County Planners Approve Balsams Requests

Balsams developer Ed Brisson shows Coos County planners the plan for the Lake Gloriette House during a public hearing Wednesday. The goal, he said, is to finish much of the Phase 1 construction by 2019. (Photo by Robert Blechl)

LANCASTER - Traffic impacts, storm water runoff, where to put the snow.

Tedious, laborious, but necessary stuff that must be determined and approved by Coos County planners if the county is to see a revitalized economy, one that right now is hinging on the redevelopment of The Balsams.

On Wednesday, Coos County planners went through a long list of Balsams-related requests and approved an amendment to the Hampshire-Dix House subdivision, accepted an application for a subdivision at the Lake Gloriette House, approved a merger of tax parcels, and plowed most of the way through a public hearing on the site plan for the Lake Gloriette House.

It’s been about a year before developers went before planners, and when they did Wednesday, the Lake Gloriette House, a roughly $50 million project in itself, took center stage.

While some approvals still remain, and other applications for the multi-phase project in the unincorporated place of Dixville have not yet been submitted, developers are hoping the approvals on Wednesday and the others in September will allow will put them on the road to beginning construction in earnest in October.

“The vast majority of everything we’re proposing would be completed in 2019,” Balsams developer Ed Brisson told county planners.

The board gave the green light to a minor lot line adjustment to the site plan and subdivision for the Hampshire-Dix House - a revamped structure that will connect the resort’s historic Hampshire and Dix houses - that were approved last year.

Also approved for completeness was application for a 3.44-acre subdivision at the Lake Gloriette House, part of a total 39-acre site plan for the Lake Gloriette structure, which, like the Hampshire-Dix House, is planned to be a condominium-hotel.

The subdivision will accommodate the Lake Gloriette building, which will have about 200 rooms, and the site plan covers the building, large front lawn, plaza, parking, and Spur Road, said Brisson.

The plan also has upgrades to water and sewer systems and storm drainage.

“These plans are really setting the stage for all future development in terms of infrastructure,” said Brisson.

The scope of the project is immense compared to previous ones that have come before planners. The state is also involved.

Under review by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services is a wastewater treatment plant that would sit about 1,800 feet from the Lake Gloriette House.

The Lake Gloriette plan also includes rebuilding the fire suppression system, a project that in itself involves regular meetings with state fire marshal representatives to ensure state life-safety standards will be met.

Although Brisson had been hoping for all approvals in one evening, planners continued the Lake Gloriette House public hearing and held off on site plan approval because they first want to see a traffic impact study to be provided by the developers’ traffic engineer as well as zoning boundaries and other items.

The hearing for the Lake Gloriette House is scheduled to resume Sept. 13 in Colebrook, though an exact location in the town has not yet been determined.

Although Wednesday’s hearing was in Lancaster, Coos County Planning Board Chairman John Scarinza said any major changes to the components of the project that will require public hearings will be held in Colebrook, which is much closer to Dixville and the residents who live near the proposed redevelopment.

“It’s been a long time since there’s been any activity so there’s going to be a lot of interest,” said Coos County Planning Board member Rick Tillotson.

By early spring, site plan applications for the marketplace as well as the Nordic baths are expected to be submitted, said Brisson.

A site plan application for an expansion Wilderness Ski Area is also expected to be submitted in the future.

A critical piece of funding in the total estimated $165 million first-phase package is a $28 million state-guaranteed loan that would be approved by the N.H. Business Finance Authority, which would issue a bond that a bank would buy and the state would guarantee.

As of Thursday, the BFA had not yet received the feasibility report and appraisal, to be submitted by Northern Bank and Trust, of Massachusetts, The Balsams’ chief lender, that it needs to review before authorizing the $28 million in bonds.

In addition to the BFA, the N.H. Executive Council would also need to sign off on the state loan guarantee, making for a process that could take an upward of two months.

Brisson said, “We’re trying to get all the pieces together so we can get in the ground in October.”

Developers are aiming for a 2018-2019 reopening of The Balsams.

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