14 March 2008

Indoor ski resorts vs. Owls

Way out on Long Island, the Town of Riverhead has proposed a $1.5 billion ski resort. They are going to build a 350 foot high indoor ski slope, 2,200 hotel rooms, 2,000 time shares, and a 100,000 square foot exhibit hall. But, some of the neighbors aren't as happy.

The NY Times looks at the conflict between the development and some threatened and endangeder species currently hanging out on the site. And to make things even more fun, the Town is trying to keep state environmental regulators off the site. Maybe they'll them in more this summer, while the short-eared owls are vacationing in upstate.

Newsday focused on the incredibly thin argument for allowing them to violate the existing 75 height restriction:
Developers of a proposed $1.5-billion theme park in Calverton are considering an innovative way to get approval for the park's centerpiece - a 350-foot-tall indoor ski mountain.

Mitch Pally, an attorney for Riverhead Resorts, told several Suffolk legislators yesterday that it may be possible to transfer air rights from one part of the 755-acre site to the manmade mountain, essentially giving up air rights in other parts of the park.

"It will still be lower than University Hospital at Stony Brook," he said. That 18-story building is on a hill and reaches 410 feet above sea level.
This logic implies that every single building erected on land where the elevation exceeds 75 feet is already in violation with the height restriction. So, we might as well let even the most frivolous of uses violate that apparently unenforced zoning regulation.

Still, much of our environmental and land use law treats societally valuable development - like a hospital or public park - nearly the same as a some fun and frivolous landuses like theme parks and coffee houses. If it is worth impinging a bit on anyone's property rights, then it is worth it for everyone's.

It'll be interesting to see how this one works out at the end. These first newspaper accounts will miss plenty of details, but the developer's attitude already seems like it promises a sizable confrontation over the coming months.


Akinogal said...
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gkarnas said...

It amazes me that the developers plan to provide so many hotel rooms for such an area. That must amount to at LEAST 6 hotels, depending on the size of each hotel. Further, the quantity of space would seem to be rather large, and in an area that is environmentally important for many reasons... water, wildlife, or the general ecosystem. IMO, an indoor ski mountain will just generate to much waste in electricty and water...