In recent months there’s been a spate of stories on
the “news” that for the first time since 1999,
Crossroads Ventures’ Dean.Gitter is finally prepared
to talk about a smaller Belleayre Resort project. That of
course, is something The Olive Press has been advocating for
many years. But to hear Mr.Gitter tell it, the problem is
nobody’s willing to talk to him. Were it true, that
would indeed be sad. In fact though, over the years there
have been many such approaches and discussions. Several years
back, Mr.Gitter and I even gave it a shot one afternoon over
my kitchen table. Didn’t go anywhere, but neither has
anyone else gotten anywhere on the subject with Mr. Gitter.
Of course the project hasn’t gone anywhere either in
the same period, except into that apparent place between limbo
But as the project’s circumstances along with state
politics has changed, hardly anyone’s surprised Mr.
Gitter is now ready to talk about a reasonably sized project.
After submitting arguably the most problematical environmental
impact study in state history, followed by a judge’s
ruling that 12 major subject areas were inadequately addressed
and must now move toward trial-like adjudication, things could
hardly seem to be headed further south for the project than
they are at this point.
The reality is that submitting “alternative” or
scaled down versions of the project isn’t a conciliatory
gesture on the developer’s part, they’ve been
COMPELLED to present such plans by the judge overseeing the
project’s review. So after five and a half years of
refusing to comply with SEQRA law on the subject of alternatives,
they’ve finally decided to obey the judge’s order.
But instead of just DOING IT, instead of simply submitting
a scaled-down plan, the developer’s now taken another
tack. He’s insisting that BEFORE they submit what the
judge has required, that those who’ve been opposing
the mega-scale version of the project must first agree to
accept an alternate plan, worked out with him, in advance.
It is frankly, an attempt to avoid adjudicating the only plan
ever presented to the state and an odd twist of the SEQRA
process, which Mr. Gitter used to champion but now insists
is broken. Which is presumably, why it has to be circumvented
Not incidently, these theoretical discussions, in the world
according to Mr. Gitter, do come with at least one precondition.
Just about anyone holding elected office is welcome to join
in now. In fact the less involved they’ve been, the
less they actually know about the project, the better. The
main thing is the people who do understand the issues best,
the lawyers who’ve been dealing with them all these
years, they can’t come. They’re not allowed at
the table. It’s a condition so ridiculous that Catskill
Preservation Coalition head Tom Alworth hardly had to think
much before saying No Thanks. And their lead counsel Marc
Gerstman summed up the situation nicely. “His lawyer
has the phone number of our lawyer, who would be me. But the
phone is not ringing. If he really wants to talk, that’s
all he has to do, call.”
But so far nobody’s calling CPC. These of course are
the same people who for years Mr. Gitter has been attacking
and insulting, calling them “bastards,” “jihadists”,
“pointy-headed nerds from cyberspace,” and so
on. They are however, part of a public, state-run review process,
having earned the right to participate through years of work.
But the irony is their blessing isn’t needed for the
developer to resubmit any alternate plans it wishes to. And
if such plans are submitted, they’ll still have a lengthy
SEQRA process to go through, which CPC, like the developer,
will continue to be a party to.
Where all this leaves us, or the project, is hard to say.
If a major downscaling of the project is really in the works,
the Belleayre Resort may have a future. But you all remember
the first and much heralded downsizing of the project in 2001.
That was when the number of golf courses dropped from 3 to
2, but the number of proposed guest rooms rose from 742 to
its current level of nearly 1,300. So far what we’re
reading and hearing lately seems heavy on calculated public
relations value and light on earnestness, but that could change
with a phone call. So we do remain hopeful progress can be
One thing that’s not helpful though, is when some of
our regional news media seem to cover the subject with limited
objectivity. It’s not our place to take issue with how
anyone else reports the news, but we are troubled by the way
our region’s only daily newspaper, long the project
developer’s most stalwart supporter in the press, has
been handling the matter of late. We see our job as to provide
both solid reporting and appropriately critical analysis of
events. We sincerely hope that in time, every newspaper in
the region will drift back that way.
Like many people, we continue to try and balance our personal
misgivings about the proposed project’s current scale
against some possible measure of public good for a far smaller
project. That we believe, is what the SEQRA process is designed
to sort out and we encourage all parties to continue to work
within its framework. It does seem to work everywhere else
in the state, just as we believe it ultimately will here.