Weekend in review
Some of the stories that made the news Fri., Dec. 4 through Sun., Dec. 5
Rick Karlin reported at Capitol Confidential the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority has approved a major expansion and modernization of the Belleayre (BELL-air) Mountain Ski Center. Belleayre is owned by the state and located in Shandaken, Ulster County. Most of the approvals announced were finalized in September. The project would expand the resort into the Highmount area, where another ski center once stood. The expansion has been in the planning stage for near 10 years. It calls for hundreds of new hotel rooms, and new and expanded ski lifts and trails. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has also approved and issued a permit for the plan, but a lawsuit filed by the Catskill Heritage Alliance is still pending. The environmental group took legal action over what they contend is the state's failure to pursue a more modest alternative. The resort opened for the 2015-16 ski season Fri., Dec. 4.
John Mason reported in the Register-Star the owners of the Catamount Ski Area in Columbia County have announced their intention to move forward with plans to build a 153-unit, $30 million hotel, despite the withdrawal of the project developer, the Berkshire Mountain Club. Developer Harry Freeman said the legal action taken against the project made it untenable, despite a decision in October by the State Supreme Court in Albany in favor of the development. Gert and Cynthia Alper, owners of the Swiss Hutte Inn and Restaurant, located adjacent to Catamount, brought two Article 78 proceedings against the town planning and zoning boards for approving the project. Freeman said, “It’s very disappointing to all of us. We have 1,100 people interested in buying units. Over three seasons, there has been $1.5 million in lost taxes, plus all the jobs that would have been created at the project.” Freeman said he attempted to come to a settlement agreement with the Alpers, without success. Richard Edwards, Catamount’s vice-president and director of marketing, said he believes that in time the project will go forward. Edwards said, “We believe it’s a very viable project. Our pre-marketing revealed significant interest.” He said the ski area is not dependent on the hotel for its survival.
Lauren Stanforth reported in the Times Union a 62-year-old Cairo man was reportedly in critical condition Sun., Dec. 6, after he attempted to re-light the pilot on his propane heater, causing his home to explode. State Police said the explosion happened at 4:40 p.m. Saturday at 597 Bross St. A preliminary investigation found the unidentified man was attempting to light the pilot light on his propane heater when the gas that had been accumulating in the home ignited. He was flown to the burn unit at Westchester Medical Center. The man was alone in the residence at the time of the blast. According to the account in The Daily Mail, a second man was treated at the scene for burns sustained to his hands while attempting to help the victim.
MidHudson News Network reported Riverkeeper has announced its intention to sue the town of Hunter for alleged pollution discharges into the Schoharie Creek. The environmental organization alleges that incompletely treated leachate from the town landfill on Hylan Road in Tannersville has been discharged into the creek for the past six years. The leachate involved includes heavy metals, ammonia and other contaminants, according to Riverkeeper. The group also claims concentration levels of a variety of pollutants have repeatedly exceeded standards for ammonia, iron, lead, manganese, suspended solids and zinc, and discharges have violated standards for dissolved oxygen.
Michael Ryan reported in The Daily Mail on the town of Windham's adopted 2016 budget totaling $2.22 million, which represented an increase in spending of more than $31,000 over last year. The spending plan included no raises for the town supervisor, town board members, town justices, the tax collector, town attorney, code enforcement or dog control officers. However, salary hikes for the sole assessor, town clerk, highway superintendent, police chief and librarian are planned. Record increases in the mortgage tax collected in Windham since June were an unexpected windfall. According to figures provided by the county treasurer's office, Windham was the top mortgage tax beneficiary countywide, bringing in $53,000 more than the combined total for the village and town of Catskill, the second highest tax earner. Town Attorney Larry Gardner said, “It’s an indication of how well the town is doing.”