Balsams Developer Les Otten Accused of Pressuring Local Groups into Supporting Northern Pass
Colebrook Selectmen and North Country Chamber of Commerce recently dropped their opposition to the controversial project.
Friday, April 8, 2016, NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com
Balsams developer Les Otten has been the subject of multiple recent articles and letters to the Colebrook Chronicle, as local groups have been pushed to drop their opposition to the Northern Pass transmission project. In March, Otten revealed the Balsams project was receiving funding from the Northern Pass's Forward New Hampshire fund.
North Country Chamber of Commerce Re-Re-Vote
Two members of the North Country Chamber of Commerce resigned prior to a Northern Pass vote on Wednesday, with a third board member, Jamie Sayen, declaring, "I assert that the Chamber's re-re-vote to change its three year opposition to Northern Pass is illegitimate because it was made under duress."
According to Sayen, Otten attended multiple meetings, pushing the Chamber to drop its opposition to Northern Pass. Prior to the vote, Sayen claims the Chamber was told that if did not drop its opposition, "the project is dead."
The North Country Chamber of Commerce had reportedly been in opposition to the Northern Pass project for three years and had reaffirmed its opposition after meeting with Otten on March 31.
Colebrook Selectmen Letter
Meanwhile, the Colebrook Board of Selectmen also dropped their opposition to the project following a meeting with Otten. According to the Colebrook Chronicle, Otten was brought into a March 28 meeting and requested the Board to "remain neutral" and not demand burial of the transmission line.
After speaking with Otten, the Board published a letter distancing itself from Northern Pass opposition, claiming it supports the Northern Pass Forward New Hampshire Fund and that the "most critical success factor for Colebrook's revival and advancement is the redevelopment of The Balsams Resort."
County Commissioner Commentary
A guest commentary by Coos County Commissioner Rick Samson was published in the Colebrook Chronicle on April 8 with his concerns about the Balsams project. According to Samson, "I was also told that anyone against the Balsams project would never get reelected."
Otten Guest Commentary
A guest commentary by Les Otten was also published in the Colebrook Chronicle, supporting the Northern Pass and the Balsams reopening. In the commentary, Otten claims 1,700 jobs will be created by the resort and that Northern Pass would save the resort $200,000 a year in energy costs.
According to Otten, "we know our guests and real estate buyers will not be put off by either the wind towers that adorn our peaks or the sight of clean energy lines powering their vacation."
The northernmost chairlift served ski area in New Hampshire, the Balsams Wilderness operated from 1966 until 2011, when the Dixville Notch Balsams Grand Resort was shuttered. While equipment has been sold and some hotel related structures demolished, the ski lodge and triple chairlifts remain in place.
Les Otten's Dixville LLC became involved in the project in early 2014. The $143 million Phase 1 construction has been repeatedly delayed. The most recent projection released by the developers suggests a 2017-18 season reopening.
In May 2015, Governor Maggie Hassen signed a bill that could provide up to $30 million in state backed bonds to the Balsams project.
In March 2016, the developers announced that the project was being funded in part by the controversial Northern Pass transmission line. $2 million has been allocated to the Balsams thus far from the $200 million Northern Pass Forward NH Fund.
Also in March 2016, the state Department of Transportation pledged to spend at least $2.8 million to reconstruct a road at the resort, then transfer ownership to the resort's owners.
The Balsams ski area and wind farm in 2016
The previously released Balsams Phase 1 Expansion Map from Summer 2015