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Mt. Sunapee lease changes withdrawn for now, DNCR authority questioned

Listen to the Mount Sunapee discussion before the Governor and Council on October 31 via NCTV Online starting at 1: 17 in the video.

Last Wednesday (Oct. 31, 2108) Governor Sununu announced that the proposed lease changes for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park were removed from the Executive Council agenda and will return before the Council “in a slightly different form in a couple of weeks.”

Additionally, on October 31, Councilor Russell Prescott, questioned the authority of the Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) to oversee the operating lease at Mount Sunapee and cited a statutory requirement. Prescott pointed to the law (RSA 12-A, 29-a), which requires a commission to administer the lease.

Listen to the Mount Sunapee discussion before the Governor and Council on October 31 via Newport Community TV Online, starting at 1: 17 in the video.

An advisory commission is the subject of the third of three contract revisions being sought the Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources.

The legislature called for a commission to administer and oversee the ski area lease, not to advise, Prescott asserted.

The West Bowl and other lease issues are mute “if we haven’t gotten to the crux of who is in charge. The public, I think, is not being served when the law is not being adhered to. The commission was supposed to oversee and administer the lease,” Prescott said.

MacDonald stated that the existing operating lease now makes “no attempt” to meet the statuary requirements of RSA 12-A. The submitted change is “progress from where we were” the Attorney General asserted.

Upon further questioning, MacDonald conceded, “it was as far as we could get with Vail.”

Director Phil Byrce (NH Parks and Recreation) maintained that the Department meets the intent of the law by engaging an “advisory’ committee.

However, Prescott further questioned the legality of negotiating the law and a lease amendment that falls short of a legislative mandate. He pressed the Attorney General to revisit the issue.

From 1998 to now, an administration and oversight commission was to be the authority managing the lease, Prescott said.

The lease amendments are the result of negotiation by the State with the new lessee, Vail Resorts. Vail took over the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee in late September.

Mt. Sunapee Side Agreement

A side agreement between DNCR and Vail shows the specific contract changes proposed by DNCR. The arrangement however also appears to limit DNCR in re-negotiating with Vail as long as the agreement is in effect. 

See DNCR Vail Side Agreement 2018Sept26 (pdf).

What next?

The Executive Council will likely reconsider three changes to the State contract with Vail as separate amendments on November 14.

Listen to the Mount Sunapee discussion before the Governor and Council on October 31 via Newport Community TV Online, starting at 1: 17 in the video.

Or download and listen to an audio recording of the Mount Sunapee discussion of Governor and Council on October 31, 2108 (MP3 file, 10 min).

 

Background info

The Council tabled three proposed ski area lease changes, including a West Bowl amendment, on October 17. A public information session to address Councilor questions followed on  October 23.

See FOMS library of related documents.

re RSA 12-A, 29-a (Lease Agreement Terms)  V. (a) The role of the state in the on-going lease of the ski areas, including the state’s regulatory authority and power. (b) The establishment of a prototype commission to oversee and administer the lease. (c) The operational responsibilities remaining with the state and how these responsibilities would interact with the lessee’s responsibilities.

FOMS Enews: Action alert to send Mt. Sunapee comments

Sign up to get FOMS updates via our Contact Form.

Here is a link to FOMS October 29 action alert.

FOMS ENews October 29, 2108

The controversial West Bowl amendment is back before the Governor and Council. On Wednesday, October 31, the Executive Council will take up three changes to the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park including a West Bowl amendment. Read more…

 

 

Video: Councilors question Mt. Sunapee lease amendments at info session

Last week the NH Executive Council held an informational meeting on the proposed lease amendments for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park. The session was held on October 23, 2018, at the State House in Concord.

View via Newport Community TV Online.

The video starts with Councilors Russell Prescott and Andru Volinksy speaking with Forest Society representative Will Abbott. To hear the earlier discussion, see FOMS prior post for an audio recording of the meeting.

Meeting participants included Commissioner Sarah Stewart (Department of Natural and Cultural Resources), Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Senior Assistant Attorney General Dianne Martin, Sabrina Stanwood (Natural Heritage Bureau) and Will Abbott (Forest Society).

An audio recording of the meeting and more info including how to contact Executive Council members is available via FOMS prior post.

Audio: Councilors question Mt. Sunapee West Bowl and other lease changes

The Executive Council held a public meeting on October 23 to get more information about three proposed amendments to the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park. Listen to the discussion via Google Drive Share, download MP3:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1B6VA4NjriHejrG65C0WWR84weD0-5yNb/view?usp=sharing

Two of the five councilors, Russell Prescott and Andru Volinsky, attended and asked questions on Tuesday.

Meeting participants included Commissioner Sarah Stewart (Department of Natural and Cultural Resources), Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Senior Assistant Attorney General Dianne Martin, Sabrina Stanwood (Natural Heritage Bureau) and Will Abbott (Forest Society).

When Governor and Council met on October 17, the councilors voted 5-0 to table the proposed Mount Sunapee lease changes to allow time to get more information and consider the DNCR request.

The Council will take action on the West Bowl and other lease amendments when it next meets on October 31.

Friends of Mount Sunapee opposes the West Bowl amendment and seeks an Administration Commission to oversee the ski area lease, as called for by law.

See FOMS recent alert.

Now is the time to call or email Executive Council members:

District 1 – Councilor Joseph D. Kenney
District 2 – Councilor Andru Volinsky
District 3 – Councilor Russell E. Prescott
District 4 – Councilor Christopher C. Pappas
District 5 – Councilor David K. Wheeler

West Bowl Amendment

The most controversial lease amendment would extend to Vail the West Bowl expansion option, although Vail has yet to disclose any ski area development plans within or outside the existing leasehold area. Vail assumed the Mount Sunapee ski area lease and operations last month.

The West Bowl amendment would enable resort and real estate development on land adjoining Mount Sunapee State Park. The expansion plan would allow for extending the park boundary while supporting the build out on private property held or assigned by Vail. The private development would retain perpetual easements and access to the State Park, according to the proposed lease amendment.

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Councilors want more info on Mt. Sunapee lease amendments – audio 10.17.2018

Here is the audio of the Executive Council discussion on Oct. 17, 2018, about Mount Sunapee and the proposed lease amendments. (eight minutes, mp3)

 

Last week, the Executive Council voted 5-0 to table lease amendments for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park. The councilors asked for more information and time before deciding on three lease changes, including a West Bowl amendment.

Vail Resorts took over the lease and operations of the state-owned ski area last month.

Executive Council Public Notice 10.23.2018

Executive Council Mount Sunapee meeting Oct. 23

The council will hold an information meeting on Tues., Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. at the State House (Executive Council Chambers). The meeting is open to the public. Click on the public notice (to the left).

Questions and comments about Mount Sunapee

It is essential to contact the Executive Council members with your questions and comments on the lease changes proposed for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park.

We welcome your comments and questions, as well. See FOMS contact page.

See FOMS prior post for more info.

 

 

Councilors table Mt. Sunapee vote and seek more info

DNCR seeks a West Bowl amendment. A Mount Sunapee ski area lease change is required for Vail to assume the West Bowl lease terms granted to the prior operator. Photo: Mount Sunapee’s western slopes viewed from Gunnison Lake, Goshen, NH.

On Wednesday, the New Hampshire Executive Council requested an information session before voting on amendments to the ski area lease at Mount Sunapee State Park.

View or hear the Council’s Mount Sunapee discussion (Oct. 17, 2018) via Newport Community TV Online. (The Sunapee discussion starts at 1:22.)

Listen to an eight-minute audio clip (mp3) of the Mount Sunapee discussion:

 

Commissioner Sarah Stewart, of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR), was before the Governor and Council on October 17 to request changes to the operating lease now held by Vail Resorts.

Vail assumed the Mount Sunapee ski area lease on September 27, 2018, a day after Stewart announced the Department’s approval of the lease transfer to Vail.

Mount Sunapee lease amendments

As a result of the State’s lease review process, DNCR came forward with three lease amendments, which Vail agreed with, according to Stewart. Lease amendments require Governor and Council approval.

DNCR seeks a West Bowl amendment. Vail needs a lease change to assume the 2016 West Bowl lease terms granted to the prior operator and DNCR wants to extend to Vail the West Bowl expansion option. The lease revisions of 2016, which enabled resort and real estate development of Mount Sunapee’s western slopes, became null and void when Vail acquired The Sunapee Difference.

The other lease changes relate to adding “change of control language” that “broadens the state’s authority to approve the assignment or transfer of the lease” and “updating the lease to include a reference to a Mount Sunapee Advisory Commission,” Stewart explained in September.

Vail closed its deal in September to purchase Triple Peak LLC, the parent company of the Muellers’ ski area holdings in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Colorado. Vail now owns The Sunapee Difference, which operates Mount Sunapee Resort.

For more information

The councilors’ information session, although open to the public, will not provide for public participation. The Council will post the date of the information meeting on the EC website.

Now is the time to bring all interested parties together to protect the “West Bowl” expansion parcels,  land conservation that precludes resort and real estate development and honors the intent of the original lease and leasehold area. We continue to oppose the West Bowl expansion for environmental and public policy reasons. Furthermore, we believe the current lease oversight process and governing documents are insufficient to protect the State’s financial interest and the public trust.

Share your comments and questions with the Executive Council.

To share info with FOMS, see our Contact Page.

Update: The councilors’ information meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, at 1 p.m., at the State House in the Executive Council Chambers. The meeting is open to the public. See the notice.

DNCR announces Sunapee lease transfer and amendments

Read FOMS latest Enews

The state-owned ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park recently took another significant turn.

Commissioner Sarah Stewart of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) consented to a lease transfer request that allows industry giant Vail Resorts to take over the lease and operations of the Mount Sunapee ski area.

Proposed lease amendments accompanied the announcement and will go to the Governor and the Executive Council this month.

The commissioner delivered the decision at a public meeting at the park on September 26. View the meeting and lease amendment discussion via Newport Community TV Online.

DNCR proposed lease revisions to:

  1. Extend to Vail Resorts the 2016 lease amendment that enables resort development of the West Bowl.
  2. Add a “change in control provision.”
  3. Reference an advisory commission.

Read more…

 

 

Cardigan Highlanders trail work on Mt. Sunapee set for Sat., Oct. 6

The Cardigan Highlanders Volunteer Trail Crew (CHVTC) will be on Mount Sunapee this weekend and welcomes help with the trail work at hand.

On Saturday, October 6, the trail crew will meet at Mount Sunapee State Park, ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain, and then descend the Summit Trail to work on drainage dips.

“We hope and expect to stop when we reach the fixtures we built in our earlier five days of work there this season, then hike downhill to our cars and refreshments,” said crew leader Craig Sanborn.

The Summit Trail is a popular public hiking trail on Mount Sunapee. This job is necessary for the health of the trail, explained Sanborn. Other trail work will continue on Sunday or Monday on the Newbury Trail.

On Friday, the trail crew will be on Mount Kearsarge, the Rollins Trail.

The gear needed: leather boots, long pants, and BYO work gloves or gloves will be provided. Food, water, and supplies for all day in the forecasted weather, dry and 50s.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Craig Sanborn, email: crgsnbrn@yahoo.com.

The Cardigan Highlanders is a non-profit organization recruiting new trail workers and support. It has been doing trail work on Mount Sunapee and Mount Cardigan since 1985. See the Cardigan Highlanders website.

DNCR to announce Mount Sunapee lease decision at Sept. 26 meeting

Special Alert: Mount Sunapee State Park Public Information Session – Wednesday, September 26 (6 pm) at Mount Sunapee State Park (Sunapee Lodge), Route 103, Newbury, N.H.

New Hampshire DNCR Commissioner Sarah Stewart (Department of Natural and Cultural Resources) will announce her decision on the Mount Sunapee ski area lease assignment to Vail Resorts at a public meeting on Wed., Sept. 26, 2018.

We encourage the public to attend this important meeting. There will be an opportunity for public comment and questions.

Per the DNCR release: “The Department has received a request to consent to the assignment of the lease to The Sunapee Difference, LLC, which will be indirectly owned by VR NE Holdings, LLC, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc. (“Vail”). After careful consideration of public comments and working with the Attorney General’s Office, Commissioner Sarah Stewart will release the decision on the proposed transfer and details related to the decision.”

DNCR will post the decision and related documents on its website after announcing its decision on September 26.

NH State Parks posted on Monday additional materials about the potential lease assignment. We’ve added these documents to FOMS website:

Background
In June 2018, Vail Resorts announced that it was seeking to acquire the ski area lease and operations at Mount Sunapee.

The September 26 meeting will be the second information session in two months on the Triple Peaks sale to Vail Resorts. On July 25, Commissioner Stewart and N.H. Attorney General Gordon MacDonald hosted a session that included remarks by Tim and Diane Mueller (current operator/Triple Peaks), a presentation by Vail representatives, and public comment.

View the July 2018 Mount Sunapee State Park information session via Newport Community TV.

FOMS advocates for diligent and transparent management of the state-owned ski area. We seek public policy and process decisions that restore public trust and honor the original intent of leasing a significant portion of our iconic state park to a private operator.

“New Hampshire citizens look to the State to exercise vigorous oversight and defend the public trust, no matter the operator or leaseholder at Mount Sunapee State Park. We also look to lessees at the park for leadership and operational and development plans that reflect local concerns and interests and respect our state park’s public values and the RSAs that protect our parks and natural heritage.” – Friends of Mount Sunapee, at the July 25 Mount Sunapee State Park Information Session.

FOMS Mount Sunapee submitted comments called for:

  • A “public hearing” to review the lease transfer request
  • Immediate formation of an Oversight and Administration Commission to manage the lease
  • An independent financial and operational audit of lessees to ensure lease compliance
  • Protection of the 484-acre exemplary forest within the State Park
  • Permanent protection of Mount Sunapee’s western slopes from resort development, land conservation that respects the original leasehold area.
  • Compliance with signage and advertising requirements to indicate state (public) ownership of the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park.

See FOMS comments, August 6, 2018.

See Vail’s June 4, 2018, announcement.

Join us on Wed., Sept. 26 at Mount Sunapee State Park
The upcoming public info session will help give insight into the potential changes coming to the ski area and Mount Sunapee State Park and possible future impacts to our local communities and region.

Birds of Wendell Marsh South slideshow and hike on Aug. 30

Birds of Wendell Marsh South, a slideshow and hike led by Steve Hale of Open Word Explorers, will be held on Thursday, August 30, in Sunapee. The presentation starts at 5:30 pm at the Abbott Library. A hike of Wendell Marsh South follows at 7:00 pm. The program sponsors are the Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust and Abbott Library. For sign up information, visit Abbott Library. RSVP by August 28.

Land protection: Wendell Marsh in Sunapee

The protection of the Wendell Marsh area in Sunapee has been a focus of the conservation efforts for many years. Earlier this summer (June 2018), the Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust announced that 40 acres of undeveloped land, which includes a significant portion of the marsh habitat, had been preserved.

NH Fish and Game began the conservation efforts in this area in the 1960’s. They protected the 10-acre Wendell Marsh Wildlife Area, identified as a high priority for conservation by the Town of Sunapee due to its pristine wetland habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, and other wildlife, as well as for water quality protection.

In 2013 Ausbon Sargent partnered with the Town of Sunapee’s Conservation Commission to protect 136 acres (Wendell Marsh North) followed, in 2015, with an additional 143 acres (Wendell Marsh South.) Read more…

 

Copyright 2018 Friends of Mount Sunapee