to most involved parties in the process, from state officials and the
developers to environmental organizations that signed on to Spitzer’s
AIP and those still fighting it, the resulting document, at 157 pages,
is comprehensive and groundbreaking… in most ways.
It also seems that the process of creating the Scope, as the blueprint
for ensuring Draft Environmental Impact statements and Unit Management
Plans from the developers and state is termed, resulted in some key changes
to the project being proposed made during the “scoping process”
that included two nights of public hearings and hundreds of written comments.
In particular, the state’s ski area expansion plans have shrunk
somewhat, drawing some concern from long-term Belleayre enthusiasts and
resort supporters… as well as opponents who were looking forward
to the added ski trails on the mountain.
“The scope was significantly broadened with a number of things changing
as it reached its final form,” said state DEC Region Three Director
Willie Janeway of the document prepared by staff in Albany. “It
now include a number of issues not there before, such as a whole new focus
on climate change issues, new alternatives, including scenarios with or
without the developers’ proposed spa, and the ski trail changes.”
Janeway added that most of those changes came in response to comments
heard at the December hearings or received during the written comment
period that ended in early January.
Higher up, the state’s Deputy Secretary for the Environment, Judith
Enck – who served as the chief negotiator for what would become
the current AIP that the scope seeks to address – said in a recent
interview that she was particularly proud of the climate change criteria
for the private and public components of the Scope, a national first for
such things, as far as she knew.
On a private level, the month since the document’s release have
been marked by continuing spin from those for and against the Resort proposal.
Opponents of the proposal were joined by the Adirondack Mountain Club
and other organizations decrying the size of the resort, while those in
favor cried foul about cuts to the ski area expansion and set up a lobbying
trip to Albany for March 27… which they said would likely be the
first of many such activities.
The document itself is split into three basic sections involving the state’s
plans, the developer’s Belleayre Resort proposal, and a discussion
of ways to assess the potential cumulative impacts of both. Last time
around, before the resort project ended up in adjudication, with appeals,
the gap between scoping and final acceptance of a complete DEIS took well
over a year. And although the new work on the part of Crossroads Ventures,
the resort developers, has been termed a “Supplemental” EIS
that can arguably build upon past submissions, the state’s part
of the process, which will include its Unit Management Plans for its long-awaited
expansion, could take conceivably longer.
The new document even goes so far as to address those critics who spoke
out and wrote letters suggesting that the DEC’s review of its own
project could be construed as a conflict of interest.
“The Agreement does not change the Department’s legal obligations
to create an environmental record in support of its own and other agencies’
permitting decisions, as well as its own facility development or land
acquisition decisions,” the new Scope reads. “ Within the
SEQR process, the Agreement represents the project proposal and the project
sponsor’s preferred alternative. The Department staff is under no
obligation to accept that alternative, in whole or in part, but must evaluate
potential impacts of that alternative as part of the Department’s
environmental review under SEQR.”
Among subjects set to be studied in the pending documents will be the
potential effects of diverting waters from the Ashokan to the Delaware
River basin via snowmaking, including that water’s potential flood
impact; possible traffic impacts on intersections and stretches of road
as far away as the Kingston Thruway exchange, including accident trends;
possible visual impacts throughout the central Catskills, including all
wilderness high peak areas;
Climate change studies will work with recent reports that envisioned winter
snowfall changes over the coming 50 years, study means of shrinking the
combined project’s carbon footprint, and look into both the viability
of ski areas in the SoutheasternU.S. and possible impacts on other privately
owned ski areas in the Catskills and New York State.
“Anticipated cumulative impacts of the modified private development
plan in relation to the expansion of the Ski Center include, but are not
limited to: water quality, water supply, aesthetics, noise, transportation,
and community character<’ the Scope notes at one point, although
it also goes out of its way to note that matters of strict community character
and economic competition concern are not in the purview of state environmental
“When the present Supplemental Environmental Review Study is completed,
in conformity with the new scoping document, the Belleayre Resort will
have proven to be the most closely examined private development in the
history of New York State,” wrote the project’s private developers
in a February 28 press release. “Crossroads Ventures, Inc. 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.”
A March 4 press release put out by the seven environmental organizations
that signed onto the AIP last September, meanwhile, praised the scope
for having included a section on cumulative impacts of both developments,
something they fought for during the previous review process, unsuccessfully,
and expressed “general satisfaction with the detail and thoroughness
of the final scope, and with the comprehensiveness of the upcoming review
that the scope foreshadows.”
They also applauded the State’s decision to drop the proposed Belleayre
East trails, a matter that had Joe Kelly, head of the recently renamed
Coalition To Save Belleayre and a member of the new pro-resort Patterns
for Progress group based in nearby Margaretville, fuming when he found
out about it.
Deeper into the signers’ press release came a statement that could
be seen as a step back, though.
“The environmental groups’ support of the AIP must not be
misconstrued as overall support for the proposed project. Signing the
AIP does not commit us to supporting every aspect of the current proposal
in full – in the AIP we agreed that the lower impact alternative
is preferable to that originally proposed,” the statement read.
“We continue to share ongoing community concerns about specific
issues – including viewshed impacts, stormwater controls, community
character, and the number of ridgeline units – and will continue
to closely monitor and actively participate in the ongoing environmental
review of the revised project contemplated in the AIP.”
Janeway, for his part, described the process’ next steps, getting
the SEIS, DEIS and UMP ready, as “a lot of work for a lot of people.
“We will be thorough.”
For more on the scope, including an online copy of the actual document,
visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/42345.html and follow the links…
Zone program is a New York State economic development program designed
to encourage businesses to locate, expand and create new jobs in the State.
The purpose of this program is to enable businesses to operate free of
New York State taxes for up to 10 years. In order to qualify for the benefits
of this program a business must be located in an empire zone, make new
investments within their business and create new jobs.
In Ulster County there are seven existing “sub zones,” the
most allowed under program guidelines. They are the City of Kingston,
the town of Ulster, Northern Saugerties, Southern Saugerties, the town
of Warwarsing, Ellenville and the town of Lloyd.
Finkle said Crossroads could get a sub zone designation if two existing
zones were consolidated. Asked which zones would be joined together, Finkle
said discussion on that is premature but he believes it can be done.
“There is an opportunity here,” Finkle said
But first, he said, the Shandaken town board would need to pass a resolution
requesting the status. The first steps toward that action are expected
to take place on Monday, April 7th at Shandaken Town Hall. Supervisor
Peter DiSclafaani said he expects Crossroads representatives to give a
presentation that evening, and Finkle said he expected to be on hand to
provide information. DiSclafani said that no resolution has been prepared
Crossroads spokesman Paul Rakov said Tuesday that the town board knows
they are coming.
“We plan to speak at the April Shandaken Town Board meeting and
request that the Board indicate its support of Empire Sub-zone designation
for the acreage contained in the Belleayre Resort if/when it is presented
as an option by the State,” he said. “We have communicated
this to all town board members in writing as of two weeks ago.”
Rakov also says this plan is better for the town than the tax break opportunities
“There is no down-side to this Empire Sub-zone designation for the
town. Shandaken gets more money and gets it faster.”
According to Rakov, The town would receive 100 percent of the taxes levied
on the property from year one. The alternative is the abatement program
which Crossroads previously indicated it would seek. Under that plan,
first announced in 2003, the standard development abatement program would
require only 50 percent of the taxes in year one, increasing by 5 percent
each year for 10 years.
“Based on an overall project value of $400 million, and adjusting
for non-taxable expenses, the town would receive approximately $23.7 million
in general and highway taxes over that ten year period if Empire Sub-zone
status is approved,” Rakov said.” If not, the town would receive
only $17.4 million – a net loss of $6.3 million – through
the abatement program.”
Rakov also suggests that Crossroads is hoping to use the Empire Zone option
be cause it’s best for the town even though there are other options
better for Crossroads.
“Two alternative, and more favorable, abatement programs exist for
developers and for which the Resort would likely qualify. They would result
in a net loss to the town of $16.6 million and $22 million over the same
10-year period,” he said.
DiSclafani reserved judgment on the plan this week, opting to wait until
he hears the presentation before making any decisions.
Alluding to the long and constant tension about the proposed project,
Rakov said the Board can avoid taking sides.
“Indicating support of the Empire Sub-zone designation for the Resort
property is NOT an indication of support for the Resort itself. This has
absolutely no affect on the SEQRA process nor the approval process of
the Shandaken planning board,” he said. “It simply means that
IF the Resort were to be approved for construction and operation, the
town would seek Empire Sub-zone designation to take advantage of the tax
benefits. We are seeking the board’s indication of approval of this
designation now as a matter of timing that results from possible imminent
changes in our region’s Empire Sub-zone designations.”
Participating businesses are eligible to receive the following tax credits
• QEZE Sales Tax Exemptions: Qualified Empire Zone Enterprises (QEZEs)
are granted a 10-year exemption from State sales tax on purchases of goods
and services (including utility services) used predominantly in an Empire
• QEZE Credit for Real Property Taxes: Qualified Empire Zone Enterprises
are allowed a refundable credit against business or income tax equal to
a percentage of real property taxes paid in the zone.
• QEZE Tax Reduction Credit: Qualified Empire Zone Enterprises are
allowed a credit against business or income tax equal to a percentage
of taxes attributable to the zone enterprise.
• EZ Wage Tax Credit: This credit is available for up to five consecutive
years for companies hiring full-time employees in newly created jobs.
For employees in special targeted groups, this credit equals $3,000 per
year, with a credit of $1,500 per year for all other new hires.
• EZ Investment Tax and Employment Incentive Credits: Businesses
that create new jobs and make new investments in production, property
and equipment may qualify for tax credits of up to 19% of the company's
• New Business Refund: Businesses new to New York State are entitled
to a 50% cash refund of unused EZ-WTC and ITC amounts. Other businesses
may carry forward unused credits indefinitely.
• Utility Rate Savings: Special reduced electric and gas rates may
be available through investor-owned utilities in New York State. Businesses
that locate or expand their operations in an EZ may receive significantly
• Zone Capital Credit: A 25% tax credit against personal or corporate
income taxes is available for contributing or purchasing shares in a zone
capital corporation; or for a direct equity investment in a certified
zone business; or for contributions to approved community development
projects within an EZ.
• Sales Tax Refund or Credit: Purchases of building materials to
be used for commercial or industrial real property located in an EZ are
eligible for a refund or credit of NYS sales taxes.
• Real Property Tax Abatement: EZs may offer tax abatements from
an increased assessment, with the abatement value based on improvements
to real property for up to 10 years. This holds true for up to seven years
at 100%, decreasing over the last three years of the exemption.
• Technical Assistance: Each local zone office is staffed with professionals
qualified to assist businesses locating or expanding in an EZ.
Most of all, Marietta showed
off the various dry and wet flies she sells to fishing connoisseurs…
quite a few of them still made locally.
Who makes them, we asked? Anyone right here in town?
Some names of folks we’d interviewed about trout in the past came
up, some folks from surrounding states, and then the name of a Zena
resident… Jerry Neal.
“Look, like Ray Smith used to say,” the 73-year old Neal
said when picking up the phone during a busy week bookended by doctors’
appointments and a lot of remaining fly tying orders needing to be filled,
“I tie flies. I don’t blow my horn.”
He was referring to the legendary flytyer, fishing guide, and owner
of a set of cabins at the head of Woodland Valley where Babe Ruth and
other luminaries used to stay while trying their hand with Esopus trout.
“I moved up here as a boy in 1945 when y parents took over the
old Brookside House, later known as La Duchesse Anne before it burned,”
Neal continued, despite saying he didn’t want to talk. “Ray
got sick of me, as a kid, asking him for flies so he taught me his craft.
Back when I got out of the service in 1958, I took it up commercially.”
Neal, who says he’s always liked the meticulous elements of flytying,
said that he used to work with a number of commercial clients but now
sells 99 percent of his work at Morne’s. Plus takes private clients
at his house.
He adds that as far as he knows, there’s no one else tying like
him in the area any more. The big sporting good chains, like Gander
Mountain – he says – get their flies tied overseas…
in China, maybe, or India. Some fellows still tie their own.
The problem, he adds, isn’t that a market shifted, but that it’s
shrunk… as with hunting.
“You don’t see the people on the streams you used to see
anymore,” Neal said. “I guess it’s one more thing
that’s going out of style.”
Over at Morne’s, Marietta similarly shook her head over declining
sales. But then she added that she wasn’t about to give up. After
all, she said, she had a legacy to keep alive.
“What would Ray Smith think,” she said.
“One of these days some new kid’ll come along like I did,”
added Neal. “At least that’s what I hope.”
Partly, you can chalk it all up to the season, when a budget for the
coming year’s in discussion and candidates are lining up for three
school board seats, each set to be fought for re-election against growing
numbers of district stakeholders politicized by the Middle School and
concurrent high figure bonding issues. But partly, you might also be
hearing that it’s all tied, somehow, to the district concerns
voiced earlier this month in a privately called-for and held parents
meeting in West Hurley.
The relatively-new Onteora Parents Group hosted a community meeting
at Hickory BBQ on March 5 where much discussion reached a general agreement
that the best way to change the Onteora Central School district is to
bring in a new school board majority. The group of 40 or so people who
attended the meeting also agreed that a bond is needed to fix the aging
facilities, but not the proposed $50-$80 million plan that would consolidate
the district and create a 5-through-8 middle school.
Three board members are up for re-election this year: Mary-Jane Bernholz,
Rita Vanacore and Cindy O’Connor, all from Olive and all three
having voted in favor of creating the middle school that would result
in the closure of another elementary school.
Someone noted at the March 5 meeting that five out of the seven board
members are from Olive, elected exclusively to follow through on their
campaign promise of not voting for the Large Parcel Legislation that
would keep Olive’s taxes lower than the other communities. People
agreed when someone said that the current board members have little
interest in the other communities.
Parents with kids in the 6-7 Middle School that is currently connected
to the High School complained about the lack of physical space and wondered
if the district were consolidated if these problems would go away. Currently
teachers must share classroom space. Children in grade seven have lunch
at 10am, because they must use the same cafeteria that the High school
The group questioned the current lack of space and compared it to the
projected population not changing much if an additional school closed.
Angered, people said the board does not have a plan to solve such problems.
There was discussion on how to get people motivated to vote in towns
other than Olive. Many blame apathy for low voter turnout. They explored
reasons ranging from an influx of weekend homeowners, the mascot issue,
the closure of West Hurley, taxes and lack of organization or community
Parent Robert Warren, also known as Uncle Rock, moderated the event
and said this was the first of more such community meetings.
On March 11, Onteora’s little-known budget advisory committee
then presented sobering statistics and made recommendations regarding
the future of the school district. Recommendations included closing
an additional elementary and selling two of the schools in the district
as revenue, even though the latter would need voter approval…
and would most logically be Woodstock. Other cuts included dropping
the INDIE program and introducing a program similar to it into the High
School, taught as an elective and consolidating the two bus runs into
one for the entire district; reducing teachers salaries and increasing
employee contributions during contract negotiations to fall in line
with other school districts.
The committee also said they felt it was cost effective to create a
five-through-eight middle school that would address declining enrollment
and renovate the aging buildings that have become an expensive burden.
By following through on the recommendations they said the district could
have an annual proposed savings of $2.3 million turned over to the annual
cost of a $2.2 to $2.5 million proposed bond.
According to district bond projections, an $80 million dollar bond beginning
with $1,000.000 the first year would cost each taxpayer differently
depending on what community they live in. On a $300,000 home Woodstock
would pay $439 annually, Marbletown $403, West Hurley $396, and Olive
$295. After the first year the bond cost would decline. The State would
reimburse 31 percent of the total cost. Shandaken could not be calculated
without an equalization rate.
Assistant superintendent for business Victoria McLaren did not calculate
the per-pupil figures, but believed the committee made calculations
based on taking the budget $46,775.318 and dividing it by the number
The committee, chaired by Paul DeLisio, said that actual public controlled
money is about 3-to-4 percent of the whole budget, with 50 percent committed
to salary, 25 percent to benefits and 18 percent to salary and benefits
for special education. The average teacher salary is $80,000, entry-level
teachers salary with a bachelors degree is $50,900 and master’s
degree is $53,687. The committee added that if the board wishes to cap
the cost per student, they must reduce the current budget by $12 million
over five years.
The committee spent four months reviewing the district budget with Superintendent
Leslie Ford. Other members included, Drew Boggess, Jim Stoothoff, Sylvia
Liedtke Tinti, and Pam Walkowiak.,,, four of the five being from Olive.
On March 25, Onteora school district superintendent Leslie Ford and
assistant superintendent for business Victoria McLaren made their budget
recommendation for the 2008-2009 school year. Their $46,775,318 budget
proposal would increase by 3.08 percent or $1, 439,077 to $48,215,077.
The levy is anticipated to increase to 2.84 percent. This is lower than
the State required contingent budget of 3.51 percent.
The school board approved specific projects that will need voter approval
on May 20, seeking $1,800,000 to make improvements on the Middle/High
school infrastructure, replacing roofing and technology, and asking
voters to approve the purchase of two 65 passenger buses at a total
cost of $189,127.
McLaren called the budget “lean,” but also noted that State
aid will be less this year because of higher property values. The district
so far has saved $300,000 through teacher retirement.
General and special education were folded into one budget this year
with no specific breakdown of the budget presented to public.
The deadline for handing in petitions to the district for candidates
to the Onteora school board is 5pm on Monday April 21. Anyone who wishes
to run for school board must collect at least 47 signatures from qualified
voters living in the district. The term is three years, beginning July
1, 2008. Three board seats are available.
Incumbents Mary-Jane Bernholz, Cindy O’Connor and Rita Vanacore,
whose terms end this year, have picked up petitions at the central office.
Four others have picked up petitions, with only one confirmed candidate,
Woodstock resident Donna Flayhan.
City Playing Nicey-Nice?
What happened… and is happening?
According to Leifeld, much of it is unknowable. But the dismissal, he
added, seemed to be the direct result of the school district’s
decision to join the town in its legal defense as an Intervenor. That’s
because Acting State Supreme Court Justice Gerald W. Connelly said that
he dismissed the City’s suit when it was pointed out to him that
they had failed to properly serve notice to the Superintendent of the
District and not its Clerk.
A previous ruling on the same case, by the late Supreme Court Justice
Vincent Bradley, had similarly thrown out the City’s case after
discovering that New York had hired an assessor not licensed to practice
in the state. At that time, Bradley had added that he would likely rule,
in the future, in New York’s favor were the Town of Olive not
to implement a long-awaited revaluation. Which they then did, also taking
off their backs a requirement for the Large Parcel law whose placement
on Olive taxpayers resulted in a series of protest votes that shifted
control of the school district to a more Olive-friendly, and ultimately
tax-savvy board of trustees.
A number of years before, Olive and Onteora did lose one of the City’s
appeals, forcing local taxpayers to pick up a hefty back tax bill…
a scenario no one wants to repeat.
“This Intervenor thing came up and mostly the school pushed the
issue,” said Leifeld of the legal moves that resulted in the recent
dismissal, which the City could still appeal… although he hasn’t
seen such indication of yet. “Our attorneys agreed that if you
do it, we would sanction it. But had they not been Intervenors, I don’t
think you would have seen this.”
Onteora became an Intervenor as a means of gaining a seat at the table
for the legal proceedings that had previously been solely between Olive
and the City, with monetary aid from a since-depleted $3 million fund
set up at the CWC (with City money) just for the purpose of fighting
City appeals of local assessments. Onteora argued, at Olive’s
request, that since it would be liable for much of the asked-for tax
burden the City was trying to get shifted, it should have a say in the
Connelly’s decision now grants such status, as requested, to Onteora.
Olive has also been asking other towns in the school district, and with
reservoir lands, to join their ongoing lawsuits.
The City’s senior legal counsel in its Law Department, Tax and
Bankruptcy Litigation office, Joseph Kropening, has since released a
statement that he and his people “are currently reviewing the
decision and deciding and determining the city’s next legal steps.”
Those would normally have included the current assessment appeal against
Olive’s revaluated assessment of the reservoir for 2005-2006 and
2006-2007, with a third appeal for the completing fiscal year expected,
wherein New York is claiming a value of $150 million for the Ashokan
versus Olive’s claim for $600 million and the state Office of
Real Property Service’s estimate of $340 million.
According to Leifeld, an April 5 date has long been set to discuss the
case, with City lawyers, in Connelly’s offices. But now, he said,
“The other side seems to be trying to make nicey-nice.”
What has been odd of late, the supervisor added, was that for the first
time in memory, New York City was still negotiating, seeming to be open
to not only settling their current lawsuit, but also “talking
with us on a lot of levels about other issues, including the speed limits
along Route 28A. Am I a little skeptical? Yeah…”
Could the City’s actions be a continuing response to Onteora’s
having gotten into the act, or maybe even a reaction to the worsening
Or could the City’s shift in terms of the newer appeals be tied
to shifts in its approach to flood mitigation and other newer issues
on its plate, as well as its own increasing investment in such things
as the re-opened Waste Channel through the Ashokan Field Campus, local
land buys, and the recent difficulties it faced getting a ten year extension
on its federal filtration avoidance determination?
“This week will be the third or fourth times we’ve sat down
with them,” was all Leifeld would reply to the conjecture in the
air, beyond wishing that any coming solution be long-term, and not just
based on a continuing stream of individual appeals.. “It’s
better than not talking to us… Better we should all bite the bullet
and come up with something. Even if the numbers are still the hard thing.”
“I hope this will help us begin to work together for at least
a portion of time,” said Onteora Superintendent Dr. Leslie Ford,
echoing Leifeld’s statement.
Prompting the supervisor, later, to again state his case for getting
other towns in the school district, and across the watershed, to join
it in its fight to end New York’s continuing legal threats against
it and other reservoir towns in the Catskills. And even suggest that
Onteora give it some money for legal costs instead of just moral support,
and its own lawyers.
At least, for now, we all saved a little, even if only in would-be future
fines. For the moment.