Shandaken board seeks the right consultant for Belleayre project review

By Jay Braman Jr.
The Shandaken Planning Board is conducting interviews with planning and engineering firms to find one best suited to act as the board’s consultant in the upcoming review of the Belleayre Resort.
Stuart Mesinger, vice president in charge of community planning for the Chazen Companies, made a personal appearance before the planning board last Wednesday to discuss the resort project and how his firm would be able to work with the planners during their review.
The resort, a $365 million project, consists of 739 acres adjacent to the existing New York State owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. Information supplied by the developer, Crossroads Ventures LLC, states that of that amount, 218 acres will be developed.

Lodging and golf
The overall resort centers around two distinct hotels; Wildacres Resort with an 18 hole championship golf course designed by Davis Love III and Highmount Spa Resort, both with an extensive program designed to give visitors access to the many specialized outdoor experiences unique to the Catskill Region.
Mesinger joked at the top of the discussion about the high profile of the proposal, saying he was familiar with the resort project because everyone is familiar with it.
He also said that if the planners wanted, his firm could work with them privately instead of in public view but that, due to the attention on the project, it would be better to do things out in the open.
“I think you would probably want a transparent process,” he said.
Chazen, he said, would bill somewhere between $80 to $135 per hour, depending on the type of work done, and would be available to attend public meetings.
The planners, who must consider issuing site plan approval for the project plus grant a special use permit for it to move forward, were asked by Mesinger why they wanted a consultant.
He was told that the proposal was large and complex and that the members of the volunteer board needed assistance in proper procedure for the review process.

Need the facts
Board Chair Joanne Kalb also said they need a consultant to provide credibility. “We need something to back up our own decisions,” she said.
Mesinger suggested that the first thing the planners should do is establish a $10,000 escrow account with the developer’s money to pay for planning board consultant services.
The board has not yet reached a decision on who to hire. Kalb noted that the Shandaken Town Board had another firm they would like the planners to use.
In other news, the planners have decided to nominate Big Indian resident Alan Shiner to join the planning board. This month, former planner Faye Storm resigned from the board to take a position on the town board and Shiner would fill her vacancy.
That decision is the town board’s, but historically the town board honors the nomination from the planners.