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Otten outlines plans for "spectacular rebirth" of Balsams Grand Resort

There have also discussions with Brookfield Renewable Power, the owner of the Granite Reliable Power wind farm, about reducing the 1,300-foot setback requirement for the turbines. That will also require approval of the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee.

WEST STEWARTSTOWN – Calling for a "spectacular rebirth of a legendary grand resort", ski area developer Les Otten outlined an ambitious plan to convert the Balsams into a modern resort that will attract international tourists to Dixville Notch.

Otten told a sold out crowd at the North Country Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner Thursday night that he envisions a phased development of the property with an immediate goal of investing $100 million by the end of 2016.

On hand for Otten's presentation were Balsams owners Dan Dagesse and Dan Hebert. The Colebrook natives purchased the resort in 2011 and have been worked to get financing to renovate and reopen it. This February it was announced that Otten has signed an agreement to join the effort.

The first phase would include five lifts at the ski area, 25 miles of cross country trails, 60 miles of trails for mountain biking, a 400-room hotel, a conference center, renovation of the Donald Ross golf course, and a spa and yoga retreat. Part of the historic Dix House would be preserved and become the core of the resort.

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WEST STEWARTSTOWN – Calling for a "spectacular rebirth of a legendary grand resort", ski area developer Les Otten outlined an ambitious plan to convert the Balsams into a modern resort that will attract international tourists to Dixville Notch.

Otten told a sold out crowd at the North Country Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner Thursday night that he envisions a phased development of the property with an immediate goal of investing $100 million by the end of 2016.

On hand for Otten's presentation were Balsams owners Dan Dagesse and Dan Hebert. The Colebrook natives purchased the resort in 2011 and have been worked to get financing to renovate and reopen it. This February it was announced that Otten has signed an agreement to join the effort.

The first phase would include five lifts at the ski area, 25 miles of cross country trails, 60 miles of trails for mountain biking, a 400-room hotel, a conference center, renovation of the Donald Ross golf course, and a spa and yoga retreat. Part of the historic Dix House would be preserved and become the core of the resort.

Long-range plans call for 1,000 hotel rooms, separate adventure centers for motorized and non-motorized activities, an outdoor heated hot spring, a marketplace similar to Granville Island Market in Vancouver, and a pier extending into Lake Gloriette.

At the ski resort, Otten talked of doubling the current vertical descent and doubling or tripling the terrain and including mountaintop dining. He said the ski area would have the most modern lift and snowmaking systems – in part because everything would be new. In developing the Sunday River ski area in Bethel, Maine into the huge resort it is today, Otten said he focused on snowmaking, guaranteeing skiers snow as good as they could find out West. He said that would be a priority at Dixville, which will require the resort to pump water from the Androscoggin River.

A focus of the resort would be on creating a connection between mountain and farm, with an emphasis on serving locally grown food. As much as possible, Otten said the hotel would use fresh foods grown in Coos County. He said the names 'Purely Balsams', 'Pure Balsams', and 'Pure Balsam' have already been purchased as part of a plan to create a brand that can be used to market local foods and crafts at the hotel and on-line.

Otten said the resort has to big to differentiate itself from other ski resorts. The plan is to create a destination resort where guests, from places like Paris, Madrid, and Mexico City as well as the Northeast, will come and stay for seven to ten days at a time.

"We're a little bit off the beaten path. So for us to succeed we have to of grand scale," he said.

He said an important part of the proposal is blending together both traditional and innovative amenities to attract today's X-box generation as well as future generations.

Otten said the Balsams has a great foundation to build upon, including almost 150 years of history, a Donald Ross-designed golf course, a region with a "treasure trove" of outdoor recreational activities, water, a great view, and 1,500 acres available for skiing. He also noted the Berlin Municipal Airport in Milan has a runway large enough to accommodate a Boeing 747 and in fact Air Force Two has landed there.

Eventually, Otten predicted a renovated Balsams resort would employ thousands of people – both directly at the resort and indirectly through jobs created to service the resort and its guests. He said, however, that the total build-out could take ten to 20 years.

Otten said there have been no red flags yet and state officials are supportive. He displayed a letter of support from Gov. Maggie Hassan who called the project a "bold vision for the revitalization of this historic resort".

State Senator Jeff Woodburn, who introduced Otten, said the region and state government stand ready to assist and support the project.

"While various hurdles remain, this is an exciting new day in the North Country and sets us on a path toward revitalizing our economy by celebrating our cultural traditions and natural resources," Woodburn said.

Otten said there are five main hurdles that must be cleared for the project to go forward. The list includes permitting, water, power, wind turbines, and conservation easements that exist on some of the Balsams land. Otten said there was a meeting with Public Service of NH officials Wednesday about supplying the needed power.

There have also discussions with Brookfield Renewable Power, the owner of the Granite Reliable Power wind farm, about reducing the 1,300-foot setback requirement for the turbines. That will also require approval of the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee. The Society for the Protection of N.H. Forest holds a conservation easement on about 5,800 acres of the 7,700 acres owned by Balsams View LLC. Finally, the resort's plan to pull water from the Androscoggin River in Errol, a distance of about 12 miles, will likely require a variety of state and federal permits.

But Otten expressed optimism, reminding the crowd that Sunday River had only four full-time employees when he took it over in 1980. He said it now employs as many as 1,500 part and full-time employs plus an equal number work at spin-off jobs in the community.

"We can't be a paper mill and we can't be Ethan Allen, but we can be this. And it fits. This is in the blood of the people who live in the North Country," he said.


Source: http://www.berlindailysun.c...

NOV 30 2013
https://www.windaction.org/posts/40536-otten-outlines-plans-for-spectacular-rebirth-of-balsams-grand-resort
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