link to complete article is here: http://www.dailyfreeman.com/articles/2009/09/17/news/doc4ab1bf29ce8e3060131694.txt
1,200 acres in limbo at resort site
Thursday, September 17, 2009
By JAY BRAMAN JR.
ENVIRONMENTAL groups are concerned that two years after the state announced an agreement to allow the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park to be built, some 1,200 acres of environmentally sensitive land in the town of Shandaken has yet to be protected, as promised in the deal.
But Crossroads Ventures, the developer of the planned $400 million resort, says it is, and has been, doing everything possible to turn the land over to the state.
Crossroads was reacting to a Sept. 15 letter signed by representatives of seven environmental groups that joined then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer in forging the “Agreement in Principle” that was signed in September 2007.
The groups — including Riverkeeper, Trout Unlimited, the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, the National Resources Defense Council, the New York Public Interest Research Group and the Zen Environmental Studies Institute — said in this week’s letter to the developer: “We are writing to you today because of our continuing concern that, despite the passage of more than 730 days, the necessary action to conserve these lands has still not taken place. Indeed, we believe that the failure to complete a contract for sale of this parcel to the state, or to a recognized land trust, within the next 60 days would constitute a breach of … the spirit of the Agreement in Principle.”
The agreement was reached after more than eight years of review of Crossroads’ plan to develop the 1,200 acres as part of a golf resort next to the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. Under the agreement, the 1,200 acres will be sold by Crossroads to the state and stay “forever wild,” and Crossroads, which is owned by Catskills developer Dean Gitter, will be allowed to develop its remaining land more than originally planned.
The agreement also calls for the state to spend money to expand the ski center.
The latest version of Crossroads’ resort plan is bogged down in the review process, and approval is not certain. But Crossroads spokesman Gary Gailes said on Wednesday that the company remains committed to the land transfer and the entire agreement.
“We are very close to reaching agreement on the details of the transfer,” Gailes said.
Responding to the letter from the environmental groups, Gailes said: “For its part, Crossroads has, in good faith, done everything in its power to expedite the land transfer. This land transfer process has been long and arduous, in part due to the fact that it involves the title transfer of 18 separate properties, as well as the fact that the state has been under severe budgetary constraints the last two years.”
Last month, Crossroads asked the Ulster County Legislature to grant it a right-of-way over a small piece of county-owned land that lies between Crossroads’ holdings and the 1,200 acres the developer plans to sell to the state. Crossroads has threatened to not sell the 1,200 acres, and instead develop it, if the county refuses the right-of-way request.
Under the latest plan, the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park is to straddle the border of Ulster and Delaware counties and 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 60 detached units in up to 52 buildings.