Dec. 30, 2008: Seeking balance in resort information

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To The Editor:
I must refute the genuine misunderstandings and/or malicious misinformation about the Belleayre Resort proposal in last week’s paper.
Mr. Fairbairn (Town of Hardenburgh Supervisor Jerry Fairbairn) is correct in saying that Crossroads is seeking tax abatements and other financial incentives. This is a very normal part of economic development in every state and nation that wants developers to invest huge sums of private capital. But even if abatement requests are granted that does not change the fact that the state, county and local taxing districts all begin to see some tax benefits immediately.
The abatements are calculated on future tax payments not on current tax payments. Today we pay $97,000 plus per year on these undeveloped properties. That tax can never be abated.
The minute we improve the property, the taxes go up. Let’s say that the taxes with improvements would go from $97,000 a year to $970,000 a year. The increase in our taxes would be $873,000 per year. The abatements would allow us to pay 50 percent of the increase (or $436,500) in the first year. So on day one our taxes would go from $97,000 per year to $533,500. Then each year we would increase the percentage and the total until after 10 years, we would be paying the full load. But as stated in my letter, the taxing districts see immediate and dramatic returns from day one.
Contrary to what Mr. Fairbairn says, we did not try to “bully” anyone into making this an Empire Zone. We had an informational meeting to explain how it would work and never specifically asked the Shandaken Town Board if they wanted to consider it. We suggested an Empire Zone because having one would cause the State of New York to cover the abatements and would allow the local taxpayers to get 100 percent of the taxes on this project from day one.
The misinformation in Ms. Margolis’ letter is related to the fact that she provides numbers without sources and then alleges that we will use her numbers instead of those we propose. In her allegations about housekeeping jobs she asserts a median hourly rate for the entire state, not the rate we have agreed to pay. She asserts that the jobs don’t have benefits when ours will come with full benefit packages and she says they are seasonal – ours are not seasonal but year-round. (For full details on everything proposed, including specific job titles and wages, check our website at www.belleayreresort.com)
Ms. Margolis asserts there are no strings attached to the state’s investment here. That is simply not true. The state is buying more than 1,200 acres of property that was slated to have a multi-million development including an 18-hole golf course on it and turning that property into forever-wild forest preserve land. Everyone in this region knows you can’t get tighter strings than that. In exchange for the taxpayer investment, the land is forever wild, no golf course, no anything.
Likewise, the strings attached to the state’s purchase of the old Highmount Ski Center and its expansion of Belleayre Mt. come with incredible strings attached. The state will determine everything from who will work there and what they will be paid to what ticket prices will be charged, what day they open and close, where they advertise, you name it. You can’t get any more tied up in string than you can trying to run a state-owned and operated ski resort.
Mr. Fairbairn can call us a “bully” and Ms. Margolis can say we’ve got “guns blazing” and accuse national environmental organizations of a “payoff” to keep from developing a ridge but saying those things does not make them true. Responsible individuals on both the pro and anti side of this debate are trying to find a consensus that will allow for economic development while at the same time protecting the environment. We think it’s only fair that honest and open dialogue continue until that balance is realized.

Joan Lawrence-Bauer,
Crossroads Ventures LLC