Belleayre supporters blast commission idea
By Jay Braman Jr.
Belleayre supporters reacted swiftly to the state legislature authorizing the creation of a commission that will evaluate whether state-owned recreational facilities constitute unfair competition to privately run golf courses, ski centers and camping sites.
With the idea coming from Greene County ski centers Hunter and Windham, whose operators say state-owned Belleayre gets to sell cheap tickets because taxpayers pick up the slack, there’s now a county vs. county battle brewing between Greene and Ulster, with the latter’s legislative chairman calling for a boycott of Hunter and Windham.
Furthermore, the matter has caused some Belleayre supporters to look unfavorably on State Senator John Bonacic, whose 42nd District includes Belleayre territory. Until now an unwavering advocate for Belleayre, Bonacic voted in favor of the commission and has his staff busy trying to explain his choice.
The legislation authorizing the creation of the study commission still must be signed by Gov. David Paterson. Then the commission would be named. The blue-ribbon commission will include appointed members that represent the interests of both privately and publicly owned outdoor recreational facilities.
It remains unclear, however, who those people would be.
Paterson has the power to veto the legislation. It remains unclear whether there will be any official cry for a veto from Ulster County, but legislator Don Gregorius, a Democrat who represents the Shandaken section of Ulster County, said Monday that he would support a veto demand.
Gregorius said that Chairman Donaldson’s Hunter/Windham boycott is not something the legislature agreed on, but avoided supporting that stance or condemning it. He called Donaldson’s move “an educated decision.”
The Ulster County’s Democratic majority meets Wednesday, but Gregorius is not sure if the matter will be discussed, nor is he certain that there would be any call for a veto, because Donaldson is now on vacation in Ireland.
Kelly hopes there will be. It was Kelly’s strongly worded criticism of Donaldson and the legislature that prompted the boycott idea in the first place.
“The Ulster County Legislature has been totally AWOL on this issue,” said Kelly in a prepared statement issued on June 24. “The inattention of this county administration to this issue is mind-boggling to me. These governmental officials say tourism is important to the county but they sit back silently while Greene County relentlessly attacks the biggest attraction in western Ulster County. If they aren’t willing to fight for a property that pulls 200,000 visitors a year across the county from Kingston to Highmount, what will they fight for?”
Urging Donaldson and his colleagues in county government to get moving, Kelly urged them to take swift action to try to have the legislation vetoed. Kelly called for a strong public statement supporting Belleayre and its role as an economic catalyst for the Central Catskills and urged the legislature to condemn, in the strongest language possible, the unprecedented attack on Belleayre Mountain by Greene County and its allies Hunter and Windham. “Wayne Speenburgh, chairman of the Greene County Legislature, is in fact attacking Ulster County economic assets,” said Kelly.
In reaction to Democrat Donaldson’s criticism of Bonacic’s support of the new commission, the senator’s Chief of Staff, Langdon Chapman, said Bonacic, a Republican, disagrees with the base assumption of the legislation but believes taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent.
Chapman believes that after scrutiny Belleayre will come out “smelling like a rose,” and that the process will put an end to Greene County’s attack on the ski center.
Chapman accused Donaldson of employing scare tactics and nonsense.