we believe we have a right and responsibility to protest. And so we do.

 The DEIS for the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center presents five alternatives for expanding the ski center. The CHA advocates the Core Alternative, renovating and upgrading ski and lodging facilities, combined with the East Alternative, adding another expert trail to the east, as a sound investment of taxpayers’ money to provide recreation to the public and economic stimulus to the Catskills region. We believe that starting small and building smart will benefit all stakeholders; the proposed resort does neither.

Susanna Margolis,
Fleischmanns