Joey Flanagan (left) and Gavin Shannon of Canaan met second-place finisher Travis Pastrana at the New England Forest Rally in Errol on Saturday. Pastrana has won several medals in the X-Games and has competed in supercross, motocross, freestyle motocross and in the NASCAR Nationwide series. (Courtesy photo)

More Details Emerge on Balsams Plans as Work Continues Behind the Scenes

By Jake Mardin

Work on the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel is moving along, according to spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne, who said the owners hope to have specific plans to present this fall.

"We are moving forward," he said. "We do have an aggressive timeline." He said Balsams owners are speaking to a lot of stakeholders and doing their due diligence. "We re really at a point where we're spending a lot of time figuring out exactly where we are," he said.

Mr. Tranchemontagne gave an overview of plans for the first phase of redevelopment, which encompasses five new ski lifts including one gondola lift; 25 miles of ski trails and snowmaking; renovation of the Hampshire House, Dix House and Ballot Room; 60 miles of mountain bike trails; construction of a new 400-room hotel, a conference center, a spa and yoga retreat; and the renovation of the Donald Ross golf course and clubhouse.

He also talked about the concept of making a strong connection with the local agriculture community. "The Balsams has always been famous for having the very best cuisine," he said. "It will again, but with an emphasis on locally grown, farm-to-table produce and meats." He said the Balsams envisions a partnership with a Cos County farm alliance, and that the resort will benefit from providing guests with local food, while the local economy will receive business from thousands of guests and visitors.

"A central feature of the resort will be what we call the 'Balsams Marketplace,' where guests can shop and bring home a Balsams Basket of branded "Purely Balsams" maple syrup, cider and other products," he said. The Purely Balsams on-line URLs have been secured, the resort will have an on-site greenhouse to continue growing in the off-season, and the Culinary School will be reinstated.

"We have an opportunity to be something that is very different from anything else in the Northeast and perhaps all of America," he said. "What we talked about at the North Country Chamber of Commerce dinner [in May] was building a resort that New Hampshire and certainly all of the Northeast has yet to experience."

Mr. Tranchemontagne said summer and winter offerings would be increased, and one concept they considering is a central location on the resort to serve as a hub, where people can start at before going off to do different activities such as hiking or golfing. He said the snowmobile trails on the property remained in place, and called being part of the Ride the Wilds ATV trail network "an amazing opportunity--there's a lot going on," he said.

Mr. Tranchemontage also talked about discussions with Brookfield Renewable Power on the setbacks for the wind farm. The resort owners would like to expand the ski area, but to do that skiers would need to access some mountains where wind turbines currently sit. The setback is currently 1,300 feet. "I can't go into specifics, but we've had very good discussions with Brookfield and we believe that we'll come to a resolution that works for all parties," he said.

(Issue of July 23, 2014)


Taylor Siewierski slides into third as Way North won the Babe Ruth 14U state tournament and will be in the New England Regionals this weekend in Rochester. (Arlene Allin photo)

Howard's Likely to Be Torn Down; Grant Sought to Stabilize Riverbank

By Jake Mardin

The Town of Colebrook and the Ball family estate are looking at solutions to the severely damaged retaining wall beneath Howard's Restaurant, one of which is to tear down the building and stabilize the riverbank.

Phil Waystack of Waystack Frizzell represents the estate of restaurant owner Crystal Ball, who passed away in November. Ms. Ball's daughter Kathleen is the administrator of the estate. The restaurant has been closed since Ms. Ball passed away.

On April 15, a combination of warming temperatures and heavy rainfall led to flooding and fast-moving rivers, including the Mohawk River. The high water damaged the retaining wall under the restaurant and opened up a large hole. The tenant living in an apartment at the back of the building was evacuated and the property has since been closed off.

Mr. Waystack said legally the heirs have no personal responsibility to the property, but do have a duty to the probate court and the estate to manage affairs properly.

The property was listed for sale prior to the flood damage. In 2013 the building was valued at $157,200, but this May the prorated value was $6,800. Mr. Waystack said the property is "virtually unsellable."

Mr. Waystack said that his current focus is "trying to keep as many options open as possible." He said there are two insurance policies on the property--one is flood and the other is a general building policy. He said claims have been made on both policies, and the flood insurance company has been investigating. "We're investigating every option to see that the right thing happens for the building," he said.

The town is in the process of submitting a grant to the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Program. According to Mr. Waystack, the grant would pay the estate for the value of the building and it would be demolished, and work could be done on the river to prevent future damage.

Town manager Becky Merrow said the grant is for $1 million, and although she does not know what the town's match would be, it could be anywhere from zero to 25 percent. She said FEMA is working closely with the town, and the recent announcement that FEMA has denied the state's appeal for a disaster declaration has no impact on the grant. The work on the river would be done using a technique called "bioengineered slope stabilization."

(Issue of July 23, 2014)


The weather was perfect for haying over the weekend, and John Amey from the Indian Stream Farm in Pittsburg was out tedding hay on Saturday under a high summer sun. John noted that he was accompanied by a Northern Harrier, which he explained is a fairly rare raptor that always follows his mowing and tedding work looking for a meal of field mice. (Rob Maxwell photo)

Colebrook Planning Board Looks at Lincoln Experience with Development

By Rob Maxwell

Members of the Colebrook planning board hosted what chairman David Brooks called "an informal workshop" on Monday evening with two representatives from the Lincoln planning board, focusing on the possible impacts that a nearby, major year-round resort could have on Colebrook's infrastructure, tax base and town-provided services.

The meeting was held to help Colebrook officials begin preparation for the anticipated large expansion and development of the Balsams Resort in Dixville. The idea for holding the session originated with local dentist Dana Bartlett, who was operating a practice in Lincoln when development at Loon Mountain Resort brought peripheral--and to some extent, unexpected--business and housing additions that caused some problems for the local planning board.

Dr. Bartlett is an alternate to the Colebrook planning board and attended Monday's workshop, bringing along Lincoln board members Patrick Romprey and Jim Spanos. Mr. Romprey has chaired the planning board in Lincoln for nine years and has been a board member for 18 years total, while Mr. Spanos now serves as vice-chairman. Also participating in the hour-long workshop were Colebrook board members Mr. Broooks, Steve Brungot and Bob Holt, and alternate John Jolles.

Mr. Romprey described Lincoln as, "a sleepy little town before the resort expansion, but once things got underway, we quickly realized our infrastructure wouldn't handle it. Traffic volume, water and sewer doubled. It's not just the resort that brought the pressure, it was all the new stores, restaurants and housing construction that affected us."

Both Mr. Romprey and Mr. Spanos reiterated many times during the session that the best way to deal with developers is to invest in third-party consultants, especially engineers. "Always demand that there be a third-party review when anyone wants to build," advised Mr. Romprey. "Developers will come in and scream and make demands, but in the end, they know they have to help you to get what they want."

Mr. Spanos told the group that a project of the anticipated magnitude in Dixville will cause ripple effects in Colebrook. "Early on and quickly, you will see new restaurants, markets and gas stations," noted Mr. Spanos, "but if you look at the big picture and hire the right people to help you, you'll be Okay. High-end real estate development will come too, but that's a good thing because it helps your tax base."

Mr. Romprey advised that background checks on every developer should be done. "Keep in mind that if a developer starts building a road that includes water and sewer, and his company goes belly-up, the town may be stuck with paying for completion of the work."

Both of the visiting Lincoln officials emphasized that social media should never be used to discuss upcoming meetings or hearings. "E-mails, cell-phone texting and other electronic communications can be subpoenaed and used to show bias," explained Mr. Romprey. "These communications can also be used to substantiate claims of board members holding unofficial or unscheduled meetings."

Mr. Jolles raised concerns about possible raises in the property tax rate and was told that one of development's benefits is an increase in the tax base with an attendant lowering of the tax rate. "You should get a big tax benefit," said Mr. Romprey. "It's pretty much going to be gravy." Dr. Bartlett noted that Lincoln now has one of the lowest property tax rates in the state. Mr. Romprey said that changes to zoning regulations, "Can be sold to the public if you let them know you re not planning to take anything away from them, and are looking to protect what they have now. Start to think about establishing some guidelines now and get some professional help--you can never have too many engineers.

(Issue of July 23, 2014)



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