Balsams Resort

The Associated Press


Developers say a shuttered New Hampshire resort where the nation's first presidential primary ballots have been traditionally cast will once against host midnight voting in 2016.

The nearly 150-year-old Balsams resort in Dixville Notch closed in September 2011, and its new owners are still waiting for permits for their extensive restoration plans.

Project spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne says the goal is to have a portion of the resort's Dix House ready for the February primary, but voting also could be held in another building on the property.

Dixville Capital

More details on the proposed redevelopment of the Balsams Resort in the North Country are available as developers seek a zoning change in the North Country.

The new Balsams resort would start with 4,600 “dwelling units” ranging from hotel rooms to condos.

Its core would be called the Balsams Lake Village and would be anchored around the historic Dix and Hampshire houses, which would be “largely preserved.” The village would include shops and restaurants.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The resurrection of the closed Balsams Resort in the North Country got past a critical hurdle Thursday as state officials approved a request to take water from the Androscoggin River for snowmaking.

The Department of Environmental Services report said the Balsams’ developers could take about 22 million gallons of water a day and pump it about nine miles to the resort.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Balsams resort developer Les Otten said Wednesday night that he is more confident that the ambitious project portrayed as providing a huge economic boost to the North Country will move forward...

And, he said he hopes construction will begin before the end of the year.

Otten appeared in Colebrook to update the Coos County Planning Board on the project and answer questions from about five dozen people in the audience.

Paige Sutherland for NHPR

Governor Maggie Hassan has signed into law a bill that allows the state to back $28 million in bonds to help pay for the redevelopment of the Balsams.

The resort closed in 2011.  And Hassan says re-opening it is worth the state’s investment.

“It is so important that we find a way to redevelop the Balsams it has been such an anchor for the economy up there, and that of course has a ripple effect for the whole state."

The state-backed bond will help Maine businessman Les Otten fund the $143 million he estimates is needed to reopen the Dixville Notch resort.

Chris Jensen for NHPR


Gov. Maggie Hassan is going to sign a bill opening the way for a Maine businessman's plan to restore a historic resort in the economically distressed North Country.

Hassan is scheduled to sign the bill Wednesday that creates a special taxing district allowing the state to back $28 million in bonds toward redeveloping the Balsams, which closed in 2011.

Les Otten is seeking the state-backed bond to help finance the $143 million project that would reopen the Dixville Notch resort where the first presidential ballots are traditionally cast.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The N.H. House has approved a bill that would allow a state-backed $28 million loan to the developer of the now-closed Balsams resort.

North Country legislators including Bill Hatch, a Democrat from Gorham, urged its passage.

“Please know that we are in dire need of any kind of economic development.”

Senate Bill 30 allows an unincorporated area – such as that around the Balsams - to become a tax district.

That alone doesn’t provide any money to the Balsams.

Chris Jensen, NHPR


New Hampshire's House of Representatives is considering a bill that would pave the way for an ambitious plan to restore a faded North Country resort.

The bill would create a special taxing district allowing the state to back $28 million in bonds toward redeveloping the Balsams, which closed in 2011.

Maine businessman Les Otten is seeking the state-backed bond to help finance the $143 million Balsams project.

The bill has passed the Senate; the House considers it Wednesday.

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.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Those who want to revive the Balsams resort went before the House Finance Committee Tuesday arguing in favor of a $28 million state-backed loan for developer Les Otten. And to nobody’s surprise the hearing was packed with supporters...

Many came down from the North Country, thrilled with the possibility of a huge economic boost and supporters included Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, who represents the North Country.

“This project is so important to the North Country you couldn’t believe it.”

Chris Jensen, NHPR


A House committee is set to take up a measure that would help an ambitious plan to redevelop the shuttered Balsams resort.

The bill being considered Tuesday would allow creation of a special taxing district required for the state to back $28 million in loans for the project.

The Senate already passed the bill.

Maine businessman Les Otten wants to turn the Balsams into a four-season destination. Located in Dixville Notch, the Balsams closed in 2010 after about 150 years and took with it hundreds of jobs in a region that has struggled to create or keep jobs.

Withdrawing water from the Androscoggin River to provide snowmaking for the Balsams resort would adversely affect 15 hydro-electric facilities downstream, the Brookfield Renewable Energy Group says in a filing with the state’s Department of Environmental Services.

And, Brookfield can’t support the project unless there is a guarantee that the developers of the Balsams will compensate it for any lost revenues, according to a letter sent to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Two environmental groups say they support the redevelopment of the Balsams resort, but more information is needed before the state gives its approval to water being taken from the Androscoggin River for snowmaking.

A key part of developer Les Otten’s redevelopment plan is greatly expanding the ski slopes but the extra snowmaking will require pumping water from the river about 10 miles to Dixville.

Taking that water requires the approval of the state’s Department of Environmental Services. The deadline for filing public comments on that request was last week. 

Chris Jensen for NHPR

Governor Maggie Hassan was in the North Country Saturday and heard from roughly a half dozen local business owners who said they need the Balsams resort to reopen for their businesses to survive.

And, they also wanted the Democratic governor to somehow get the Republican controlled House and Senate to support the redevelopment of the Balsams.

Listen to the broadcast versions of this story:

One of the people she heard from was Mark Decareau, who five years ago bought the Diamond Peaks Motel & Store on Route 26 in Colebrook, where Hassan met the crowd.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

A Senate Committee Wednesday sidelined a bill designed to provide state backing for a $28 million loan to the developers of the Balsams Resort. But developer Les Otten says he still hopes to begin construction in June.

The legislation is Senate Bill 30 and it would have provided a state guarantee for a $28 million bond to help Otten’s Dixville Capital LLC renovate and expand the Balsams resort.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The reopening and expansion of the Balsams resort would reverse more than a decade of declining wages and employment in Coos County, according to a new 25-page economic impact study by PolEcon Research of Dover.

It was commissioned by the developer, Dixville Capital LLC, headed by Maine entrepreneur Les Otten.

PolEcon said it had “full independence” from Dixville Capital and used “conservative” assumptions.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The developers of the Balsams resort hope to begin construction in June for what could be the largest economic development project in the history of the job-poor North Country. But the go-ahead depends on passage of Senate Bill 30 which would put a state guarantee behind $28 million in bonds, the developers say.

Chris Jensen for NHPR


  The developers of the Balsams will go before the Coos County Planning Board next Thursday to provide some new details of the planned $130 million renovation.

 “Since Les Otten and his team has come in the scope and the vision of the project has expanded greatly. So, we need to go back to the county planning board and formally re-introduce the project," said Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for the developers including owners Dan  Hebert and Dan Dagresse who have been working with ski developer Les Otten.

In what is being described as progress in the $100 million renovation of the closed Balsams resort, its owners are asking state officials for permission to take water from the Androscoggin River for expanded snowmaking.

“The fact that we have submitted an application to withdraw water for our snowmaking operation is a significant step forward for the project,” said Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for developers, Dan Hebert, Dan Dagesse and Maine businessman Les Otten.

If Maine entrepreneur Les Otten can expand the ski area of the closed Balsams resort he says it would create about 1,000 full or part-time jobs.

That’s something the region desperately needs. But it isn’t clear whether Otten has the money or can work through a regulatory tangle including safety issues.

The issue is being raised after Otten said he would like to work with Dan Hebert and Dan Dagesse, the owners of the closed resort.

One issue is a safety concern. Can the huge blades on the 410-foot tall turbines throw chunks of ice far enough to endanger skiers?


The company that owns the wind farm near the Balsams is open to reducing the buffer zone between its wind turbines and the slopes, a key to a developer’s plan to  greatly expand  the size of the ski resort.

"As long as it is safe, we have no problems," Brookfield Renewable Power lawyer Harold Pachios said late Monday.

Maine entrepreneur Les Otten would like to quadruple the size of the Balsams ski area and reopen the hotel.

But Otten’s plan to make the ski runs longer requires skiers to get closer to the tops of mountains where the wind farm has turbines.

Coos County commissioner Paul Grenier says there are plans to convert the Balsams into a huge ski resort.

More than two years ago the Balsams closed, putting about 300 full and part-time employees out of work.

But now Les Otten, a Maine businessman and former owner of the American Skiing Company, is working on reopening the Balsams.  He says he has an agreement with the resort’s two owners, Dan Hebert and Dan Dagesse.

Another effort to obtain financing for the renovation of the Balsams resort has fallen through.

The owners of the Balsams resort in Dixville Notch have run into another problem coming up with the $30 million needed to renovate the closed resort and put as many as 300 full or part-time employees back to work.

Owners Dan Hebert and Dan Dagesse hoped to use federally backed New Market Tax Credits to attract some investors.

But that has fallen through with a deadline being missed, says spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne.

Working largely on what amounts to the honor system state officials say they have decided state air pollution standards were not violated in a fire last January when two buildings at the Balsams resort were burned down as part of a renovation.

Courtesy of the owners

When the $30 million renovation of the Balsams Grand Resort is complete it will look a lot like the old grand hotel but will feature much-needed modern amenities making it far nicer for guests and a lot  cheaper to operate.

That’s how Dan Hebert, one of the two owners, described the renovation Tuesday night before the Coos County Planning Board.

Originally the complex had about 400,000 square feet.

Hebert said about 123,000 of that is being retained. About 80,000 square feet will be added.

The Department of Environmental Services is investigating whether any air-protection measures were violated when several buildings at the Balsams were burned down as part of a renovation.

The fires took place on January 6th and destroyed a large dormitory and a second building once used to produce rubber and latex products.

Three North Country fire departments used the burn as a training exercise.

The fire also saved money for the new owners who wanted to demolish the buildings as part of a planned renovation.

The owners of the closed Balsams Grand Resort in Dixville Notch are playing beat the clock to get an important part of the financing they need to renovate and reopen the resort.

Back in the 1950s, at a plant near the Balsams hotel, the Neil Tillotson family was producing products like balloons, latex gloves and disposable plastic eyedroppers. 

But a little more than two years ago, the Dixville Notch plant was forced to shut down when the Tillotson Corporation prepared to sell its Balsams resort.

But now Rick Tillotson, one of the sons of the plant’s original owner, is opening a new 100,000-square foot plant in nearby Colebrook to produce some of the same items.

Tillotson says it’s a dream he’s had since the  plant closed.

Chris Jensen / NHPR

A judge in Merrimack Superior Court has dismissed a suit that the owners of the Balsams Grand Resort in Dixville Notch said was holding up its re-opening.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

The suit was filed by Andy Martin, a self-described public-interest advocate and corruption fighter.

Martin claimed the sale was “committed fraudulently.”

Among those sued were the new owners, Danny Dagesse and Dan Hebert, the town of Colebrook and the New Hampshire attorney general.