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The Developer of a Controversial Ski Resort in the Catskills, Near the
 Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, Reduces the Project's
 Total Lodging Units from 772 to 629

By Brian Nearing, Albany Times Union, N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

February 20, 2010 - -- ALBANY -- The developer of a controversial ski resort in the Catskills near the state-run Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in Ulster County has reduced the proposed number of units for two hotels and condominiums in the project.

Gary Gailes, a spokesman for Crossroads Ventures LLC, said the second hotel on the Highmount section of the Belleayre Resort was being redesigned, with the changes reducing the project's total number of lodging units from 772 to 629. The new hotel design is by Emilio Ambasz, an award-winning industrial designer.

The changes were unveiled this week by Crossroads principal Dean Gitter during a presentation before the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce, when the developer said the long-delayed project "is indeed alive and kicking."

However, the project, launched under a 2007 agreement between the state, Crossroads and environmental groups, still has its opponents. On Friday, the Catskill Heritage Alliance called it "too large, too exclusive and too high up."

Critics say the project would clog traffic, alter views on local trails, change the character of small valley hamlets and damage the environment.

Gailes said the design changes to the project would be incorporated into a supplemental draft environmental impact statement, which is still being prepared. State review of the project can start only after that paperwork is submitted.

According to state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Yancey Roy, "The details of the project should be included in the supplemental environmental impact statement, which the developer hasn't yet provided to DEC. Until then, we can't speculate on what may or may not be included in the draft."

"Crossroads' proposals have been literally all over the place," said Rich Schaedle, chairman of Catskill Heritage Alliance. "First they planned three golf courses, then two resorts on both sides of Belleayre, then a Catskill style resort on Big Indian, then a tiered underground hotel, then they went to the west side adding houses, then an Adirondack style hotel. The latest one is a hotel built half underground on Highmount, plus Wildacres resort. We can't even be sure this is the final version until we see final submissions for review."

In September 2008, a state judge threw out a lawsuit against the project, saying opponents could not sue until after DEC finishes its reviews.

Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or at bnearing@timesunion.com.

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