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 Sunapee lease changes withdrawn for now, DNCR authority questioned - Archived

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.

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 Bryce (NH Parks) 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.

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.

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