September 22, 2009, Daily Freeman: Belleayre boosters claim foot-dragging by state

Belleayre boosters claim foot-dragging by state

HIGHMOUNT — Supporters of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center marked the second anniversary of an agreement in principle with a resort developer, saying the state is using the proposal to delay the release of a Unit Management Plan for the ski center.

The boosters’ dissatisfaction follows complaints last week by environmental groups that the land protection portion of the agreement has still not been satisfied. This week, it was the state Department of Environmental Conservation coming under fire, as the Coalition to Save Belleayre prepares to appeal to elected officials to step up pressure on the agency to complete and release the management plan as called for in the agreement.

Adding fuel to the fire were Gov. David Paterson’s remarks Thursday at the Dutchess County Democratic Party’s Salute to Labor dinner, when he announced the state may have to put on hold any improvements to the state-owned ski center.

The timing of the governor’s remarks, said coalition Chairman Joe Kelly, make its complaints all the more relevant.

Kelly called Paterson’s position “unacceptable.”

The agreement in principle was reached after more than eight years of review of developer Crossroads Ventures’ plan to build a golf resort on 1,200 acres of mountain land in Shandaken, along with another golf resort three miles west and adjacent to Belleayre Ski Center.

Instead, the agreement would make the 1,200 acres “forever wild” land and allow for a larger development next to the ski center. It also calls for the state to spend money on the expansion of the ski center.

The details of that expansion are to be laid out in the Unit Management Plan, which is a blueprint for the development of the state-owned facility. The agreement calls for that plan to be reviewed simultaneously with the Crossroads proposal.

Neither the state nor Crossroads has completed its plans. While Crossroads says it close to completion, the state agency is not.

“It seems to us that the DEC is currently sitting on this most important document with no sense of urgency as to its importance to our area,” Kelly said. “It is unacceptable that they continue to delay its release.”

Kelly has now written to the governor, asking him to give the matter his immediate attention to help Belleayre resume its role as an economic engine of the state Route 28 corridor.

“In a time of most difficult economic challenge to our rural communities, a bureaucratic delay for whatever reason must be overcome,” Kelly said. “We do not have the luxury of time, we need action now.”

Judith Enck, the governor’s deputy secretary for the environment who helped prepare the Agreement in Principle, said Monday that the state remains committed to the agreement. As for completing the Unit Management Plan, she said, “Slow and steady wins the day.”

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