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.

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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.

The Balsams resort is temporarily closed but next Tuesday residents of Dixville Notch still plan on being the first voters in the nation.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

Just at midnight, while sensible people are sleeping, folks from Dixville Notch will be voting.

But for the first time since 1960 they won’t be at the Balsams resort.

It’s closed for a renovation.

Instead they will gather at a nearby ski lodge, says Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for the resort.

Chris Jensen / NHPR

The new owners of the Balsams are still looking for financing and the renovation of the resort is months behind.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

Earlier this year the Balsams owners were seeking historic tax credits as one of several ways to attract investors.

The credits are available for the renovation of certified historic properties – like the Balsams.

But owners Dan Dagesse and Dan Hebert are dropping that idea, says Balsams’ spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne.

The reason is a plan to tear down  some parts of the Balsams complex.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The Colebrook Planning Board Tuesday night removed what the new owners of the Balsams Grand Resort have said was an impediment to the redevelopment needed to allow hundreds of people to get back to work.

In some good news for the North Country an old family business is coming back to life.  NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

Starting in 1931 Neil Tillotson made his fortune manufacturing natural latex products including balloons and later gloves.

That allowed him to purchase the Balsams Grand Resort.

Tillotson died in 2001 and a  latex plant located near the resort closed in 2010.

But Tillotson’s son, Rick, purchased the equipment and recently bought a 103,000 square foot building in Colebrook.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The walls and the hallways are largely empty today in one of New Hampshire’s oldest and grandest hotels.  As part of the plan to rebuild and renovate the Balsams Grand Resort in Dixville Notch, the hotel’s new owners auctioned off many items this past Saturday.  The goal was to sell everything but photos and items of historical significance. 

The Colebrook Planning Board has called a special meeting May 22 to try and resolve an issue the new owners of the Balsams Grand Resort say is delaying its renovation.

The owners,  Dan Dagesse and Dan Hebert, are asking the Planning Board to approve a subdivision that would separate a 28-acre parcel from the roughly 1,000 acres that currently includes the hotel, grounds and golf course.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

The new owners of the Balsams Grand Resort in Dixville Notch are planning a huge renovation.

But before that can happen there is a lot of stuff they need to get rid of from a ski lift to pots and pans and that means an auction.

 

The new owners of the closed Balsams resort in Dixville Notch are moving ahead with plans to renovate the North Country resort.

NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

Improvements at the Balsams resort will include a new conference center, spa, pool house and suites near the Hampshire House.

That’s according to the web site of Summit Engineering of Portsmouth which says the firm has been chosen to handle the structural engineering.

The new owners of the Balsams resort in Dixville Notch are pulling together the money they need for a massive renovation. And, they hope federal programs will give them a big boost. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.

Late last year North-Country businessmen Dan Herbert and Dan Dagesse bought the Balsams Grand Resort in Dixville Notch for about $2.3 million.

Now they are looking for the money they need for an extensive renovation.

It is badly needed to make the resort competitive, get it open again and put hundreds of people back to work.

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