Shandaken ZBA says resort is permitted
Against a backdrop of loud applause from supporters of the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park plan, the Shandaken Zoning Board of Appeals calmly made a unanimous decision Wednesday night that paves the way clear for the beleaguered project. Ruling that the zoning code does in fact permit the construction of detached lodging units as part of the resort, the ZBA confirmed the earlier decisions of the town Planning Board.
The meeting, held to make and render a decision after months of consideration and public hearings, lasting only 22 minutes. The zoners were charged with interpretation of key language in the town of Shandaken zoning code. Hanging in the balance was a large portion of the $365 million resort, a portion which opponents argued would be in violation of the zoning law if allowed to be built.
The project, under review since 1999, actually received the necessary approvals from the town planning board last year, but the Catskill Heritage Alliance (CHA) filed an Article 78 lawsuit against the Planning Board in State Supreme Court. In October Judge Richard Mott ruled that a portion of the approval was invalid and ordered the town Planning Board to seek an interpretation from the Zoning Board of Appeals to determine if parts of the project should have been considered permitted under current zoning law.
The determination, drafted in legal brief form by zoning board attorney Richard Olson of the Poughkeepsie based firm McCabe and Mack, was several pages long, and board members took turns reading it aloud Wednesday night as about 40 people, including attorneys for both the CHA and for the developers of the resort, listened carefully.
It was only near the end where it became apparent that the board was affirming that those permits issued by the Shandaken Planning Board last year did not violate the town’s Zoning Code.
CHA President Kathy Nolan, seated if the front row, appeared stunned by the decision. Just after the meeting she released the following statement:
"We are disappointed that the ZBA decided to follow the Shandaken Planning Board in bending over backward to find a way to permit Crossroads Ventures to place multiple-family dwellings, or 'condominiums,' in residential zones. This is an important decision, and we are concerned that letting the ZBA's decision stand could open the door to massive over-development, not only at the site of the proposed resort but throughout Shandaken. We will be evaluating our options, both in regard to this case and in regard to our action against Crossroads and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.”
Gary Gailes, a spokesman for Crossroads Ventures, the company proposing the resort, had a different point of view.
“Clearly the ZBA, together with their attorney, gave considerable attention to the matter before them, namely to provide the planning board with an interpretation of what a "lodge" is in the context of a "vacation resort" and that the lodge units planned for the Belleayre Resort were in conformity with existing zoning regulations,” he wrote in an email Thursday morning. “The fact that the ZBA's decision was unanimous (5 - 0) was most gratifying and should put to rest this latest effort by the Catskill Heritage Alliance to delay the resort project from moving forward.”
Gailes said the zoners’ decision will now be returned to the Planning Board so that it can be incorporated in the permits previously granted.