What an amazing day for Sullivan County! It's just all starting to sink in. This morning news reports started circulating that Gov. Cuomo is going to ban fracking in New York state. While fracking has been less of an issue in Sullivan County over the past few years because of a combination of the geological formation of the Marcellus Shale under Sullivan, the reluctance of the Delaware River Basin Commission to approve drilling in the river basin and the presence of the Catskill watershed, the sceptre of fracking has still hung over our heads. Now it looks pretty certain that fracking, even if it was unlikely to happen here, is off the table.
Then just after 2PM today, the state's Gaming Commission made a totally unexpected decision regarding the award of a casino license, deciding to only grant one license in the Catskills/Hudson region (rather than the two permitted in the region). The commission shut Orange County out of the race, because of the negative competitive impact for a casino further north, and then narrowed it even further, deciding to only grant one license between Sullivan and Ulster. And that license goes to the Montreign/Adelaar proposal in Sullivan County at the site of the old Concord resort in Kiamesha Lake.
That's great news IMHO for a few reasons. It greatly increases the chances of success of Adelaar, not having to compete with a closer in casino. It also leaves one casino license up for grabs in the region downline. That keeps the possibility, albeit slim, of a casino project at Grossingers in Liberty a few years down the road.
Montreign submitted multiple options, depending on the competitive landscape. With no competition, Montreign/Adelaar will be building the largest option, including a water park. The impact of that extends beyond the direct jobs. Sullivan County will again have a year round destination resort within 90 miles of NYC. That could extend our largely summer season, with the great potential of off-season mid week corporate retreat and conference travel. Maybe in a few years the New York State Associations of Realtors will hold a major meeting here. For more than a decade, we haven't had any place with enough rooms and meeting space to hold anything more than a small conference. It also opens up the possibility of some other hotel developers deciding to site a niche property here. Over the past decade I've talked with or worked with a number of nice/lifestyle/boutique hotel developers interested in siting a property here, but were nervous because there was little to no off season draw.
Likewise, the 'no frack' news could also result in some increased development. I've also worked with a handful of younger, edgier developers looking to do something here for the 30-something NYC second home market, but have been scared away because of the sceptre of fracking. This could be a game changer.
Lastly, there could be a positive impact on agriculture. There's a lot of interest in farms to produce products for the locavore market in NYC, but very few farms available on the market. Dairy farming, he traditional backbone of Sullivan County agriculture, is tough to make work economically. So its been a little surprising how few of those farms have come to market in the last few years. One reason may be that some of those farmers may have been holding out for a gas lease payoff. But now that's off the table, we may see a few of these legacy farms come to market, and be repurposed for NYC locavore market agricultural products.
Not sure how this will play out in Sullivan County, but it sure made an interesting, upbeat day for those of us here.