CHA asks Governor to take away Belleayre funds

By Jay Braman Jr.
An organization that opposes the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park has asked Governor David Paterson, who is this week seeking $2 billion worth of cuts to the state’s budget, to reconsider the $60 million expenditure currently earmarked for a proposed public/private partnership project at Belleayre Mountain, saying that now is not the time for this type of public spending.
But the developers of the project quickly countered with an announcement that they feel the region needs this type of public spending now more than ever.
In a letter to Paterson dated November 16 the Catskill Heritage Alliance, a 500-member grass-roots community and environmental organization, asserted that “in our current crisis, when so much is being asked of so many, this kind of public spending to support private interests makes no sense at all.”

Environmentally unsound
“Asking taxpayers to fork over tens of millions of dollars to, in effect, induce a private development company not to build an environmentally intolerable project but rather one that is merely environmentally disastrous—as well as economically unsound—strikes us as a bad idea at the best of times,” Schaedle wrote. “In our current crisis, when so much is being asked of so many, we suggest that this kind of public spending to support private interests makes no sense at all. We respectfully urge that you review this $60-million public expenditure in our state budget—which we hold to be an unnecessary and, in the present crisis, an excessive burden on taxpayers.”
In a prepared statement issued Monday Crossroads spokeswoman Joan Lawrence-Bauer said now is the time to invest in Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.
“Our area needs the jobs this project will create now, more than ever,” Lawrence-Bauer said. “And the taxpayers in our region are in desperate need of increased commercial properties on the tax rolls that will help to reduce the overall property tax burden on other private residential and commercial property owners.”
Saying that the region’s economy has depended on Belleayre Ski Center for nearly 60 years, Lawrence-Bauer said the state has entered into a public/private partnership that will create more than $400 million in private sector investment in what she described as a chronically depressed region.
Noting that studies dating back 40 years recommend that Belleayre become a year-round resort and that the environmental review process for Crossroads plan has been the longest in history, Lawrence-Bauer said the state should stay the course.
“The Catskill Heritage Alliance wants Governor Patterson to kill improvements to Belleayre Mt. because of the current budget crisis. Their request is untrue, short-sighted and self-serving in the extreme,” she said.
The $400 million resort, which would straddle the border of Ulster and Delaware counties, first was proposed in 1999, but was modified last year as part of an agreement brokered by former Governor Eliot Spitzer. Under the current plan, the resort would comprise two complexes - one with a 250-room hotel and 139 townhouse-style lodging units surrounding an 18-hole golf course; the other with a 120-room hotel and spa, 60 lodging units in two buildings and another 60 detached units in up to 52 buildings. The deal also calls for about 1,200 acres of woodland near the resort to be sold by Crossroads to the state to be protected.
Joe Kelly of the Coalition to Save Belleayre thought that the request by the Heritage Alliance was counterproductive.
“We are baffled that at this particular time, when the very existence and operation of Belleayre Mt. is at stake that the CHA would choose to take this position,” Kelly said, referring to the fact that the ski center’s operating budget was cut this season. “At a time when governments at every level in every country are developing economic stimulus packages to keep people working and create new jobs, it is absurd to call for a roll-back of an economic stimulus already approved.”