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Conservation group files complaint over Cog Railway's 'Snowcat road'

Union Leader Correspondent

November 30. 2017 9:39PM
A conservation group that opposes the plan of the Cog Railway, whose Base Station is shown here Thursday, to build a 35-room hotel just below summit of Mount Washington has alleged that the Cog has constructed a snowcat road without county and state permits. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

THOMPSON and MESERVE’S PURCHASE — The Coos County Commission will consider a complaint by a conservation group alleging that the Cog Railway has built an unpermitted road on Mount Washington.

Cog owner Wayne Presby, however, called the interpretation of the Coos County Zoning Ordinance by Keep The Whites Wild “grossly inaccurate.” He added that they reflected the group’s ongoing opposition to his plans to build a 35-room hotel a thousand feet from the summit of the tallest mountain in the Northeast.

Presby wants to open the hotel in 2019, to mark the Cog’s 150th anniversary. Keep the Whites Wild and six other conservation groups are determined to stop him, arguing, among other things, that the Skyline Lodge would have a negative impact on Mount Washington’s fragile alpine zone.

In a Nov. 16 letter to County Commission Chairman Tom Brady, Attorney Jason Reimers, on behalf of Keep the Whites Wild, wrote that the Cog had constructed a private road.

Reimers added that Presby, at a recent meeting of the Mount Washington Commission, said the road would be used to provide passenger rides in a Snowcat.

While recreational trails were permitted in the Steep Slopes overlay district, private roads were not and the Cog’s “Snowcat road,” said Reimers, was “a business venture rather than recreational.”

Reimers asked the County Commission, which enforces the zoning ordinance, to find the Cog to be in violation of it.

County Commissioner Chairman Tom Brady of Jefferson was not immediately available Thursday but he made published remarks that the matter would be on the agenda for the commission’s Dec. 13 meeting.

Presby said his reading of the Zoning Ordinance allows snowmobiling and ATV trails without permit.

“Using a Snowcat on my trail is allowed by right as a Snowcat is an ATV (all-terrain vehicle). A trail is not limited to walking, and in fact is expressly expanded to much more than walking. The recreational use of such trails is allowed. In addition to being used for recreation, the trail will be used for track maintenance and rescue operations if necessary.”

Presby closed by saying he would “continue to use my land in compliance with the Ordinance. The Cog Railway takes great pride in being a steward of conservancy, balancing the competing aims of the County and its inhabitants to protect the environment and to encourage responsible shared use of this beautiful area by residents and tourists alike.”

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