A visit to Bethel by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week to celebrate passage of the New York State casino referendum brought a shot of development revelry to Sullivan County, and about an hour later, Sullivan County boosters engaged in another bout of developmental cheerleading at a public hearing over a project called the Veria Lifestyle Management Center.
Regarding the need or market for such a facility, a cost benefit analysis of the project said, “there is no facility in the U.S. to provide Nature Cure, Yoga Sciences, Ayurvedic Medical Treatment along with treatment by organic and bio-dynamic nutrition.”
Ayurvedic medicine is, according to Wikipedia, “a system of traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent and a form of alternative medicine.”
The lifestyle center will be built by a company headed by Indian billionaire Subhash Chandra, a media mogul and chairman of the Indian conglomerate Essel Group. The organization’s lifestyle initiatives include a cable television channel called Veria Living, which features health and lifestyle programs; it launched in various cable systems in the New York City area at the end of 2012. The channel recently hired Eric Sherman as its CEO; Sherman is the former manager of Steven Tyler, the lead singer of the classic rock group Aerosmith.
The organization’s plans for Sullivan County include the purchase of the 110- acre Kutshers Resort property in the Town of Thompson, and investing $90 million to refurbish some of the buildings, demolish others and build new ones. The facility will feature about 265 rooms and other amenities.
The purpose of the public hearing was to take public comment on the organization’s request of the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) to be granted tax breaks on the project. The cost/benefit analysis claims that most of the tax breaks will be offset by sales taxes paid in the county by new residents who come to the county to work at the center, leaving, “$1,025 per household as the net cost for the Town of Thompson and Sullivan County services.” The analysis projects the cost to taxpayers of about $20 million versus benefits of about $138 million over 16 years.
A dozen or so business people and others spoke about the project in glowing terms and no one expressed opposition to it. Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce CEO Terri Ward said, “The Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce, our board of directors, the staff and our 530 members all support this project and urge the IDA to give as many incentives as possible.”
Scott Samuelson, chair of the Sullivan County Legislature, was equally supportive. He said, the project is “bringing things into the county we’re looking for: healthcare, wellness. It’s a perfect project. We’re very excited. After the news that was announced last night (the vote on Proposition One), it’s going to fit just perfectly into the scheme of what we’re going to be doing here in Sullivan County for years to come. I couldn’t be more in favor and more excited about it.”
The facility is projected to open in the spring of 2015.