Camp looks to buy resort area

The operators of Oorah Catskill Retreat, a Gilboa recreational summer camp for New York City-area Je

The operators of Oorah Catskill Retreat, a Gilboa recreational summer camp for New York City-area Jewish children, are moving to buy the former Scotch Valley Ski Area and associated Deer Run resort complex, Oorah officials said Thursday.

“We would like to see it happen by [early] next year,” said Eliyohu Mintz, chief executive of the Lakewood, N.J., Oorah organization.

If inspections and estimates of renovation costs over the next two months prove satisfactory, Mintz said, Oorah plans to use the site for a private camp similar to the one the group opened in Gilboa in 2007 on the former Golden Acres property it bought in 2006.

The amount of the purchase offer was not disclosed.

The two sites, including the nearly 404-acre ski area and a series of properties associated with the Deer Run Village Association, are part of a bequest by the late former owner to a northern New Jersey synagogue. Mintz said money from the sale will go to Chabad, a Jewish charity.

According to Schoharie County property records, the Scotch Valley property is assessed at $763,150. The Deer Run condominium-type properties have numerous individual assessments.

Oorah does not plan to reopen the ski resort, which has been closed since 1999, Mintz said, but the group might consider contracting with a separate ski operator.

“We’re in the charity business; we’re not in the ski business,” Mintz said during a wide-ranging discussion with reporters Thursday at the Gilboa camp.

The Gilboa camp runs two 30-day summer programs, with boys at camp for one month and girls for the other. The programs are called Boy Zone and Girl Zone.

The idea is to use the Scotch Valley/Deer Run site for one zone and the Gilboa camp for the other, according to camp Director Elisha Lewenstein.

Over the past two summers, the Gilboa camp was filled with a total of 450 campers, counselors and staff during each July and August session, he said.

Some area residents and ski advocates have long sought a way to get the former Scotch Valley ski resort — just north of the Delaware County line near Stamford — back in operation, according to Tighe Lory, a Richmondville resident who runs the Web site.

Lory said he worked as a ski instructor at Scotch Valley between 1993 and 1998.

He said an online petition has attracted about 200 signatures supporting a reopened ski center. Lory said the center, which first opened about 45 years ago, includes three chairlifts and a nearly 1,000-foot vertical drop on ski runs.

Some postings on his Web site have been critical of Oorah’s plan to buy Scotch Valley because Lory said Thursday he worried that they tended to “be a separatist group” that would keep the site closed to the general public.

Mintz said Oorah might consider allowing someone to run a ski center on the mountain, “to run it as a profitable business,” but not simply for a community activity, as he said some have suggested.

“It has to be a viable business,” Mintz said.

Told Thursday that Mintz appeared to leave a door open to a separate ski business, Lory said he was “encouraged” by that response.

The Gilboa Oorah camp is currently fighting a lawsuit by a group of nearby residents who have objected to late-night music and loudspeakers and light from a $200,000 system of 97 bright lights over newly expanded ballfields and a go-cart track, as well as other issues.

The suit filed last spring seeks $10 million in damages for what the plaintiffs claim is disruptions to their quiet rural lifestyle and diminished property values from the Gilboa camp.

Although temporary restrictions on lights and noise ordered last June by state Supreme Court Judge Eugene Devine eased the situation this past summer, the lawsuit is continuing, according to Peter Henner, attorney for the complaining neighbors.

Mintz said Thursday that he believed the lawsuit against the Gilboa camp as well as some comments associated with the Save Scotch Valley movement included “an agenda” that was “anti-Semitic” and directed against Oorah and Orthodox Judaism.

Lory said that was not his intent.

“My primary reason is to get attention to getting Scotch Valley to reopen,” Lory said. “In terms of their religious beliefs, they have to the right to believe what they want,” he said.

Mintz said he expected some court action in December on the lawsuit. Mintz stressed that Oorah will not buy the Scotch Valley/Deer Run site if its sewage treatment area turns out to be under regulatory control of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

“If the septic [system] is in the [city-controlled] watershed, we’re not buying it,” Mintz said.

“The DEP is a complete impediment to any kind of development,” Mintz said.

As part of its regulations to protect water supplies at the Schoharie Reservoir and other Catskill reservoirs, the DEP paid for a $3 million sewage treatment system at the Gilboa camp. Required upgrades to that could cost Oorah another $1.6 million, according to Lewenstein.

Oorah is contesting having to pay for upgrades, Mintz said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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