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Selena Richards lent her best radio voice to Hedda Fuller Eyre, the narrator of the Colebrook Academy Players’ production of “Murder at the Malt Shop” this past weekend at the Tillotson Center. (Karen Ladd photo)

Coös Planning Board Requests More Information on Balsams Ski Area Plan
By Jake Mardin

Balsams developers and the Coös County planning board went over a site plan review application for the Wilderness Ski Area in Lancaster last Tuesday. After nearly three and a half hours the meeting was continued, with the planning board seeking more information to be included in the application.

Burt Mills of Dixville Capital LLC began the meeting by presenting an overview of the application, and said the complete ski area plan includes 23 lifts and about 1,200 acres of open trail skiing. He also went over various easements and protections, and said that Sanguinary Ridge will be protected with no wind development or logging.

Mr. Mills talked about the first five lifts that will be built in addition to the existing one. The Balsams is requesting night lighting for Lift 6, and Mr. Mills said the light will not be seen from the valley floor. He said there are three locations where developers think they might construct day lodge facilities. He said a new facility would be enclosed like the current Wilderness ski lodge; developers anticipate bringing in a site plan for a new lodge, but the application discussed last Tuesday did not include any new publicly occupied buildings. He said that the build-out plan for lifts not included in the first phase is flexible based on market demands, and said they are looking to break ground in late summer.

After Mr. Mills’ presentation, the board began going through the application with help from North Country Council planning director Tara Bamford. Ms. Bamford has assisted the planning board with several aspects of the Balsams redevelopment project, including the Planned Unit Development Application approved in December. Ms. Bamford went through the site plan review application and produced a document that addressed each section.

“As an overall comment, it is unclear which specific elements for which the applicant is requesting site plan approval at this time,” she wrote. “The narrative in various places mentions, in addition to the ski terrain and lift locations, snowmaking water delivery and distribution systems, utilities, the ski back bridge, four accesses, a gondola, and use of the Wilderness Base Lodge. However, no site plan-like details are provided for any specific feature.”

One requirement of the application is “the size and proposed location of water supply and sewage facilities and provision for future expansion of sewage and water facilities, and all distances from existing water and sewage facilities on the site and on abutting properties to a distance of 200 feet.” Ms. Bamford wrote in her comments that the applications had to “provide evidence of DES approval of this expanded use of the water and wastewater facilities serving the Wilderness Base Lodge, if the intent is to include that facility in this application at this time.”

Ed Brisson of Dixville Capital said the Wilderness lodge is existing with no proposed changes to it, and Mr. Mills said the intent is to return to the board with an application for a new lodge at the top of the gondola. Mr. Brisson said the Wilderness lodge has its own water and sewer facilities, and they are not looking to increase its occupancy.

When discussing the occupancy of the lodges, Mr. Brisson said more trails and lifts don’t translate to increased occupancy. “I don’t think we expect it to be a heavily crowded ski area,” he said, saying that would be more like the opposite of what they are going for. Planning board chairman John Scarinza said the board would like a letter from the N.H. Department of Environmental Services saying that the bathrooms and water for the Wilderness lodge are sufficient. Ron Anstey of the N.H. Fire Marshal’s office said that all structures will have to be reviewed, not just the occupied buildings.

Mr. Mills noted that all lifts are monitored closely by various agencies and have to abide by certain codes. The N.H. Department of Safety Tramway Amusement and Ride Safety department is one such agency that oversees the registration, inspection and compliance of the laws with regards to ski lifts. He also said vendors typically require a ten-percent deposit before engineering plans are done.

The board also discussed the ski-back bridge that would cross over Route 26. As currently planned, the bridge would span 1,000 feet and its highest point would reach 60 feet across the Mohawk River. At the points where it crosses Route 26, there will be a 24-foot clearance under it.

Another topic of discussion had to do with a storm drainage plan. The submitted application states that a plan for long-term maintenance of stormwater facilities will be included in all DES Alteration of Terrain permit applications, and copies of the permits will be submitted to the planning board prior to construction. Ms. Bamford wrote in her comments that this was incomplete. “The planning board specifically rejected the applicant’s request to rely on the DES AOT permit for stormwater,” she stated, adding that the board allowed for any element of the county’s regulations that is duplicated by a DES permit can be documented by way of the receipt of the permit. “This means, for each of the ten standards listed in Section VI.C. of the Site Plan Review Regulations, it is the responsibility of the applicant to provide the relevant language from the state regulations that demonstrates that compliance with the DES AOT permit will also mean the project is in compliance with the County standard,” she wrote.

Mr. Scarinza said once developers had completed the DES processes, it would “probably satisfy” what the board requires. He asked if the planning board was reviewing the application too soon. Mr. Mills said developers were addressing several things on parallel timelines, including work with the Attorney General’s office. The Balsams team also recently submitted site plan applications for the Dix House and Hampshire House, and Mr. Scarinza said those would require review by Ms. Bamford as well.

Board member Tom McCue said it is important for the board to follow its own procedures and not cut corners, as doing so could lead to court challenges. Mr. Brisson said despite being “hung up” on the AOT issue, a lot of progress has been made on learning the views of the board.

He said one goal has been looking for site plan approval of the entire ski area, and that developers anticipate that before construction begins on Phase I, they would come to the board with proof that the wetlands permit is in place and the AOT permit is approved. He said each of the segments of the AOT are hundreds of thousands of dollars, and from an investment standpoint it is important to show them the ski area has been approved. “We have always anticipated that we’d be coming back and giving you proof of these permits,” he said.

With more work still needed on the ski area application, the board voted to continue the meeting until Wednesday, May 18 at the Lancaster Town Hall at 6 p.m.

Dix and Hampshire Houses

Developers also submitted an application for the Hampshire House and Dix House site plan review. Included in the application are several maps, including maps that depict the current layout, the demolition plan and the overall site plan.

“Dixville Capital LLC proposes renovations of the historic Dix House, historic Hampshire House and reconstruction of the connector building that ties the two together,” the application states. “These buildings, which were the centerpiece of The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, will be renovated and updated on both the exterior and interior. Northern and western portions of the Dix House will be demolished and new facades constructed to replace those additions. The renovations and additions are intended to maintain the existing architecture and details while upgrading the buildings to meet applicable code and operational requirements.” An application to subdivide the property has also been submitted to the county.

According to the demolition plan, the Hampshire House will be renovated while the connector building will be demolished and reconstructed. The Dix House will also be renovated, and a portion of it will be demolished, along with the factory foundation and the Windwhistle house.

The overall site plan map depicts a 109-space parking lot situated where the factory foundation was, adjacent to the Cold Spring Road-Spur Road intersection. A 94-space lot is planned for the area between the N.H. Department of Transportation building and the Captain’s Cottage. The map also shows a drop-off loop in front of the connector, and a proposed cooling tower across the road from the Hampshire House. A proposed water system control and treatment building are also planned.

According to the application, water for fire suppression will be provided by a 14-inch penstock from Lake Abenaki, with final plans to be approved by the State Fire Marshal. No change to the existing maximum building height is proposed. The proposed Hampshire/Dix parcel is 1.68 acres, and no dwelling units are proposed in the application. The proposed units will be sold in fractions of under 180 days, and the plan calls for 119 hotel bedrooms. The number of square feet for every other permitted use is 51,349 for residential, 22,030 for food and beverage, 3,442 for food and beverage patio space, 9,072 for business/retail/theater, 57,689 for common space, and 8,165 for “other,” totaling 151,747 square feet.

The planning board will discuss the application at its May 18 meeting.

(Issue of May 4, 2016)


Colby Hildreth of Canaan School’s Fire and Emergency Services CTE course climbed to a height of 55 feet on the Colebrook Fire Department’s quint ladder truck, training with their instructor, Beecher Falls Capt. Todd Nichols, and CFD Capt. Murray Duke in Beecher Falls on Thursday afternoon. (Jake Mardin photo)

Pittsburg Area Community Services Looking for New Home This Summer
By Jake Mardin

Pittsburg Area Community Services (PACS) is in search of a new home to move into by the end of August, when the organization’s lease at the current location ends.

Volunteer Bette King explained that PACS has been operating at the former Baldwin building on Main Street since 2010, running a thrift shop and providing a food pantry, and providing information about services such as food stamps, fuel assistance, health insurance and prescription drug programs. PACS also assists families who have been displaced due to fires, natural disasters or domestic violence, setting them up with clothing and other household items. Money raised from thrift shop sales goes to support the food pantry.

According to a press release issued Monday, PACS has provided over 98,000 pounds of food from the New Hampshire Food Bank to qualified families free of charge, with each qualified individual receiving three meals and two snacks for six days a month. Ms. King said that senior citizens constitute 85 percent of the organization’s clientele. PACS is open three days a week and is fully staffed by volunteers. Ms. King said there are currently four volunteers, and their number increases during the summer.

Ms. King said PACS learned in early April that its lease would not be renewed due to a planned change of use for the building, and the organization has looked at various properties seeking the ideal setting of a one-story, warehouse style building. PACS is looking at emergency grants to help with the relocation, but any funds obtained would likely not be available until January. “Ideally, we need something we can lease or rent to own, and when the grant comes in we can plunk the money down,” she said.

According to the press release, PACS requires a site where at least the food pantry can operate, and is asking for the public’s help in locating a space. In the meantime, PACS is still accepting donations for the food pantry and thrift shop, and they are still ordering food from the USDA and N.H. Food Bank. Monetary donations are also welcome.

Anyone with suggestions for new location, or who is available to volunteer for PACS, may call Ms. King at 538-9698 or contact April Cartwright by e-mail to 86acartwright@gmail.com. Monetary donations are also appreciated, and checks should be made payable to PACS and mailed to Pittsburg Area Community Services, PO Box 92, Pittsburg NH 03592.

A fund-raising page has been set up to take donations at www.gofundme.com, listed under “PACS03592.” All donations are tax-deductible and receipts will be provided upon request.

(Issue of May 4, 2016)


Eliza Keenan was ready for fun in the sun, wearing a bright sundress for the Canaan eighth grade’s Fashion Show 2016, held Saturday to support the Margaret Lima Scholarship Fund. (Alan Farnsworth photo)

New Summer School Program to Be Offered in Stratford and Groveton

A new Extended Summer School Program for area youth launches this summer, thanks to a unique partnership between Stratford Public School and the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire.

The Episcopal Diocese, through its parish church of St. Mark’s in Groveton, is collaborating with the Stratford Public School to offer an enrichment program for grades K-8 students for six weeks this summer. The program includes different themes every two weeks, with feature field trips corresponding to each theme.

“This has been a difficult and at times a painful process. St. Paul’s decided that it could not fund the St. Mark’s Program this year, but the Bishop wanted to offer a program that included a greater physical area,” explained The Rev. Timothy Brooks of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lancaster and St. Mark’s Seasonal Chapel in Groveton. Rev. Brooks met with Colebrook Elementary School Title One teacher Lisa Kenny, Stratford’s Title One teacher Sara Gray, and Stratford teacher Daniel Mackin to discuss the possibilities.

“It was an exciting meeting,” Rev. Brooks said. They came to the conclusion that Colebrook “was not ready at this time for the transition, but is eager to consider it for next year,” he said. “Change can be painful but we are doing what we think is in the best interest of the youth in offering opportunities and exposure to activities that they may not otherwise have.”

Mr. Mackin said, “The opportunity being offered by both school and the Episcopal Church is unmatched in?the North Country. Parents will know their children are in a safe learning environment, and students will enjoy a relaxed atmosphere while honing skills necessary for academic achievement. Additionally, the hands-on experience gained through the many field trip opportunities allow for students to visit places they may not get to on their own.”

The first three weeks of the Extended Summer School Program will take place at St. Mark’s Parish Hall in Groveton, moving to the Stratford Public School for the following three weeks. Two certified teachers, two certified paraprofessionals and a kitchen staff member will be present for each session day.

The Extended Summer School Program will be offered Monday through Thursday, from June 20 to July 28. The program is working with the New Hampshire Food Bank to offer breakfast and lunch. Mornings will focus on academic-style learning and afternoons will offer hands-on learning through the arts, hiking, and swimming. The program will utilize the Groveton Recreational Program for the first three weeks and Maidstone State Park the second three weeks.

The Groveton Recreation Department has also been invited to join in on the field trips. Both groups will enjoy The Whale’s Tale together. All admission fees for field trips are included in the budget.

Each of the two-week sessions will begin with a field trip on the theme of the session (Our Heritage, The Environment and STEAM education). The remaining days will be for expression and learning about the theme, culminating with a display and celebration of student work at the end of the program. The academic component will be driven by STAR 360, a comprehensive assessment that aligns with the school districts’ Common Core standards. Permission slips will be distributed at the two schools, and because this is a pilot program, space is limited.

The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld and The Episcopal Church of New Hampshire have identified serving children as a priority, including addressing the widening gaps among our youth in accessing economic and social opportunity. “This means we will be taking on projects not just to support our kids in the pews and Sunday school classes, but all our kids--the youth in the communities where the church and her members are present,” says Bishop Hirschfeld. “We have an opportunity to serve children, youth and families in new and effective ways.”

Funding for this program was provided by the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, Stratford Public School, St. Mark’s Chapel, and the Groveton Thrift Shop. More information about the diocese is available on-line at www.nhepiscopal. org.

(Issue of May 4, 2016)



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