Published Date Written by Barbara Tetreault
BERLIN – Plans for the redevelopment of the Balsams Grand Resort include a major expansion of the Balsams Wilderness Ski Area.
Phase one of the plan to redevelop the resort calls for renovating the hotel and more than quadrupling the size of the ski area according to Coos County Commissioner Paul Grenier.
Grenier told the commission at Wednesday's meeting that ski resort developer Les Otten, who has signed an agreement to help owners Dan Dagesse and Dan Herbert with the redevelopment, indicated the plan is for a ski area that would rival Killington in size.
But Grenier said that while the partners have come a long way with their plans, there are still issues to be resolved before they are ready to make a public presentation.
He said Otten is looking for the county's support to reduce the setback requirements for the seven Granite Reliable Power wind turbines on Dixville Peak. He said the state Site Evaluation Committee's approval for the project states that in cooperation with Coos County, GRP was required to prepare and implement a detailed safety and access plan using gates and other methods to "discourage persons from coming within 1,300 feet from any turbine location".
Grenier noted the setback requirement equals about a quarter of a mile per turbine and said Otten reported it takes away a lot of prime skiing area. Grenier said Otten would like to see the setback requirement reduced to 500 feet and asked if the county would take the lead in requesting the change. The commission voted unanimously to write a letter to the SEC supporting the reduction in the setback requirement.
The Wilderness Ski Area, which has been closed since 2011, featured 16 trails on 87 acres and had a vertical drop of 1,000 feet. The original double chairlift was auctioned off in the May 2012 auction.
Otten is best known in the North County for his development of Ski River Ski Resort in Bethel, Maine into the huge ski resort it is today. He went on to own a total of nine ski resorts around the country as head of American Ski Corporation before it unraveled.
Hebert and Dagesse purchased the resort and 7,700 acres in December 2011 from the Tillotson Corporation. Much of the land, 5,700 acres, is under a conservation easement held by the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests.
Last March, the two Colebrook natives outlined plans to extensively renovate the part of the existing hotel and add a seven-story 80,000 square foot addition that would include a large conference center, a spa, and indoor-outdoor pool. The resort would be about half the size of the original Balsams. The developers received a building permit from the Coos County planning board that allowed for a phased-in approach that required them to meet benchmarks before proceeding to the next stage. But the two partners have not been able to arrange the needed financing to proceed.
Two weeks ago, Hebert and Dagesse announced their partnership had entered into an agreement with Otten's company, Dixville Capital LLC "to establish a viable path forward for the redevelopment of the Balsams."