Balsams redevelopment in jeopardy
DIXVILLE NOTCH - The owners of the Balsams Grand Resort say the resort's redevelopment is in jeopardy after action Tuesday by the Colebrook Planning Board.
Balsams View LLC owners say they have 'been forced to place the resort's renovation project on hold indefinitely, after the Planning Board refused to approve a subdivision plan that is essential for the project to move forward.'
The owners presented the planning board Tuesday evening with what they called 'four routine property subdivisions.'
Three of the plans were approved, according to a press release issued by the owners Thursday, but the board continued its hearing on the fourth subdivision until its June meeting.
'By not approving the subdivision, the Board has delayed key project elements by at least a month, including financing, and the project's ability to begin demolition and construction on schedule,' the press release said. 'Given the North Country's short construction season, this delay will cost Balsams View, LLC hundreds of thousands of dollars and could stop the project permanently.'
Balsams co-owner and Colebrook contractor Dan Hebert said he was completely surprised and extremely disappointed with the Planning Board's inaction. 'Our team met with the Board a month ago and outlined our subdivision concept. It was explained that the subdivision was needed in order to secure financing for the project, and that the parcels would all still remain in ownership of the current Balsams View partners. The subdivision was a routine allocation of the individual parcels according to their future uses, and contained no request for construction or changes of use, so we were dumbfounded by their action to not approve it. At this late hour, the Board's delay has forced us to put the entire project on hold, with the exception of the auction, which is to take place on May 12.'
According to the release, the land in question is a 28-acre parcel surrounded by conservation easements. Balsams View applied to subdivide this parcel from the resort's main property, but still retain ownership under a separate company. It is commonly accepted that approximately one acre of this land had been used as a municipal landfill many years ago, until it was discontinued and covered with dirt. It is also believed that the Tillotson rubber plant, which was built and connected to the hotel in the 1950s, used the area to dispose of some manufacturing waste. Hebert said the site has been monitored for many years, and Balsam View's environmental consultants are currently working with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to identify an appropriate groundwater monitoring program at the site.
'We would retain ownership of the land and be responsible for it,' said Hebert. 'We simply need to subdivide this parcel from the main resort property to move forward. Unfortunately, the Town has decided to delay us and put our entire development at risk.'
Hebert added, 'We have prepared a very ambitious plan to renovate the Balsams and restore it to its former glory in a way that would allow the resort to be financially viable over the long term. In doing so, we would create many new jobs for local engineers, architects, contractors and laborers and bring back hundreds of resort jobs by the summer of 2013. Our number one priority has always been to bring the Balsams back to life so it can once again provide economic benefits to the North Country and the State. The Colebrook Planning Board has put all of this at risk by creating an unnecessary delay.'
Hebert said Balsams View would have accepted a Planning Board approval with reasonable conditions that would have satisfied its concerns. Instead, according to Hebert, the Board is now asking for additional, unnecessary items that will add further costs and delays, such as an environmental impact statement, an engineering and cost analysis to cap the land, and a bond.
'Approving a plan with conditions that meet concerns is a very common tool that all Planning Boards use,' said Hebert. 'It's very unfortunate that the Board decided against working with us proactively towards a solution, and instead opted to delay the project and put the Balsams' future at risk.'
The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, located in Dixville Notch, has been in operation for more than 150 years, offering guests fine dining, inviting accommodations, a Donald Ross golf course and unlimited recreational access to its nearly 8,000 acre property - in a setting surrounded by the tranquility and natural beauty of the rugged New Hampshire mountains.