Most who speak at public hearing favor Mount Sunapee plans
NEWBURY — Of the more than 250 people attending a hearing on Mount Sunapee’s five-year Master Development Plan Tuesday night, the vast majority of speakers said they were in favor.
But opponents of the plan to develop the “West Bowl” area of the mountain said the majority of audience members are against the plan — in large part because Mount Sunapee officials did not provide enough detail for them.
“We know they want to get the real estate as fast as they can; that’s where the money is,” said Tom Elliott, a spokesman for Friends of Mount Sunapee.
Elliott said the group has opposed development plans since a similar proposal was first put forward in 2001.
“We would like more information about the master plan,” said Joylon Johnson of Newbury. “This is about protecting the public’s interest.”
The ski area, which has 66 trails and slopes covering 233 skiable acres, is owned by the state but has been leased since 1998 by Tim and Diane Mueller, who also own Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vt.
Tuesday night’s hearing was hosted by the Department of Resources and Economic Development, and was intended to inform the public about the proposed changes in the master plan.
The West Bowl project would feature a high-speed quad chairlift and 75 acres of new ski terrain on the west slope of Mount Sunapee. Mount Sunapee officials are proposing to add four new ski trails, one new high-speed lift, a new base lodge and additional parking. There are other changes proposed in the plan, including an upgrade of the resort’s main ski lift.
Vice President and General Manager Jay Gamble and other Mount Sunapee officials presented the plans. In the public input portion of the meeting, there were 27 speakers; of those, 19 spoke in favor of the plans. Seven spoke in opposition; one person was undecided.
A few of the speakers, including Ralph Marche of Newbury, noted that Mount Sunapee has been good to area veterans.
“They’ve been a great help, getting veterans in here for free sometimes, giving veterans a chance to heal,” Marche said.
Virginia Shendler of Goshen — where much of the development is planned — said Sunapee Mountain officials “have done a good job overall, but they’ve done enough.”
“We are concerned that they want to make the area residential, and make money on the housing,” she said. “They aren’t telling us everything ... and I think they’ve done enough developing.”
Gamble said the master plan leaves open the possibility for development.
“But even if we wanted to build housing on the property, we would still have to go through the town of Goshen and meet the public’s approval through that process,” he said.
Gamble said the reason most people spoke in favor of the plan — and the reason the audience applauded loudly when those people spoke — is Mount Sunapee’s recent history. The new plans would enhance the resort, he said, bringing more economic benefits to the area.
“We have a 16-year track record, and during that time, we have earned the respect of the citizens of these towns,” he said. “That was reflected in what was said by the public tonight.”
A few of those speaking in favor of the plans identified themselves as employees of the resort.