Belleayre supporters call Greene charges "economic genocide"
Neighboring county says state funding gives advantage to Belleayre Mtn.
By Jay Braman Jr.
Outrage and frustration continue to mount in the Catskill Region following two major announcements impacting Belleayre Mt. Ski Center.
With Greene County officials issuing renewed calls for audits of Belleayre and with the announcement of a major public/private partnership to expand New York State owned and operated Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks, Belleayre supporters coined the phrase ‘economic genocide’ to describe what they see happening locally.
Last month the New York State Comp-troller’s Office denied Greene County’s request for a financial audit of the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, but officials in that county say they will continue to pursue the matter. County Legislature Chairman Wayne Speenburgh, R-Coxsackie, said even though the audit request was turned down, his county would not back down from its concerns about Belleayre, which competes with the privately owned ski resorts in Hunter and Windham.
Competition with Belleayre, located in the Town of Shandaken, has been an ongoing topic of concern for Greene County officials, who feel the state-owned resort enjoys competitive advantages over private resorts that hurt the Greene County economy.
At about the same time it was announced that Gore Mountain, a state-run ski center built on forever-wild land in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, is now slated for a massive public and private partnership that would build five hotels in addition to hundreds of housing units all with “ski on/ski off” access to slopes.
According to press reports, not only is the Gore Mountain expansion approved, but it is also funded, creating a high level of anger among supporters of frequently attacked Belleayre. “Economic genocide,” was the way local skier and second homeowner Heidi White described the news.
“Major public/private partnerships make sense everywhere else in the world,” she said. “It is astounding that the state can create an entire Olympic Village in Lake Placid and surrounding communities while talk of resurrecting Highmount Ski Center here sends people to their battle stations.”
Joe Kelly, chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre was very adamant. “Gore will now have a major expansion of its facilities and offer skiers a ski-on, ski-off benefit for the Ski Bowl Village at Gore Mountain when they put up 131 townhouses, 18 single-family homes and five hotels. Every other ski mountain in the universe has these features, including Hunter, Windham, other state-owned facilities and also including private ski facilities on leased public lands. The effort to stop Belleayre from having the same amenities is absolutely unacceptable.”
The Gore approval added fuel to the fires of Belleayre supporters already furious about efforts from Greene County, Hunter and Windham ski resorts. “The say they’re looking for fairness and equity,” said service station owner Chuck Perez, “but I don’t see any fairness or equity here at all. This is really about a small group of incredibly wealthy people, who are so greedy that they don’t want anyone else to have even a small piece of their pie.”
Supporters of the Belleayre Resort project and the expansion of Belleayre have stepped up their activity in recent weeks as threats to the ski center and the resort project mount. Following a rally event and a trip to Albany by 120 supporters, Belleayre funding that had been removed from the budget was restored. They cheered a report that the New York State Comptroller’s office refused to audit Belleayre, which according to supporters, has already been audited and investigated numerous times as opponents try to shut it down.
They will now call on Comptroller DiNapoli to stand firm in his decision not to audit Belleayre again.