Published Date Written by Barbara TetreaultLANCASTER – Time has become a critical factor for the owners of the Balsams Grand Resort as they race the clock to meet the deadline for a major component of their proposed funding to renovate the resort.
The effort hit a speed bump Tuesday night when the project did not submit the detailed plans required to receive a building permit from the Coos County Planning Board.
Scott Tranchemontagne, spokesman for Balsams View LLC, told the planning board that owners Daniel Hebert and Daniel Dagesse are seeking New Market Tax Credits to help fund the renovation of the grand hotel.
He said the deadline for applying for the next and last round of NMTC is April. Tranchemontagne explained that after June, Dixville will no longer qualify for the program as a result of the latest U.S. Census figures.
Tranchemontagne said the NMTC represent 10 to 20 percent of the proposed funding for the project.
"We need to secure those New Market Tax Credits to make this deal work," he said.
But to apply for the NMTC, Tranchemontagne said the owners have to have all the building plans and permits complete.
"I'm told that we have to have everything together and completed in April to be able to apply for an allocation of New Market Tax Credits," he said.
The owners hoped to obtain a building permit from the Coos planning board Tuesday. But Board Chairman John Scarinza noted the board had not received detailed architectural drawings and engineering plans to review. Representing Balsams View, Tranchemontagne and Attorney Sandra Cabrera of Waystack and Frizzell said they thought the application was sufficient.
Scarinza said when Hebert met with the board in April 2012, the board informed him it would need to look at lighting, parking, fire safety, and the various building, electrical, and plumbing codes.
"In order to approve a building, we need to know what the building will be," board member Fred King said.
Both Tranchemontagne and Cabrera apologized and said there clearly had been some miscommunications within the company. Tranchemontagne said Balsams View will submit all the necessary site plans and asked how soon the company could come back.
Scarinza said the board is willing to work with the developers and could call meetings as needed. But he warned that reviewing the documents to assess that the plans meets all applicable codes will require some time.
Ronald Anstey, plan reviewer and fire investigator for the N.H. Fire Marshal's office, attended the meeting and said his agency is prepared to review the documents for fire safety. If requested by the planning board, he said the fire marshal's office would also review the building code requirements. Anstey said his agency's turn-around time on a project that size is about 30 days.
King called the willingness of the fire marshal's office to do the reviews good news for the planning board, which does not have a building inspector. Board member James Brady noted the board could hire an expert and assess the fee to the developer. The board decided to draft a letter requesting the fire marshal's office review the plans for building code compliance.
After the meeting, Tranchemontagne acknowledged the two owners face an ambitious schedule to make the April deal to apply for the NMTC.
"But we believe we can do it. We have to do it," he said.
Tranchemontagne said the owners have raised some of the estimated $20 million to $30 million required for the renovation. He said they have tax credits and bank financing and are close to finalizing on some equity investors.
"We do have funding. We don't have all of it but we have a good deal of it," Tranchemontagne said.
He attributed some of the project's funding difficulties to the lawsuit filed by legal activist Andy Martin. The lawsuit challenged the sale of the historic hotel to the two Colebrook men. The Merrimack Superior Court dismissed the lawsuit and the state Supreme Court declined to accept the appeal.
Tranchemontagne called the lawsuit "frivolous" and charged it has delayed the redevelopment of the hotel. Martin filed a motion with the planning board, urging it to reject the request for a building permit and stating that he intents to challenge the sale in federal court. He asked to be heard by telephone at Tuesday's meeting. Scarinza said the request from Martin had come in Tuesday morning and said the board did not have time to set up such an arrangement. He said he reviewed the state Right to Know law and could not find anything on providing telephone access to public meetings.
King made a motion to pass over the request and take no action on the basis it was not submitted in a timely manner. The board approved the motion.