Assemblymember Cahill’s Statement on the Preliminary Catskill Resort Agreement

September 5, 2007

Today Governor Spitzer made a major announcement regarding the long proposed Catskill Park resort development. This preliminary agreement seems to strike an important balance between protecting our environment and the character of our region through critical land acquisition while allowing development to move forward. There are still many issues that must be addressed before the plan can be finalized. I applaud the Governor for his leadership on this controversial issue and I look forward to working with him to ensure that the concerns of the affected communities are taken into account as the plan progresses.

This agreement is only the beginning of what I hope to be an inclusive process that will examine the wide ranging ramifications of the proposed development. I trust that the forthcoming supplemental environmental impact statement will address the environmental, public safety, and economic repercussions on our communities, in particular the significant ongoing social and traffic concerns raised by area residents and businesses.

Certainly, the most appealing aspect of the agreement is the significant amount of land that will now either be purchased by the state or protected through Watershed conservation easements. Over 1,200 acres encompassing the Big Indian Plateau will be acquired by the state and included in the Catskill Preserve. In a long overdue move, the Belleayre Ski Center will finally be expanded to include the former Highmount Ski Center which the state will invest in to bolster the facilities at Belleayre. The proposed resort will no longer include the east side of the mountain which would have had an enormous negative impact on the highly sensitive ecosystem surrounding the Ashokan Reservoir. This marriage of conservation and development proves that the two are not mutually exclusive and adds to the truth that conservation and environmental stewardship are key components to our regional economy.

Today’s announcement is just a small piece of the coming economic revitalization of Ulster County. It is critical that the Governor understand that our vitality hinges on the diversity of our economy. I will continue to work diligently with the state to focus on bringing emerging industries to our area, starting with the promising solar energy proposal currently on the table.

Key components of the agreement include:

  • State acquisition of 1,216 acres of land on the Big Indian Plateau to be added to the State Forest Preserve through a purchase negotiated by the Trust for Public Land. The Big Indian Wilderness Area and the adjoining Slide Mountain Wilderness Area, together make up the largest contiguous tract of wilderness in the Catskill Park;
  • State acquisition of 78 acres at the former Highmount Ski Center to be integrated into a westward expansion of the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, and a NYC Watershed conservation easement on 200 acres of nearby lands;
  • Clustered development approach that reduces the total number of acres to be disturbed from 573 acres to 273 acres – a 52% reduction;
  • Construction of environmentally sound green buildings that meet specifications set forth by the US Green Building Council. The buildings will obtain certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program;
  • Elimination of one golf course and redesign of the remaining golf course to minimize pollution impacts, including a commitment to organic golf course management;
  • Substantial redesign of the resort to eliminate the placement of most buildings on steep slopes, while buffering wetlands and streams. The physical disturbance of the land by the proposed resort is reduced by half;
  • Reduced visibility of the resort from wilderness areas of the Forest Preserve, design and materials alterations to help the resort better fit its surroundings, and the use of lighting designed to avoid potential effects on “night skies;”
  • Comprehensive and heightened storm water management design to control and manage runoff;
  • Elimination of two proposed sewage treatment plants. Instead, the resort will utilize an existing New York City-owned, state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant in Pine Hill;
  • Reduction of the total number of the resort’s hotel and lodging units thereby reducing resort related traffic and demands on local water resources;
  • Half a million dollars in state funds for local smart growth projects through a new Central Catskills Smart Growth Initiative. Funding is from the State's Environmental Protection Fund and will be administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Separate from this agreement, the state will begin a public collaborative process to explore scenic by-way designation for the Route 28 corridor;
  • Protection of Birch Creek and its aquatic habitat through elimination of the Big Indian Plateau development and a rigorous permit condition which limits use of the existing water supply wells in drought conditions.

Annual property tax revenue of over $2 million is expected to be paid to the Town of Shandaken and Town of Middletown, local school districts and Ulster and Delaware counties. Annual sales tax revenue to the state and Ulster and Delaware counties is expected to be over $2 million.