Archive | Public Policy

Protect Our Winters comes to NH

Protect Our Winters is coming to New Hampshire.

POW, an international group of outdoor enthusiasts and climate activists, will work this year in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.

We’re coming to you [New Hampshire] this year to get to know your community and learn about all of the great outdoor opportunities your state has to offer,” wrote Anja Semanco for POW. “Nearly 70 percent of New Hampshire residents participate in outdoor recreation every year. With an $8.7 billion outdoor rec economy, it’s time to talk climate change and take climate action.”

Read the POW blog post “What we’re working on in 2019” via https://protectourwinters.org/what-were-working-on-in-2019/

If you are a climate activist or want to join a local climate action group, we’d like to hear from you.

CONTACT FOMS

Annual plan for Mount Sunapee ski area due May 15

The Annual Operating Plan (AOP) for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park is due on or before May 15th. This will be the first annual plan submitted to the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) by Vail Resorts.

May 20, 2019, update: Here is the Annual Operating Plan 2019-2020 (pdf 13 MB.

Vail acquired the Mount Sunapee ski area lease and operations in September 2018.

In the annual plan, the operator of the ski area describes maintenance and capital improvement projects proposed for the coming year. The plan also gives an update on previously approved projects and reports on past year activities, including skier visit.

Before Commissioner Sarah Stewart (of DNCR) issues a written response to the Vail, we expect the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee will hold a public meeting.

Update: The Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee will meet on Wed., May 29 at 10 a.m. at Veterans Hall, 944 Route 103, Newbury.

At that meeting, which is held in Newbury, the operator presents the plan. Advisory committee members have a chance to ask questions and provide comment. And there is usually an opportunity for public comment.

When the AOP is available, FOMS will post it to Latest News. And we will also post the advisory committee meeting date and agenda when available.

If you can assist the FOMS Public Policy Committee in reviewing the ski area plan, please contact us.

Ski area plans

See FOMS on-line library for the current annual operating plan and the public oversight policy. The oversight policy intends to guide the public process in the consideration of annual and five-year plans for the state-owned ski area.

For ski area projects approved in the current five-year master plan, see our State Park Management and Policies page. The Master Development Plan and Environmental Management Plan (2016-2020) is available here.

The public oversight policy for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park states:

The Annual Operating Plan (AOP) will be subject to the following standards:

•  The AOP shall allow public access to the leased premises for recreational and park activities.
•  The AOP shall be submitted on or before May 15 of each year.
•  DNCR shall require the AOP to be submitted to the Mount Sunapee Ski Area Advisory Committee and the Town of Newbury for review.
•  The AOP shall describe in detail the following:

a) Types of recreational activities available to the public
b) Ski lift operations
c) Snowmaking and grooming operations
d) Ski support services
e) Maintenance procedures
f) Security procedures
g) Emergency operating plan
h) Status of special use permits and leases
i) Marketing and advertising
j) Environmental management program
k) Signage
l) Utilities and roads
m) Implementation of MDP site improvements (after approval)

• DNCR shall notify the Operator in writing of a final schedule of operation no later than June 30th of each year.

 

 

Executive Council defers vote on Vail Sunapee contract changes

The Executive Council on Dec. 5 voted to delay a vote on three changes to the Mount Sunapee area ski contract with Vail Resorts. The Governor and Council (G&C) next meet on Dec. 19 at the State House in Concord.

The amendments to the operating contract between the State and Vail include the controversial West Bowl expansion. The three provisions sent to G&C are significant and govern: 

  1. Change of control regarding the assignment, transfer, and sale of the equity interest
  2. West Bowl development
  3. Mount Sunapee Advisory Commission

You will find the amendments below. And you can listen to the Mount Sunapee discussion of Governor and Council via this audio clip (MP3 download).

 

To view a video of the G&C meeting, go to Newport Community TV Online. The Mount Sunapee exchange starts at 1:11.

For more about the Vail contract changes, see:

See Amendments A, B, and C here:

  1. DNCR Late Item A Change of Control 2018Dec (pdf 3MB)
  2. DNCR Late Item B West Bowl 2018Dec (pdf 3MB)
  3. DNCR Late Item C Advisory Comm 2018Dec (pdf 3MB )

Governor Sununu added Mount Sunapee amendments A, B, and C to the Dec. 5 agenda as a late item, which precluded public review and comments on the specific provisions presented. The Secretary of State does not release and post ‘late items’ before the meeting.

Friends of Mount Sunapee believes the policy-making process that determines the future use and development of our State Park must be transparent and accountable and provide for meaningful citizen participation.

 

 

The three Mt. Sunapee contract changes and what next

The Friends of Mount Sunapee (FOMS) believes the owners of the state park, the people of New Hampshire, should have an integral role in guiding the future of their mountain park. However, it is no simple matter. Complex agreements govern the management and development of the state-owned ski area, which now has a new operator, industry giant Vail Resorts. 

In October, the Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources  (DNCR) asked the Governor and Executive Council (G&C) to approve changes to the Lease and Operating Agreement with Vail Resorts. The Council reviews state contracts.

In late September, Vail acquired the lease and Mount Sunapee Resort, which operates the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park. The leasehold area encompasses approximately 1,135 acres of public land.

Before the Sunapee transaction closed, the Attorney General’s office (with DNCR direction) negotiated with Vail a side agreement that details specific changes to the lease. The terms affect public involvement and oversight and future development of the Park, including the controversial West Bowl expansion.

The lease amendment sent to G&C in October addresses:

  1. Change of control regarding the assignment, transfer, and sale of equity interest;
  2. West Bowl development; and
  3. Mount Sunapee Advisory Commission

What next?

Before a Council vote, the contract amendment (or amendments) need to return to the G&C agenda. Mount Sunapee is not on the agenda for the G&C meeting scheduled for Dec. 5.

Agendas are posted on the Friday before the Wednesday meetings of the G&C.

FOMS: Mt. Sunapee contract needs to protect the public interest

In a letter sent to G&C, FOMS expressed its opposition to the lease changes presented to G&C in October. The amendment, as worded, fails to protect the public interest including the State’s financial interest.

FOMS Position

Change of Control: This provision would allow the Vail to parcel out and manipulate the equity interest in the lease without State review and approval. We believe state government needs to follow an open public process before approving any transfers of the lease in part or whole.

West Bowl Development: This provision is both premature and inadequate. Vail has presented no development plans for the existing or an expanded ski area. Nor has Vail addressed the environmental concerns associated developing Sunapee’s western flank.

In the letter sent to the Governor and Executive Council on behalf of FOMS, Attorney Arthur Cunningham wrote:

“Any consideration of the West Bowl expansion should not occur until such time as the plans and specifications for the West Bowl expansion are complete. The plans and specifications must include any plans for development on the private property owned by Operator and any successors and assigns of any interest in the Lease…”

(Vail’s acquisition of The Sunapee Difference voided the 2016 West Bowl lease amendment granted to the prior operator.)

Advisory Commission: This lease term circumvents the legislative mandate that requires a commission to administer the lease vs. advise at the call of the Commissioner. The RSA, adopted in 1996 and reaffirmed in 2017, calls for an Administration Commission to oversee the ski area lease.

FOMS letter to G&C speaks to the specific provisions in the amendment with suggested contract language. See FOMS Publications.

Questions and concerns arise over Sunapee amendment

When the Sunapee contract changes came before the Executive Council in October, questions and concerns emerged.

Oct. 17 – The Executive Council voted 5-0 to table the Amendment and asked for more information.

Oct. 23 – Councilors Russell Prescott and Andru Volinsky participated in an Executive Council informational meeting, which delved into the history of the park, its natural heritage, and the three lease changes and whether the Council could vote on the revisions separately.

Oct. 31 – Councilor Prescott questioned DNCR authority and the Mount Sunapee Advisory Commission in an exchange with Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.

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

The West Bowl and other lease issues are mute “if we haven’t gotten to the crux of who is in charge,” said Prescott, who recommended adhering to the law.

An Administration and Oversight Commission is one of several items in FOMS Mount Sunapee comments submitted to State officials.

Nov. 14  – No Sunapee discussion occurred when G&C met.

G&C: Listen or view the Mt. Sunapee discussion

Add your voice 

Send your Mount Sunapee comments to the Executive Council members:

Joseph D. Kenney, Andru Volinsky, Russell E. Prescott,
Christopher C. Pappas, and David K. Wheeler.

More helpful resources

Update to this post (Dec. 2, 2018): Mount Sunapee does not appear on the agenda for the Governor and Executive Council meeting on Wed., Dec. 5, 2018.

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, 2018

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.

Other Resources

Send a Letter to the Editor
NHPR Reporting
Contact Us

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.

Copyright 2019 Friends of Mount Sunapee