DEC releases final plan for Belleayre Resort review

By Jay Braman Jr.
The much-anticipated final scoping document for the environmental reviews of two major development projects on the western edge of Ulster County, one a private plan for a resort complex and the other a public plan to expand the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center and attach it to the resort, has been released.
The 157-page document, made public on February 28, is a non-negotiable list of all the factors that must be included in the environmental impact statements for the resort project, which includes a golf course, a hotel, a spa and residential units, and the ski center. Last November DEC released a draft scope, which was only eight pages long.
DEC, which controls the review of both projects, began gathering public input with respect to the scoping document last fall, accepting written comments and holding public meetings that attracted hundreds of people who weighed in with requests for what developers Crossroads Ventures and the state should be forced to investigate to determine whether either proposal is harmful.
On Thursday Crossroads released a prepared statement saying that they are already at work and will show that they can tackle all the many issues listed, issues including noise, water and social and economic impacts on the local communities. There’s even a requirement that global warming and its effects on the region be investigated.
“Crossroads is already in the process of completing the exhaustive testing, monitoring, analysis and reporting necessary to complete the (review) based on the required areas of impact outlined in the scoping document,” the release states. “Crossroads Ventures is confident that we will be able to mitigate all the issues raised and develop a resort that is in the vanguard of environmental responsibility while giving a lasting boost to the regional economy of the Catskills.”
Richard Schaedle of the anti-resort group Catskill Heritage Alliance said that his initial reaction to the document was a hopeful one.
“It’s a greatly expanded outline,” he said. “It looks like it’s going to be a thorough review.”
The Alliance, as well as other groups like Save The Mountain, made it clear at the comment sessions that they felt the project needs a thorough review, one over and above the review of the original Crossroads plan that was announced in 1999 and called for a larger development project. Schaedle said that the scope for the review of the original plan was much smaller than what DEC is requiring this time around.
The state, specifically the DEC, which operates the ski center, made no mention of their review responsibilities in a prepared statement announcing the release of the scope.
The next step in the environmental review process is the preparation by the resort sponsor of a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact State-ment regarding the resort project, and the preparation by the DEC of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the unit management plan. Those drafts, which are supposed to answer all the concerns raised in the scope, will be provided to the public for review and comment.
Crossroads spokesman Paul Rakov would not say how long it would take to prepare the impact statement.
To view the scope go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6061.html — look for the pdf item marked: Final Scope Belleayre Mountain Ski Center UMP DEIS and Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park SDEIS-February 2008.