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May 24. 2012 7:40PM

Balsams gets town approval for renovations

COLEBROOK — The owners of the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, who earlier this month resolved to go forward with major renovations despite a planning board setback, got a boost this week. The planning board, at a special meeting Tuesday night, granted the Balsams owners a subdivision permit they’d been seeking for a 28-acre parcel on the 7,700-acre site in Dixville Notch.

At issue was liquid contamination under a now-defunct rubber manufacturing plant on the property; the question was who would be financially responsible if a clean-up is ordered: the owners, Dan Hebert and Dan Dagesse, or the town of Colebrook and taxpayers.

Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for Hebert and Dagesse, said Thursday that town officials granted the subdivision after they were assured the town would not be liable.

“(The) planning board approved the remaining subdivision. We very much appreciate the many residents who attended the meeting to express their support for our plan. We also appreciate representatives from (the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services) attending the meeting and assuring the planning board that the town would assume no liability for this dump site,” he said in a written statement.

The owners considered the step of separating the parcel from the property as a whole — while they continue to own that piece — essential to attracting the financing they’ll need for the renovation work. The cost is pegged at between $12 million and $20 million. Their plan is to eventually reopen the 144-year-old hotel as a resort and have it resume its role as a major employer in New Hampshire’s far north.

The business partners, who have long-standing ties to the Colebrook area, formed Balsams View LLC, and bought the hotel and resort last December for $2.3 million. They said earlier this month they were caught off guard when the planning board decided to wait until its June meeting to rule on their subdivision request, and Hebert issued a statement that the construction delay he and Dagesse expected from that decision could sink the project.

But as they prepared for a May 12 auction of most of The Balsams contents and equipment, Tranchemontagne said the owners wanted to get things moving forward again and not abandon their plans.

The Saturday auction that ran from morning well into the night was expected to generate a quarter-million dollars, and attracted hundreds of bidders to Dixville Notch. The buyers carried off nearly everything, including the beds and other furnishings in the hotel’s 212 rooms. Tranchemontagne Thursday said the owners — who have kept an extremely low profile from the start of their efforts to buy the property — have declined to make the final sales figure public, but said the auction had “exceeded expectations.”


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