Crossroads threatening to back out of land sale

By Jay Braman Jr.
The developers of a proposed $400 million resort in Shandaken are asking the Ulster County Legislature to grant a right-of-way over county land that lies between their holdings and more than 1,200 acres of property they plan to sell to the state.
According to the developers, the sale of that land, and therefore its protection from development, would be at risk if the legislature does not agree, and that has some legislators feeling strong armed.
In a July 10 letter to the legislature’s attorney Dan Heppner, Crossroads Ventures’ attorney David Lenefsky said that Crossroads and the state have agreed on a purchase price for the 1,215 acres of land.
The land is set to be sold and deemed “forever wild” as part of an agreement in principle reached in 2007 under former Governor Elliot Spitzer, but the agreement also requires that the state can only make the purchase at fair market value determined by appraisers.
No purchase price was disclosed, but Lenefsky says the property could be worth more in the sale if Crossroads secured a 100-foot wide right-of-way over the railroad property that rests between it and a seven-acre parcel that Crossroads would keep.
“The enhanced access provided by the license may result in an increase in the appraisal estimates which are consistent with and supportive of the actual agreement between the parties,” Lenefsky wrote.
But what bothers District 2 legislator Brian Shapiro (D-Woodstock), who represents the Town of Shandaken, is Crossroads’ warning of what may happen should the county refuse to grant the right-of-way.
“Mind you, if the appraisals are not supportive of the agreed purchase price then Crossroads will have no alternative than to proceed with plans to develop the property,” Lenefsky wrote.
Shapiro says that Lenefsky’s letter and remarks made Wednesday by another Crossroads attorney, Anthony Bucca, leave the impression that unless the county agrees, it would be responsible for the unraveling of the Spitzer deal. The 1,215 acres of environmentally sensitive land would then be unprotected from development.
“So now we’re responsible for the success of the deal? We’re not even an involved party,” he said. “And why should we do something that would give more money to the developer by costing the taxpayers more?”
Legislator Don Gregorius (D-Woodstock) said Friday that he understands the request, but is not sure why Crossroads is asking.
“Why isn’t the state asking us to do this?” he wondered.
The agreement in principle states the following: “Crossroads has entered into an agreement to sell 1,216.5 acres of its Big Indian Plateau property. As a result, Crossroads has decided to end its efforts to pursue the Big Indian Plateau development which is adjacent to existing State Forest Preserve lands. In particular, the Big Indian Resort and Spa, 18-hole golf course, and Belleayre Highlands development, will not be pursued….”
Instead, the new plan is for a $400 million resort about one mile west which would straddle the border of Ulster and Delaware counties. Under the agreement in principle, brokered and signed by Governor Spitzer in September 2007, 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 Public Works Committee tabled the matter pending further information.