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Belleayre moves forward

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
post #2 of 11
Interesting. I hope it works for them.
post #3 of 11
The big news is they're adding on the old Highmount ski area.

Here's another story on the same, from yesterday's NYT:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/05/ny...&oref=slog in

Full text:

Originally Posted by NEW YORK TIMES
September 5, 2007
Catskills Resort Deal Announced

After a seven-year legal and political battle over the fate of some of the most environmentally sensitive land in New York State, Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced today an agreement to allow an upstate entrepreneur to build a resort with two hotels, a golf course and 259 residences within 20 miles of two of New York City’s largest reservoirs.

The $400 million project is substantially smaller than the developer’s original plan, which would have been one of the largest developments in the New York City watershed and sprawled over nearly 2,000 acres of prime Catskill woodlands.

The modified proposal has won the support of New York City officials and several local and national environmental groups, which had long opposed the original plan because of its environmental impact in the Catskills.

“This project will simultaneously revitalize the region’s economy by creating hundreds of new jobs and protect the environment through green buildings, watershed protection and land preservation,” Governor Spitzer said in a statement released today. “I thank all the parties who came to the table and accomplished great things for the Catskills.”

Under the agreement, the developer has agreed to restrict all construction to 620 acres on the western side of his land and to sell most of the eastern portion — more than 1,200 acres of pristine forest — to the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, for about $14 million. The trust would then sell the land back to the state, and it would become protected forest preserve.

The developer, Dean Gitter, also agreed to limit the environmental damage by not building on steep slopes, by concentrating all buildings within a compact area and by not using chemical fertilizers or pesticides on the 18-hole golf course.

“In the context of the scope of the watershed, this is environmentally safe development,” Mr. Spitzer said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “And it has a plus, in that it puts more acreage into the protected zone.”

The project, he said, would bring economic development to an area of the state that desperately needs it. Building the resort would create about 1,800 construction jobs over eight years, provide 450 permanent full-time jobs, 150 part-time jobs, and generate about $4 million a year in property and sales taxes, according to Mr. Spitzer.

“This is very real economic development for a region that has seen better times,” Mr. Spitzer said. He called the scaled-down development plan “a win for everyone.”

Eric A. Goldstein, a senior lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that helped draft the agreement, called the smaller development proposal “infinitely more sensible and environmentally sensitive than the one unveiled seven years ago.”

“In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have any construction on forested lands that drain into the nation’s largest unfiltered water supply,” he added. “This is not a perfect solution, but it’s a shot of adrenaline for watershed protection and smart growth.”

The resort, called the Belleayre Resorts at Catskill Park, will be constructed on the western edge of the state-run Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. The state has said it will expand and modernize the center, including restoring the adjacent Highmount ski area, which will be bought from Mr. Gitter.

Many local residents have opposed the huge project, fearing it could overwhelm the rural character of the region and its quiet hamlets. But many officials, like Robert G. Cross Jr., supervisor of Shandaken Town, where part of Belleayre would be built, have been vigorous supporters.

“This project, downsized as it is now, is something that is needed for the employment of local citizens,” Mr. Cross said, “and it is something that is even more desperately needed for the expansion of our tax base.”

Mr. Gitter has long contended that in order for the project to be economically viable, it had to be grand enough in scale to attract tourists from New York City — 120 miles away — who have many other options for their leisure time. Mr. Gitter stuck to that position even as the project became mired in administrative law proceedings and extended reviews, including a 6,720-page environmental impact statement.

But Mr. Gitter said Mr. Spitzer’s environmental staff, led by Judith Enck, the deputy secretary for the environment, made a strong commitment to resolving the standoff. More than a dozen meetings were held, and the turning point came, he said, when the state “offered us a number of things that we found intriguing.”

The state said it would extend a ski trail from the existing slopes at Belleayre to the new resort, enhancing the project’s attractiveness for skiers. And New York City agreed to allow the entire development to hook up to an underused sewage treatment plant run by the city in nearby Pine Hill.

In exchange, Mr. Gitter had to forgo all development in the more environmentally sensitive eastern portion of his holdings, where storm water would run into the nearby Ashokan Reservoir. He eliminated one golf course, reduced the number of housing units (by 30 percent), hotel rooms (by 7.5 percent) and miles of new road (by 60 percent).

“Did I get everything I wanted? No,” said Mr. Gitter, who is 72 and has lived in the area for 40 years. “Did I enjoy every minute of the legal process? No. But the result is an extremely positive move for the area, and I can live with it.”

The proposed development site sits at the peak of a mountain ridge that drains on the east into Ulster County and the Ashokan Reservoir and on the west into Delaware County and the Pepacton Reservoir. Those two bodies of water are important parts of New York City’s vast water supply system, which provides drinking water for the city’s eight million residents and for one million more people in communities along the way.

Emily Lloyd, commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which runs the water system, said the development plan provided adequate protection for the city’s water, while also allowing the kind of economic growth that the city promised local communities in a 1997 agreement.

“I don’t think the agreement really opens the way for large-scale development in the watershed,” Ms. Lloyd said. “But it does say that working together we can recognize what does and does not adversely affect our water.”

Mr. Gitter said he was confident that he could break ground next fall and open the hotels in late 2010.

Tom Alworth, executive director of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, a private group, said some local residents, even some local environmental groups, might not embrace the compromise development agreement. But he said that after seven years of conflict, it was “a victory for both the environment and for the local economy.”

Anahad O’Connor contributed reporting.
post #4 of 11
Skidbump -- Thanks for the initial post. Having read both articles now there's a few questions left unanswered: when will the Highmount expansion take place? It sounds like that's purely a state (i.e. Belleayre) undertaking and should not depend on the private developer's golf and hotel project, so hopefully sooner than that. Any clues what to expect in lifts, lodge, and snowmaking at Highmount?

Also, Highmount was before my time but my impression scoping it from the road and reading posts here and other boards is that it's got longer sections of steep drop than Belleayre, and it ought to add some good variety to the terrain there.

Overall from a skiers' standpoint -- unless you poach at Highmount and now will have to share the goods -- this seems like a good development.
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
rumor is new lift from 28 to top of highmount..Think it will end up from new glitter area to top of high mount..Who knows??
post #6 of 11
Bring the city to the mountain. Sounds like Killington south. Let's hope they widen all the trails.
post #7 of 11
Originally Posted by Paul Jones View Post
Bring the city to the mountain. Sounds like Killington south. Let's hope they widen all the trails.
I know what you mean, it's a step in that direction, but it's a step with defined limits. Yes, there's a hotel and golf, but this is IT, I just don't see the sprawl coming. It's not going to be K south - not even Windham, for that matter.

And let's not forget its the State running Belleayre, not ASC / Powdr, or whoever. They're not in the real estate business, they're providing recreation to skiers and jobs to state employees. So I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

You want rustic, you've still got Plattekill.
post #8 of 11
Originally Posted by ts01 View Post
You want rustic, you've still got Plattekill.
Very True. Plattekill is the place to go on a Saturday after a 2 foot powder dump Friday night. You will be making fresh powder track all the way into Sunday. Plattekill is a real skiers mountain. You look around Plattkill and 99% of the customers have excellent ski and snowboarding skills. Of course there are not that many customers.

Belleayre may eventually make SKI Magazine's top 10 as a "Resort" by 2010. We will see. Holiday Mountain with their 750 feet of vertical consistently makes the top 10 Eastern Resorts. What would it take to make Belleayre into a top 10 resort?

Actually Hunter Mountain over the last 2-3 years has developed some very nice slope side lodging. http://www.kaatskillmtnclub.com . The village of Hunter has recently made some very nice improvements with an Art gallery and concert hall. This has made Hunter Mountain into a much better resort than it use to be. Its very different than the old Hunter. Unfortunately or fortunately only a few people have figured that out.
post #9 of 11
Originally Posted by catskills View Post
What would it take to make Belleayre into a top 10 resort?
I think they need much more non-skiing amenities (i.e. lodging, dining, night life, etc.) in the immediate area and I don't think the one mega-resort will quickly lead to that. See comments in the top 10 thread regarding how resorts get there...and its not that much to do with the skiing.

Originally Posted by catskills View Post
Actually Hunter Mountain over the last 2-3 years has developed some very nice slope side lodging. http://www.kaatskillmtnclub.com . The village of Hunter has recently made some very nice improvements with an Art gallery and concert hall. This has made Hunter Mountain into a much better resort than it use to be. Its very different than the old Hunter. Unfortunately or fortunately only a few people have figured that out.
For these reasons, I think Hunter has a better shot to end up on top 10 lists before Belleayre. Although, I'd prefer if it didn't happen that way.
post #10 of 11
Kaatskill club or not, Hunter feels to me like skiing in the NYC Subway.
post #11 of 11
I like Hunter and had the privilege of staying at the Kaatskill Mtn. Club in their very best room, the duplex penthouse suite, the first season it opened (season before last). Best ski room I have ever stayed in. Hunter is, in my opinion, a very good mountain and the town is nice with some good eats and apres' ski.

I tried to go to Belleayre last season for the first time but it was all rained out, the locker room area was pretty bad though from what I saw. I have heard good things about it as far as skiing goes, and now with all the money they are dumping there it should be great.
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