Belleayre Ski Resort at Catskill Park – Updates:
More than a decade after unveiling its plan, Crossroads Ventures has gained more supporters than foes for its planned Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park, and it appears the proposed five-star facility planned for adjacent to the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in Shandaken, near Downsville, NY is finally is poised to get the green light for construction.
After 13 years or examining the project, a changing economic environment and the willingness by the developers of the project to alter their plans to address the concerns and desires of the state and regional and local municipalities, have swayed the tide and to acceptance, if not enthusiastic support.
“The public attitude has changed,” said Gary Giles, the project manager for the Belleayre Resort.
“People want to see something happen.”
At Belleayre, that something is the construction of $364 million resort on 739 acres (a far cry from the 2,000 acres called for in the first plan), although developers say only
218 acres will actually be developed. The resort will comprise two hotels. The Wildacres Resort will include an 18-hole championship golf course and the Wilderness Activity Center, which will provide concierge service to guests,
local residents and day trippers who want to get out and enjoy the plethora of recreational activities the resort will offer. The Highmount
Spa Resort will offer a much more upscale spa experience, Giles said.
The project is waiting for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to complete its environmental review, which Giles hopes will happen by spring, and it then will be up to the two local planning boards (the project straddles the border of Shandaken in Ulster County and Middletown/Downsville in Delaware County) to issue the necessary special permits and site plan approvals.
Giles said that due to state regulations banning the developers from disturbing more than 5 acres at a time, full build-out of the project will take six to eight years.
State comptroller OKs Belleayre Resort land sale agreement
Photo of a model of the proposed Belleayre Resort on the Crossroads Ventures LLC website.
After a delay of over two years, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli hasapproved the purchase of 1,200 acres of mountaintop land in Ulster County from Crossroads Ventures, LLC, the developer of the controversial and yet-to-be-built Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park.
The land deal has been the keystone of Crossroads’ original proposal for the resort, which is slated to be built next to the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. But both the deal and the resort have been on hold since 2009 because of Comptroller DiNapoli’s repeated objections to the price of the property, which the state has valued at $4.9 million.
In May 2010, the second time DiNapolirejected the land deal, he stated that the price Crossroads was asking for — $6.3 million — was $1.4 million more than the market price of the property.
In the new agreement issued on Thursday, the comptroller agreed to a $5.6 million price for the property, a reduction of $725,000.
The original land deal was struck In October 2007, when New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer brokered an agreement, referred to as the “Agreement in Principle,” with Crossroads. The agreement stipulated that the state would buy 1,189 acres located on the east side of the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center — a parcel known as the “Big Indian property.”
To mollify a coalition of environmental groups that had voiced concerns about locating a resort on land on the east side of the mountain, close to the New York City-owned Ashokan Reservoir, the 2007 agreement limited the Belleayre Resort development to property on the west side of the mountain only.
Buying the 1,200 acres of the Big Indian property on the east side of the mountain is attractive to the state because it will help protect the Ashokan Reservoir from contamination. The Ashokan Reservoir supplies about 40 percent of New York City’s pristine, unfiltered water. By purchasing the land, the state protects the Filtration Avoidance Determination (FAD), a waiver granted by the federal government that allows NYC to avoid building a costly water filtration facility for the West of Hudson Watershed. Such a facility is currently under construction in the Bronx for the East of Hudson Watershed. That project is years late and many millions over budget.
In the press release issued about the land deal, DiNapoli’s office wrote:
“The acquisition is supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New York City and the Natural Resources Defense Council as part of the on-going effort to maintain the City’s filtration avoidance determination (FAD), which depends on ensuring that sensitive lands in the Catskill Watershed are protected from inappropriate development. The Big Indian property contains heavily sloped areas which drain into the Ashokan Reservoir, the source of as much as 40 percent of the City’s drinking water needs in non-drought periods. The Ashokan is already on DEC’s impaired waters list because of excessive sedimentation and siltation. The property will be added to the constitutionally-protected State Forest Preserve and will remain on local property tax rolls.”
The original plans for the Belleayre Resort called for two 18-hole golf courses, two hotels, and private housing to be built on a 1,960-acre-holding of which 573 acres would be disturbed. Under the 2007 Agreement in Principle, the total acreage of the development has been reduced to 739 of which 218 would be developed. This is the plan going forward.
“We’ve done away with the structures along the ridge line and steep slopes,” said Crossroads Ventures spokesman Gary Gailes on Friday.
There will be two hotels on the property. The Wildacres Hotel will consist of 250 units, a health spa and fitness center, and a facility for banquets, weddings and conferences. Gailes said that the hotel will be a four-star, family-oriented facility.
The Highmount Hotel boasts 120 rooms and 53 additional housing units attached to the hotel and an additional 27 detached units. Gailes said the new plans eliminated 24 townhouse-like structures and the access road to them.
Under a public-private partnership, Crossroads would re-open the old Highmount Ski Center, located on the west side of the mountain, which has been closed for decades. Ski trails will be built to connect Highmount to Belleayre, expanding the state-owned mountain. Guests will be able to access the ski areas via chairlifts constructed by the developers.
For the past several years, Crossroads has been redesigning the resort under the Agreement in Principle, eliminating construction on steep slopes, reducing the number of structures planned, and lessening the resort’s footprint on the land. A new Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement was recently completed and submitted to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for review.
Once that review has been completed, public hearings will be scheduled per the State Environmental Quality Review Act. Site plan approval will need to be obtained from the planning boards of the town of Shandaken in Ulster County and neighboring Middletown in Delaware County. The Shandaken Town Board will have to approve the formation of a transportation company that will handle water and sewage facilities for the proposed resort. Under the agreement, the resort will tap into the NYC-owned Pine Hill Waste Water Treatment Facility.
According to a press release issued by Crossroads Ventures, the project will cost in excess of $400 million and will create 530 full-time jobs upon completion. The bulk of the work will be done in the first two to three years, employing several hundred construction workers during the build-out.
“We have made significant revisions to the plan,” principle partner Dean Gitter states in the press release. “And we believe these changes should alleviate most, if not all, of the concerns raised.”
The revised plans for the resort still face an uphill battle. Despite the Agreement in Principle, not everyone has signed off on the idea of a resort next to a state-owned ski center. The Catskill Heritage Alliance has opposed the resort plan from the start and still has strong objections. In a release issued several months ago, it questioned the wisdom of having the state purchase the property on the east side of the proposed resort when it is strapped for cash and is laying off employees.
Contacted on Friday night, CHA chairman Roger Wall said that the group had not yet released a statement on the Comptroller’s decision to approve the land sale.
According to Gailes, the funds to purchase the property were set aside by the state when the Agreement in Principle was reached in 2007. “The money is there,” said Gailes.
The press release issued by DiNapoli’s office stated that now that the land deal has been approved, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation must decide whether to complete the transaction.
KELLIE PLACE, Realtor
“The Land Expert”
firstname.lastname@example.org / 607-434-5263