Balsams' Bill Gets Big Boost By House Committee

Apr 30, 2015

The resort has been closed since 2011.
Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

A bill that opens the door to a state-backed loan to the developer of the Balsams Resort got a big boost Thursday when the House of Representatives Finance Committee unanimously voted it ought to pass. That allows it to go before the full House.

“I hope the House will see it as the great economic development tool that the Finance Committee did,” said Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, a Democrat from Nashua, who is on the committee.

The bill allows the formation of a tax district in the unincorporated area around the closed Balsams Resort.

That’s needed so the state’s Business Finance Authority can consider whether to put a state guarantee behind a $28 commercial million loan to developer Les Otten.

Otten insists that he needs that $28 million to complete the financing on the project, enthusiastically described by state economic development officials as necessary to give the North Country a huge economic boost.

Developer Les Otten.
Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

The bill – Senate Bill 30 – has been before the House Finance Committee where some members had seemed skeptical of whether the state might lose the $28 million.

“I think there was some misunderstanding in the beginning,” said Rosenwald.

She said the committee concluded the bill is just giving unincorporated areas the same right as towns and cities. 

“So, we are setting a level playing field,” she said.

The bill alone does not promise any financing.

Rosenwald said the bill could go before the full House next week.

But if it passes it still needs final approval by the Senate and Gov. Hassan.

Then it would go before the Business Finance Authority, which will make the decision on whether the state should back the loan.

“Like life in the North Country, this bill has had its challenges and obstacles, but today we have a stronger bill. This bill sets the North Country on a path to economic investment and recovery," said Senator Jeff Woodburn, a Democrat who represents the North Country and originally sponsored the bill.

Developer Otten has said he hopes to begin construction in June but planning officials in Coos County haven't yet seen formal plans. 

Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for Otten's development group, said the unanimous 22 - 0 vote "is a strong show of support and we look forward to the next step."