Belleayre Resort public comment time extended


By Jay Braman Jr.
Last week, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials decided to extend the public comment period for the $74-million Belleayre Ski Center expansion project and the $400 million plan by private sector group Crossroads Ventures to build a resort right next to the ski slopes.
Comments will now be accepted through July 24, a full 30 days longer than originally planned.
The extension was granted after four different stakeholder groups asked for more time to scrutinize the information on the projects.

The plans were released on April 17 and a 60-day time clock began running. During that time the public can weigh in on the projects merits or flaws. At the close of 60 days, set at June 24, opportunity for comment would have closed for good and the DEC would considers those comments while determining whether or not the projects as proposed pass environmental muster.

But, according to Eric Goldstein, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, the 60 days were not enough time to wade through the volumes of data supplied by the developers, Crossroads Ventures LLC, despite the fact the comment period is already double the length of the standard public comment phase for projects. Goldstein said his organization asked for an extra 30 days.

“We are making this request to secure the time necessary to carefully review the lengthy and technically complex materials contained in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the draft Unit Management Plan, the Cumulative Impact Analysis and the proposed permits.  On several issues, we are retaining new technical experts and the additional time will enable us to complete that process and get these experts up to speed.”

The resort plan, under environmental review for 15 years, went through major modifications over the past few years and the final draft was made public last month. At the same time, because both projects are physically joined at the hip, the ski center plans were announced. Both are going through a joint environmental review right now.

DEC spokeswoman Lisa King outlined how the department has engaged stakeholders since 2007 when the Resort Project was downsized and several involved groups and agencies signed an agreement in principle that, in broad strokes, outlined what the project was to become.

“DEC held a public informational meeting on December 10, 2007, to provide information to the public on the two proposed projects...,” she said.  “On December 11th and 12th, 2008, DEC held a public hearing to receive public comments related to the proposed scope of the studies set forth in the (Resort project) Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS), the ( Belleayre Ski Center) Unit Management Plan (UMP)/ Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and cumulative impact analysis. The final scope for the SDEIS and UMP/DEIS was released in February, 2008.  From 2008-2012, DEC staff has actively been preparing the draft revision to the UMP/DEIS, engaging stakeholders in the process, and in November 2012, the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) was also actively involved in the drafting of the UMP/DEIS after becoming the new operator of the Ski Center.” 

Written comments on the draft documents can be submitted through July 24 by email, or mail to: Daniel Whitehead, Region 3 Environmental Permit Administrator, NYSDEC, 21 South Putt Corners Rd., New Paltz, NY 12561.