This news just in via a press release from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office. Stay tuned for a more in-depth story by our correspondent. --Ed.
State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced today the approval of a contract for the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands in the Catskills Forest Preserve adjacent to the Belleayre Mountain Ski Complex by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The purchase of the 1,200-acre parcel known as Big Indian was part of an agreement reached with developer Crossroads Ventures to reduce the size and impact of its planned hotel-golf resort development on its property adjacent to the state’s ski area.
Twice before in 2009 and 2010, DiNapoli’s office rejected the proposal as lacking the appropriate justification for a cost that was above market value. The new agreement, which cuts the purchase price by $725,000 to $5.6 million, reflects the justification provided by DEC documenting the property’s unique resource value in terms of New York City watershed protection and future public recreation as well as significant administrative cost savings in moving the long-standing permitting process to closure.
The acquisition is supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New York City and the Natural Resources Defense Council as part of the on-going effort to maintain the City’s filtration avoidance determination (FAD), which depends on ensuring that sensitive lands in the Catskill Watershed are protected from inappropriate development. The Big Indian property contains heavily sloped areas which drain into the Ashokan Reservoir, the source of as much as 40 percent of the City’s drinking water needs in non-drought periods. The Ashokan is already on DEC’s impaired waters list because of excessive sedimentation and siltation. The property will be added to the constitutionally-protected State Forest Preserve and will remain on local property tax rolls.
With the Comptroller’s approval, it is now up to DEC to complete the transaction.