Catskills Deal to Protect 1,400 Acres Announced (NY)

Shandaken, NY, 9/5/2007: Governor Eliot Spitzer today announced an agreement on a major new resort complex in the Catskills-the largest and most environmentally advanced development project in the region in generations-and the protection of more than 1,400 acres of land. The agreement between Crossroads Ventures LLC, environmental groups, New York State, and New York City will end a seven-year legal and regulatory battle and allow the project to move forward while at the same time assuring strict environmental protections and land preservation. The Trust for Public Land is negotiating the purchase of more than 1,200 acres for public open space and recreation as part of this agreement.

“This project will simultaneously revitalize the region’s economy by creating hundreds of new jobs and protect the environment through green buildings, watershed protection and land preservation,” said Governor Spitzer. “I thank all the parties who came to the table and accomplished great things for the Catskills. Their hard work illustrates that environmental protection and sustainable economic development can go hand in hand.”

“The future of the Catskills depends on a symbiotic relationship between conservation and development where both support rather than destroy one another,” said Rose Harvey, senior vice president of The Trust for Public Land. “We are pleased to be part of Governor Spitzer’s efforts to conserve wilderness and watershed while allowing for appropriate economic development.”

The $400 million project will be built on the border of Ulster and Delaware counties in the towns of Shandaken and Middletown. It includes two hotels, 259 lodging units, a conference center, spa and organic golf course. The land is adjacent to the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center and will feature ski-in/ski-out recreational opportunities. A major achievement of the negations was the limitation of development to the western part of the property, which is less environmentally sensitive and will not have so great an impact on the fragile New York City watershed.

With nine million New Yorkers relying on the Catskill-Delaware watershed to provide a safe and reliable source of drinking water, and this area being home to prized trout streams, protecting water quality was a guiding principle of this agreement.

Through an agreement with the landowner being negotiated by The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, the state will acquire 1,294 acres. This includes 1,216 acres on the Big Indian Plateau to be added to the State Forest Preserve. The Big Indian Wilderness Area and the adjoining Slide Mountain Wilderness Area, make up the largest contiguous tract of wilderness in the Catskill Park. Additionally, 78 acres at the former Highmount Ski Center will be integrated into a westward expansion of the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. A watershed conservation easement will also be placed on 200 acres of nearby lands.

Congressmember Maurice Hinchey said: “I applaud Governor Spitzer for his leadership in developing a solution for the Belleayre Resort project that will help to create new jobs and spur economic growth while minimizing negative impacts to the surrounding environment and protecting the integrity of the New York City watershed. When I introduced the lower build alternative for this plan as a starting point for these negotiations almost two years ago, I envisioned a final project that greatly resembled what was agreed to today.”

Judith Enck, Deputy Secretary for the Environment said: “The Catskills are an extraordinary part of the state where thousands of people live, work and raise families while exercising a level of environmental stewardship ensuring that 9 million of their downstate neighbors can have clean, safe drinking water. This agreement demonstrates that we can have jobs and environmental protection and strikes the right balance between economic development and environmental sustainability.”

Dean Gitter, Managing Member of the project sponsor, Crossroads Ventures, LLC said: “Today’s announcement is an important achievement, illustrating how government, the private sector and environmental advocates can work together to achieve a cooperative project that can greatly contribute to the economy, the environment and the community. It will also provide the benefits of significant and responsible development. We intend to move forward in a spirit of total commitment to the details of this Agreement in Principle. We will welcome the continued cooperation of all the parties in bringing the Belleayre Resort Project to fruition and advancing the long-sought economic revitalization of the central Catskills, surely one of the most beautiful areas of New York State.”

Eric A. Goldstein, New York Urban Program Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “Safeguarding the downstate drinking water supply, protecting the Catskill Park and providing economic vitality for Catskills residents present difficult challenges. Today’s agreement, when carefully implemented, will significantly advance all three of these worthy goals.”

All the parties signed an “Agreement in Principle” which lays out the agreement in detail. A Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement will be prepared for public review. All existing laws and regulations and opportunities for public participation will govern the review of the project. The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected more than 2.2 million acres of land nationwide, including more than 126,000 acres throughout the state of New York.