Up on the News
that document would be the long awaited Supplemental Draft Environmental
Impact Statement (SDEIS), which the agency had originally expected in
mid-2008. When received, it will provide the first formal description
by the developer of the project’s environmental impacts as conceptually
greenlighted by then-Governor Spitzer following his unprecedented suspension
of its environmental review process in 2007.
Under the terms of the “Agreement in Principal” (AIP) brokered
by Spitzer and announced in September 2007, the state - along with other
parties - signed onto a non-binding agreement allowing expanded development
plans for 760 acres of Crossroads Ventures landholdings in Highmount,
contiguous with the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. Under
that agreement, another roughly 1,208 acres of company landholdings
to the east of the ski center would remain undeveloped, to be acquired
by the state for inclusion into the Forest Preserve.
That land sale has yet to be completed due, among other reasons, to
what sources report as issues with quitclaim deeds on some 40 acres
of the landholdings, which the state appears forbidden by law from acquiring.
And as of press time, the actual availability of state funds for the
sale couldn’t be confirmed. But assuming such outstanding issues
are eventually resolved, Crossroads is expected to receive about $6
million from the sale of those properties to the state. Also, the sale
appears to be a precondition to withdrawing opposition to further development,
at least for some of the environmental groups that signed on to the
As for the project as currently proposed, the Spitzer AIP calls for
a new hotel, a spa, and new housing construction off County Route 49A
in Highmount, including the building of roads and private homes at over
three thousand feet in elevation along Belleayre Ridge. Proposed, in
total, for Crossroads’ resort complex are approximately 1.2 million
square feet of new construction, including 928 hotel rooms and lodging
bedrooms. As currently configured, the project’s room count is
about 20% larger than when its original plans were first unveiled at
a Shandaken town board meeting in October, 1999.
“We are going ahead as we envisioned in the Agreement in Principal,”
said Gitter. “We anticipate going before the planning boards of
the towns of Margaretville and Shandaken that we are in, and that we
will complete that process by the spring of 2011.”
Going forward, however, will be a complex process. Under the state’s
SEQRA law, DEC has determined that the review of the proposed resort
must be conducted jointly and together with planned changes to, and
expansion of the adjacent state-owned ski center. Further complicating
things, at least from a regulatory standpoint involving propriety, is
that DEC which is serving as lead agency in the joint review, also operates
the ski center and is the new project’s co-applicant.
According to DEC sources, when Crossroads does submit its SDEIS, it
will need to be reviewed by the department’s staff for adequacy,
with any changes requested provided prior to such a determination. The
agency will then need to prepare and release its own Unit Management
Plan (UMP) for the Ski Center, together with a Draft Environmental Impact
Statement (DEIS) for its portion of the project.
Once the UMP is submitted, a public comment period will be established
which is expected to include a public hearing. Upon its conclusion,
and once the developer’s SDEIS and the agency’s UMP/DEIS
are both reviewed and revised for adequacy, DEC will need to produce
a Cumulative Impact Assessment, detailing the combined environmental
impacts of both projects.
When drafts of all three documents have been deemed complete, the agency
will make a determination that they have been accepted for public review.
Another review period and public hearing will follow; at its conclusion,
DEC will go to work on drafting the Final Environmental Impact Statement
(FEIS) which will be written to reflect public comments. Although that
document would substantially consist of materials provided by the developer,
once accepted as adequate by the agency it becomes the agency’s
document and the only relevant document. If substantial issues remain
unresolved at any of several points in this process, legal challenges
could require adjudication: effectively a “trial” for the
data and analysis under consideration.
So that’s the SEQRA process ahead for the proposed Belleayre Resort
and Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, as the joint project moves toward
the preparation of an eventual FEIS. How long this process might take
is something that no one directly involved in the regulatory community
– at least at this early stage – is willing to speculate
In addition, however, to DEC and Crossroads Ventures, there are other
“involved parties” to the process; principally state agencies
and local governments including planning boards which have statutory
obligations to review and issue or deny pending permits for the project.
DEC does expect Crossroads to submit applications for those permits
at the same time as it submits its SDEIS, which is presumably now within
weeks. But although these “involved parties” can meet, review
submissions and seek information for findings they will ultimately make,
they are not permitted to make any findings, any permit decisions, until
the entire SEQRA process is completed. Whether that’s actually
likely to happen by, say, the spring of 2011 or any other spring coming
up soon… that’s something we’ll just have to keep
you posted on…
Should Belleayre Be Sold?
for a Better Budget: A Plan of Action for New York State” was
created for the Albany-based Empire Center for New York State Policy
by analysts E.J. McMahon and Josh Barro of the Manhattan Institute,
a New York based economics think tank with a decidely limited government
and private enterprise slant, and released last weekend with a quiet
“This document represents an effort to develop a fiscally practical,
comprehensive approach to putting New York State’s budgetary house
in order,” the tome starts soberly. “It explains why and
how the state developed such massive budget deficits. It identifies
programmatic changes to begin closing the gaps and to put the state’s
finances on a more stable footing. It explains how privatization and
competitive contracting can help produce more efficient and affordable
public services. It proposes structural reforms to improve the state
budget process and to reduce costs at every level of government in New
York. Finally, it outlines tax policy goals to promote renewed economic
Then it kicks off with a hefty, “New York State is broke. After
decades of growing reliance on taxes generated by Wall Street, the revenue
side of the state budget has collapsed to a level from which it will
only slowly recover… Like a runaway train, New York’s budget
is in danger of running completely off the rails. It needs to be brought
under control—before it’s too late.”
What follows looks good in portions, but adds up quickly as it renders
everything in its sights to be fiscally unfeasible or redundant. Hspitalize
the elderly less, cease paying for optional medical services through
public funding, raise SUNY college tuitions more, freeze all public
sector salaries, cap mental hygiene spending, then work it down. Stop
spending on capital projects. Forget bike and hiking trails, and start
cutting public transportation costs. It’s not worth it, in the
“New York can (a) raise sorely needed one-shot cash to help finance
its transition to more sustainable budgets, (b) realize recurring savings
through increased productivity and avoided costs, and (c) tap the innovation
and expertise of the private sector to undertake complex infrastructure
projects by: selling government-owned assets and enterprises to the
private sector, exploring the use of public-private partnerships to
develop and maintain major infrastructure projects, and promoting competitive
contracting of government services.”
Fine, in theory. But then the specifics hit… the selling off of
SUNY campuses, Battery Park City, and other public housing. Finally,
it all hits home…
“The state owns three ski areas—Bellayre in the Catskills,
and Whiteface and Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks—which compete
to a degree with private operators. The Belleayre ski slope in particular,
located with a few hours’ drive of the New York City metropolitan
area market, would be a prime candidate for a long-term lease to a private
At which point we started checking to see how this survey was being
“They obviously have an agenda that is not consistent with working
people in New York,” he said, said union spokesman Stephen Madarasz
of the CSEA, noting how the Empire Center is funded by corporations
and beholden to their own special interests. He added that union contracts
are binding agreements that were fairly negotiated.
Darcy Wells, spokeswoman for the New York State Public Employees Federation,
another union representing a large number of state employees, offered
an opinion similar to Madarasz’s.
“We don’t feel that the Empire Center is really interested
in meaningful debate,” said Wells. “This is all about private
business as if that’s all who made up this state.”
Meanwhile, at the State DEC, which owns and operates Belleayre, spokesman
Yancey Roy declined comment. Ditto county and school officials whose
aid was being threatened with more than just cuts.
Let’s see if this represents an opening salvo of anything meaningful,
or is just another hollow boom, in the end…
is very preliminary,” said Stanley of the snowplowing plan, part
of a county initiative to share services. “It is not a done deal.”
The idea comes via Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, who spelled out
the plan hatched out over recent months at a meeting the morning of the
town board reorganization meeting.
Hein met with town supervisors and highway superintendents, as well as
representatives from the Ulster County Legislature, Pattern for Progress
and the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) of
SUNY New Paltz, to outline a decentralized approach to delivering highway
services in Ulster County that expanded on recommendations contained in
a recent study of shared service possibilities by Pattern for Progress
and CRREO. Hein has proposed a decentralized, coordinated approach to
the delivery of highway services, starting with the plowing, sanding and
salting of County roads.
As a result of the meeting, an Implementation Committee is being formed
consisting of members of the Ulster County Association of Town Supervisors
and Mayors, the Ulster County Association of Highway Superintendents,
the Ulster County Legislature and representatives from the Executive’s
Administration, including the Commissioner of Public Works. The committee
will be tasked with analyzing data and developing an action plan for implementing
the new strategy prior to the presentation of town budgets for the 2011
fiscal year. The Committee’s initial report is to be delivered to
the County Executive in the coming month.
Implementation of the proposed strategy requires the negotiation of inter-municipal
agreements between the county and participating towns. These agreements
are subject to approval by the Ulster County Legislature and participating
In actuality the initiative, Stanley said at the recent meeting, would
turn over to towns the responsibility of plowing county roads located
within those municipalities. The county would pay the towns a set rate,
which Hein said would exceed the municipalities’ actual costs, but
be less than what it costs the county to provide the service. Eventually,
the County Executive added, the county would look at possibly reaching
agreements with towns for the maintenance of county roads as well.
The county already has an agreement with the Town of Hardenburgh, which
handles the plowing ofcCounty roads within it’s borders.
Stanley said that, on the surface, it seems like
a good idea. He used Oliverea Road as an example, noting that town trucks
travel up the road, with plows raised, just to get to the town owned roads
that are the local highways departments’ responsibility.
“Why?” he asked.
The town board will consider the matter further before making any agreement
with the county, Stanley said.
In other cost saving efforts, Stanley announced a plan to change the health
benefits package for the town’s highway department workers. He said
that under the current MVP plan benefits would cost the town an extra
$80,000 in 2010. Claiming that the town did not budget for such an increase,
Stanley has changed to a high deductible plan that he figures would save
$46,000 as long as “a lot of people don’t get sick.”
The new plan calls for the town to pay the deductible and also gives employees
a break on co-pays for the first $1500 worth of visits, and does not change
the premium that workers pay.
Also, the board voted to reduce the salary of the Director of the Town
of Shandaken Museum, despite urging from both the director and the chair
of the museum’s Board of Directors. Museum Director Mary Herrmann,
who had a budgeted salary of $9000, saw that dropped to $6240.
Stanley said the town would like to use the savings to purchase needed
equipment for the museum. But Matt Persons, Chair of the museum’s
Board, says he has a better plan which involves giving Herrmann back some
of what was taken away, and also saving on expenses by having Herrmann
work at home instead of at the museum, thus saving on heating costs as
While the town board did cut Herrmann’s salary despite Person’s
plea, Stanley said he and other board members will have a joint meeting
with Persons and Herrmann in the coming weeks, and if a better plan is
developed it can put into motion next month.
Also, Stanley and new Councilman Jack Jordan failed to gain majority support
for a move to place Charles Frasier in the role of chairman on the town
Frasier, who is the longest seated member of the planning board, suggested
that the planning board should choose it’s own chair. Councilwoman
Doris Bartlett agreed, as did councilmen Tim Malloy and Vince Bernstein.
Beth Waterman, who was chair in 2009 and has served on the board for over
a decade, saw her term on the board end on December 31st. Rather than
reappoint Waterman, who has the reputation of being a friend of the environment
and one that keeps close tabs on development, the new Stanley administration
will let planners hold interviews with potential new members and then
follow the recommendation that the planners make.
The planning board has set a special meeting for Wednesday, January 19th
to conduct interviews with applicants. At this point there are only two.
Waterman and Hope Luhman. Whoever is chosen will serve on the board until
Lastly, Stanley announced that the board would use the upcoming February
meeting to decide whether to officially hand over the Phoenicia sewer
project to the Catskill Watershed Corporation.
The sewer debate has gone on for more than a decade and thousands have
been spent on design plans and studies of alternative ways of treating
the hamlet’s waste.
A majority of voters turned down a plan worth over $14 million three years
ago, mostly due to concern that the system, if built, would cost commercial
users too much each year. Since then, alternative plans have been brought
forth for discussion that would lower construction costs, freeing more
for use in helping with hook-ups and operating and maintenance costs.
The current idea is that by working with the CWC, who are overseeing the
completion of a wastewater treatment system in nearby Boiceville, there
will be more room for negotiation and better chances at getting a system
okayed for Phoenicia, which has become the region’s sole hold-out
against a city-funded wastewater treatment plant to date.
More on this next month…
For those of you who don’t
know, Mom had major surgery on December 8th and was slowly recuperating,
with all of us making plans for her discharge before Christmas. On Tuesday
the 15th she was tired and in pain but she remained in good spirits.
She was happy that the ladies from St. Francis de Sales had visited
her that morning, along with Father Ben from Benedictine, and the family
and friends visited during the day, which she enjoyed.
At 11 o’clock my phone rang and I thought it was her calling to
say she was having trouble sleeping, but it was the 3rd floor nurses
telling me Mom had been moved to the Critical Care Unit because she
was having trouble breathing. They were having difficulty oxygenating
her blood, keeping her blood pressure up and she was in septic shock.
All five of her children, her daughter-in-law Ade, Joyce’s boyfriend
Jimmy and grandaughter Gaby were at her side when she gave up her fight
at 4:04AM on December 16, 2009.
A Different Christmas
When Mom passed we realized we should not turn on the Christmas lights
in or on our homes. The tree with the solar lights between our two driveways
on Wittenberg Road had not lit up since the snowstorm of December 9th
(the solar panels were buried under the crusty snow). The snow loosened
up, the panels were uncovered, and on the night Mom passed, the tree
lit up again! Sharon said it was Mom’s way of saying Christmas
must go on. (My daughter Danielle and I took off one set of solar lights,
put it on an artificial tree, and brought it down to Mom.)
The tone of Christmas Eve was different and the young grandchildren
and friends took over the kitchen table where Mom used to sit and tell
her stories...but she was there in spirit.
Marian’s Last Wish
While at Benedictine Hospital, Father George Hommel (pastor of St. John’s
in West Hurley and present administrator of St. Francis de Sales in
Phoenicia) had mentioned how our Dad Howard had always wanted to be
baptized a Catholic and Mom was wondering if when she got home from
the hospital, Father George could stop by the house and discuss with
Dad when the baptism could take place. Well.. her coming home was not
meant to be... Father George and Father Matt (of St. Francis) agreed
to give Dad not one but five sacraments (Baptism,First Penance, Communion,
Conformation, and Anointing of the Sick) at Mom’s funeral Mass.
The mass was beautiful thanks to father George, Father Matt, Diana Munch,
the St. Francis de Sales Choir, family friend soloist Marilyn Kirby,
bagpiper Peggy Mulligan, Mark Wilsey, Gene Gormley, Mom’s grandchildren
and grandchildren-in-law who participated, all who attended and of course
our Dad. Most of all, we know that Mom was watching from above and smiling.
Our family is so thankful for the wonderful outpouring of love and respect
that was sent and displayed at this sad time. Condolences were sent
and people visited from all walks of life: friends, relatives, politicians,
town and county workers, school personnel and old and new acquaintances
of Mom’s and Dad’s and our large extended family, and to
all who visited, sent flowers, plants, food baskets, cards, mass cards
and donations to the Shandaken Ambulance (which has been such a help
to Mom and Dad these past years), the Phoenicia Library and St. Francis
de Sales. A special thank you to the Ladies of La Salette Sodality,
St. Francis Parish, Jerry Bender, and especially the Tiso family, Mike
Ricciardella and Paul Pettinato for the wonderful reception you provided
after “Marian C.’s” funeral. We know Mom appreciated
your hard work also! Again, Thank you and God bless you all.
The Family of Marian C. Umhey
Marian’s Last Memo
When Marian published her last “Marian’s Memo” this
past month, she was unable to fit this poem in. We feel it is a beautiful
farewell from a woman we loved so dearly.
I Know Something Good About You
Wouldn’t this old world be better,
If folks we meet would say:
“I know something good about you,”
And then treat us that way.
Wouldn’t it be fine and dandy,
If each hand-clasp warm and true
Carried this assurance,
“I know something good about you!”
Wouldn’t things be more pleasant
If the good that’s in us all,
Were the only thing about us,
That folks bothered to recall!
Wouldn’t life be lots more happy
If we’d praise the good we see!
For there’s such lots of goodness
In the worst of you and me.
Wouldn’t it be nice to practice
This fine way of thinking too;
You know something good about me,
I know something good about you!
At the January 5 school
board meeting at Woodstock Elementary, Assistant Superintendent for
Business Don Gottlieb presented figures that were designed to give the
board a rough idea of what they would be dealing with for next year’s
budget. He explained that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) projections
are coming in at zero, with a loss of approximately $800,000 in state
aid, and nearly half of interest revenue down. Health care could see
an increase between ten and twelve percent, retirement may increase
between four and five percent. He also added that BOCES could increase
by 2.5 percent.
Taking all of this into account, Gottlieb said, “To get to a contingent
budget, you would have to reduce the budget that is presented to you
by $2.76 million.” That means making significant cuts on an already
lean budget or presenting the voters with an increased tax levy.
“The employee benefits actually account for, believe it or not,
30 percent of our budget,” said school board Trustee Tony Fletcher.
Doing some quick calculations, he added that in the budget Gottlieb
presented for next school year, health care eats up nearly half of the
projected increases or $1.36 million. Fletcher also pointed out that
last year health care spending increased over ten percent.
“Therefore it was 25 percent in the last two years, and that’s
with staff giving back a greater contribution as well,” he noted.
Gottlieb outlined decisions that the board may be facing in the transportation
department for next year. He said the board would need to decide if
they should present to voters in May the purchase of a 65 passenger
bus and 7 passenger bus. This would replace two old buses, each with
nearly 200,000 miles on the clock.
Gottlieb said that Transportation Director Dave Moraca is proposing
the board look into a multi-year contract capped at a three percent
increase. A multi-year contract would need voter approval.
“The vendor (Birnie Bus Service) has proposed a five year relationship
with a cap of three-percent or CPI, which ever is less,” Gottlieb
said, adding that within the contract would be “a number of caveats”
for the district to have if they choose to cancel it.
Gottlieb also noted that the projected CPI could increase in a few years
as the economy begins to bounce back.
“If you think rates are going to increase dramatically, then this
could be a wonderful deal,” he said. “But if you believe
they are going to stay very low, then it may not be so wonderful.”
According to law, bus companies cannot set rates beyond the CPI, which
for buses is set in May.
Opening up bus contract bids in order to control costs through multiple
contracts was reviewed with the board comparing costs in other districts
with multiple contracts. Currently, the district contracts out to Birnie
Bus Service, who owns small feeder bus companies including Mulligan.
Moraca pointed out that Birnie, the largest company in the state, now
owns most of the smaller companies.
Trustee Rob Kurnit thanked Moraca for providing the information, noting
that in the past contracting to one company has been a contentious issue.
Using Rondout School district as an example, Kurnit said, “Based
on this information our costs (per routes) may be a little lower than
Moraca said that because the district pays per run instead of locking
in a fixed route, it works to the benefit of such a large district.
The transportation department’s overall budget is over $3 million,
with $2.57 million going to Birnie bus.
Craig Lipps, General Manager of Mulligan Bus Company overseeing Onteora,
Saugerties and Kingston school districts, said that Birnie has a very
good record of keeping costs down, with a very high safety record.
“With the school bus being the safest form of transportation on
the planet, we gotta hold that up and we try to stand out above the
rest,” Lipps said. “I think you guys can see that over the
last year, we have improved in service since Birnie’s taken over
and I work with other school districts in the area to make sure this
service is maintained and you get a great value for the cost.”
In other news, Gottlieb announced that a cyber attack took place in
the Duanesburg school district outside Albany, where someone was able
to initially transfer nearly $3 million electronically into various
overseas bank accounts. He said $2 million was recovered.
“What I want to do is assure the district, board and community
that immediately upon receiving the news release, Monica Kim, your treasurer,
and I met and reviewed our procedures with regard to wire transfers
and we’ve already been in contact with our banking partners and
hopefully it won’t happen here.”
This was Gottlieb’s last board meeting with the district. School
board president Laurie Osmond thanked him for his dedicated work. Victoria
McLaren will be returning from maternity leave in a couple weeks.
Student representative Susie Sofranko announced High School student
survey results. She said on an average of one to five, with five as
the best rate, overall student’s satisfaction with the school
came in at four. This was based on curriculum, art and sports. Issues
they would like to see the district address included cafeteria food,
replacing bathroom stalls, beautification of the courtyard and having
hand sanitizers in the bathrooms.
Trustee Anne McGillicuddy said the next café chat would be at
Sweet Sues in Phoenicia on Thursday January 14 from 10:00 AM to 12:00
She said no one attended the first two café chats and the board
will try to advertise around the towns hoping people will attend.
On Thursday January 21, beginning at 6:30pm in the new High School auditorium,
the district is hosting a speaker series titled, “The Role of
Local Government in Education.” Guest speakers will be Assemblyman
Kevin Cahill, County Executive Mike Hein, Hurley Supervisor Gary Bellows,
Olive Supervisor Berndt Leifeld, Woodstock Supervisor Jeff Moran, and
Shandaken Supervisor Rob Stanley.
The event will be moderated by Woodstock Times Editor Brian Hollander
and will end with a question session.