Les Otten

The issue of whether the Coos County Planning Board is moving quickly enough as it considers the renovation of the shuttered Balsams resort came up Wednesday night in Colebrook and in contrast to the board's normal, civil demeanor there were sharp and angry words.

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.

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 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.”

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.

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?

Chris Jensen for NHPR

In a move that would be good for the region’s wood-based economy Maine Energy Systems of Bethel, Maine plans to start building automated, wood-pellet boilers in the United States instead of importing them from Europe, says Les Otten, founder and chief executive officer.

“We will do the majority of the manufacture and assembly in the United States,” he told NHPR. “There is no reason we can’t be competitive globally.”