December 29, 2007


Greek Peak: Past, present, future

As resort turns 50, its president, neighbors consider its growth

Greek Peak

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Mike McCallum, a ski instructor for Greek Peak's Rossignol Jr. Ski and Ride School, and Jarad Bronson, 8, of Virgil return to a lesson after a warming cup of hot chocolate during a Christmas Eve free ski day Monday. Greek Peak is in its 50th year of operation and will be having a weeklong birthday celebration, beginning on Monday.

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — Since its inception 50 years ago, Greek Peak has grown into a company grossing $1.5 million annually, employing 40 full-time employees year round and getting about 200,000 skiing visits annually.
This has clear economic benefits to the area, between the jobs created, hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales and property taxes paid to the county, town of Virgil and Cortland City School District, and spending generated by out-of-town visitors, which represent about 35 percent of Greek Peak’s customer base.
“They are certainly kind of the leader when it comes to creating a winter destination for Cortland County,” said Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Cortland County Conventions and Visitors Bureau. “It gives us an advantage over other counties in the region.”
While Greek Peak President Al Kryger, 69, believes it is important to recognize past successes at the ski resort, he believes it is just as important to focus on its future growth, which includes plans for an indoor water park and condominium hotel.
“We’re just as excited about the next 10 years as the past 50 years,” Kryger said, noting expansion will further increase property and sales taxes paid to local entities, and the number of jobs at the resort.
But as Greek Peak prepares to grow, some neighbors raise questions about how the growth will affect their quality of life.
Concerns include a growing number of absentee landlords, increased traffic and higher assessments resulting from growth around Greek Peak.
“Why is it my property, when essentially being unchanged all these year, why is my property magically worth more because of all the wonderful things going on at Greek Peak?” said Neil Bennett, of 2060 Snyder Hill Road in Virgil. “Why do I have to pay the benefit of living next door to Greek Peak?”
Bennett, who did not have a figure handy Friday for how much his assessment has increased in recent years, said one would think the tax rate would have gone down with an increase in property tax money from Greek Peak, but that has not happened.
“I guess it’s (Greek Peak) good for the economy,” Bennett said. “It’s providing jobs, and lots of money comes into the town. I don’t have anything.”
Kryger said Greek Peak should not be blamed for higher taxes. While it may contribute to higher assessments, the $300,000 it pays in annual property taxes, which is separate from the property taxes paid on more than $26 million worth of housing it has built, and between $300,000 and $400,000 in annual sales tax revenue it provides the county, should help drive down tax rates.
But it is up to municipalities to restrict their spending, he said, which often does not happen.
Town Supervisor Jim Murphy could not be reached Friday.
Kryger said Greek Peak and surrounding development is not a drain on local services, with many people owning vacation homes. They pay property taxes, but they do not use such services as local schools, he said.
One such family fitting Kryger’s description, with the difference the family owns a home in Marathon as opposed to in Virgil, was skiing at Greek Peak on Thursday.
The Murphy family, which includes four children and lives in Bayville, N.J., comes to Virgil on the weekends to go skiing and snowmobiling in the winter, and hiking and kayaking in warmer months.
The family may be paying taxes for certain government services it does not use, but the 10-acre lot it bought was still a great deal, according to family members.
“For the same cost it (the property) would be one-eighth the size in New Jersey,” said Erin Murphy, 19.
Jodi Cohen, of 2298 Carson Road, said out-of-town property owners attracted to Virgil as a result of Greek Peak pose a problem on her street.
In recent years out-of-town people have bought several houses on Carson Road, which has hindered investment in the community.
“Our neighbors left two years go, and I went and introduced myself (to the new neighbor), and did the neighborly thing and took a pie,” Cohen said. “They looked at me like I was nuts, and he didn’t want to tell me his name or anything.”
Additionally, absentee landlords do not always keep up their homes, she said.
For Michael Bellardini, or 2061 Snyder Hill Road, the biggest problem with development at Greek Peak is traffic-related. Buses and other vehicles go barreling by near his home, not stopping at curves.
But that nuisance is not enough for him to want Greek Peak’s expansion not to succeed, with its benefits to the local economy. Even if it seems success is far from guaranteed.
“Who’s really gonna want to go to an indoor water park in the summer?” Bellardini said. “I think I’d rather go to an outdoor water park.”
Kryger emphasized that the indoor water park will not be the only new activity to the ski resort. Other plans include a spa, a gym and a restaurant in the condominium hotel across Route 392, a town center with shops planned nearby off Clute Road and a golf course.
Not to mention visitors can take advantage of Hope Lake, which was built by Greek Peak as a centerpiece of its expansion, Finger Lakes vineyards and other regional attractions, existing and potential, Kryger said.
“We can’t do it all,” he said. “Other people can get the entrepreneurial spirit.”
Kryger said the addition of the water park, which will total 40,000 square feet and the condominium hotel, which will have 106 condos, will bring the county about $100,000 in additional yearly sales tax, as well property tax on about $47 million worth of assessed value.
Construction of the structures, which has been delayed due to financing issues, is expected to begin soon and be completed by fall.
An estimated 270 jobs will be generated during construction, while the resort will have 200 full-time equivalent year-round jobs once the structures are up and running, Kryger said.
Greek Peak will get a portion of its property taxes back: $8 million over the next 15 years, he said. That is because the 6.5 acres on which the hotel and water park will be built is in an Empire Zone.
Other than that benefit, the only government money the resort has gotten since its inception is a $500,000 state grant for Hope Lake, which it got in partnership with the town of Virgil, Kryger said. The lake is a town facility, but Greek Peak manages it.
John VanDyke, of 2021 South Hill Road, said he is looking forward to the resort’s expansion.
A former food services employee who skis at Greek Peak regularly, VanDyke said he likes how it takes just a minute to get to the resort.
“I would ski regardless but that’s the beauty of having it here,” he said.




CHS honors policeman, seven others

Staff Reporter

When the city school district holds its Distinguished Alumni Wall of Fame induction ceremony April 26, Cortland city police officer Charles Niederhofer, a 1987 graduate, will be among seven new members joining the 33 previously recognized.
“I don’t know how I will stack up to the rest,” said Niederhofer, who was looking at the Wall of Fame Web site Thursday. He has been a Cortland police officer since April 1990, after having served for several months with the Syracuse Police Department.
Members of the wall of fame are recognized for their contributions to education, science and technology, the arts, government, business and community service.
The other 2008 honorees and the year they graduated are: Clayton R. Alcorn Jr., 1956; Murray Banks, 1965; John M. Christie, 1975; Lena A. Struglia, 1940; Linda Vanaria Melazzo, 1970; and Suad Joseph, 1962.
For Niederhofer, community service was a big factor in his selection. He admits there have been times in his life when he feared for his life while on duty.
One recent time came in October 2005 when Niederhofer saved an 87-year-old woman from a third-story apartment of a Main Street building as a fire burned below. For that deed he became the 2006 co-recipient of the Lawman of the Year award, along with state Trooper Diane Trickey. He also received the Central New York Chiefs of Police Award in 2006 for this.
In November 1993 it was the barrel of a loaded .243-caliber hunting rifle pointed at his chin that made him fear for his life. Niederhofer said he figured the man, Leroy Townsley Sr., wanted to commit suicide by killing an officer and then having another officer kill him. Niederhofer said he was able to pry Townsley’s finger from the trigger and then wrestle the gun away from the man while officers Penny Guerrera and Dan Edwards pulled Townsley. That incident led to Niederhofer being named Lawman of the Year in 1994.
“Officer Niederhofer is indeed a well-respected, professional police officer who is dedicated to serving his community. He is man of great integrity who truly deserves to be recognized for his numerous contributions to the department and the greater Cortland community,” said Rob Spaulding, Niederhofer’s best friend, in his nominating letter.



Foundation gives $92,000 to 13 local  not-for-profits

The Cortland Community Foundation awarded $91,730 in grants to 13 local not-for-profit organizations in 2007, the organization announced Friday.
With the ability to accept tax-deductible donations from individuals and organizations, the foundation hopes to expand its level of support to the community.
Organizations receiving grants are:
* Homer/Cortland Community Agency, $27,500 to assist in the renovations for the future home of the Homeville Museum and sponsorship of the Donor Wall of Honor.
* Cortland Historical Society, $17,700, including $10,000 to replace their leaking roof and create a drainage system, $4,000 to replace the heater in the Research Room and $3,500 to sponsor its Bicentennial Stamp Cancellation Project.
* YWCA of Cortland, $15,000, including $10,000 as the matching grant to the city of Cortland for painting and restoring its historic facade and $5,000 to build a wheelchair-accessible ramp to the entrance of the Learning Ladder Daycare on Huntington Street.
l United Way for Cortland County, $5,000 to support the 2008 fundraising campaign.
* Starr Road Park and Recreation Center, $5,000, for the final payment of a four-year, $20,000 commitment to help pay for the construction of the park.
* Cultural Council of Cortland County, $4,000 for equipment needed for the 2008 Cortland County Art Trail, in several downtown Cortland businesses.
* Cortland Housing Assistance Council Inc., $4,000 to purchase tools and equipment needed to operate programs.
* Girl Scout Council of Central New York, $4,000 for the construction of a four-person cabin at Camp Hoover in Preble.
* Madison/Cortland ARC, $3,000 to support the 2007 Camp ARCO, a summer day camp for children with disabilities.
* Cortland Regional Sports Council, $3,000 for scholarships to needy families to defray the registration fee required to join the indoor soccer program. The grant allows all children to participate.
* Cortland Repertory Theater, $2,000 to sponsor the free performance of the mid-summer musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.”
* Homer Youth Center, $900 to buy gaming equipment, air hockey and ping-pong tables for the after-school program.
* Cortland County Child Development Center, $830 for the repair and replacement of several refrigeration units.
The nonprofit Cortland Community Foundation was formed this year from the private Cortland Savings Foundation, which was established in 1998 by the now defunct Cortland Savings Bank with an endowment of about $2 million.
The change allows the organization to accept public donations. For information, call (607) 758-9553, e-mail or mail to P.O. Box 66, Cortland, NY 13045.