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New Catskills Accord Ends Seven Year Standoff on Belleayre Development
Twelve Hundred Acres Saved From Sprawl Forever; Resized Resort Will be Built Green
NEW YORK (September 5, 2007) – The seven-year standoff over the sprawling Belleayre Resort development plan in the heart of the Catskills ended today with a new accord that permanently protects 86 percent of the land encompassed in the original proposal and ensures that construction on the remaining parcels will be as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. The agreement announced this morning by Gov. Eliot Spitzer was engineered with the help of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) over 10 months of intensive negotiations.
“It is a new and long overdue approach that recognizes development in the Catskills must protect the communities and landscapes that make this place so special in the first place,” said NRDC senior attorney Eric A. Goldstein. “A project that would have been a disaster for the area now has the potential to become a model for thinking about future developments both in this region and around the country.”
The resort, which is still subject to public review, will now be built on 620 acres of land located on the western side of the State-owned Belleayre Ski Center in the Towns of Shandaken and Middletown, which straddles the border between Ulster and Delaware counties.
The $400 million project is a smart-growth design that concentrates development on a small portion of the original development site. The new plan includes two hotels, 259 residential units, a conference center and spa, as well as an organically-treated golf course. All of the development project’s buildings are expected to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED silver standard in green building design. To protect against erosion, no individual lodging units will be constructed on mountain slopes steeper than 20 percent grade.
Under the settlement, twelve hundred acres on the eastern side of the development – approximately two-thirds of the land in the original proposal – will be sold to the state for inclusion as “forever wild” lands in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The new plan will also be redesigned to protect world-famous fishing streams in the region and safeguard New York City’s watershed, which provides approximately 1 billion gallons of safe clean drinking water to 9 million New York residents each day.
“It is testament to what you can achieve once all sides are willing to come to the table to find a solution,” said Eric Goldstein. “The Catskills region should take advantage of similar smart-growth opportunities that will promote economic opportunity and environmental protection at the same time.”
The project will result in an economic boon for the area. The Resort is expected to provide 450 full time jobs and 150 part-time jobs. An additional 1,800 construction jobs are anticipated during the 8 year building process. Annual property tax revenue will result in approximately 2 million dollars for the State, and annual sales tax revenue will result in an additional 2 million dollars.
Governor Spitzer also announced that he would initiate a cooperative process to seek scenic by-way status for Route 28, the main transportation route into the central Catskills and the Belleayre site. A Central Catskills Smart Growth program of grants will also be provided to groups, businesses and municipalities along the Route 28 corridor.
NRDC and the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, along with a coalition of environmental groups, worked closely with local and state officials, including NYCDEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd, U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Alan Steinberg, Congressman Maurice Hinchey, and Governor Spitzer to secure the scaled-down project.
The coalition of environmental groups, represented by attorney Marc Gerstman, also includes: the Catskill Heritage Alliance, Friends of Catskill Park, Pine Hill Water Coalition, Riverkeeper, NYPIRG, Trout Unlimited, Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, and the Zen Environmental Studies Institute.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.