Concord Monitor Column: My Turn – April 25, 2015
by Deb Flanders
As an avid skier, who grew up on the slopes of Mt. Sunapee, I find the draft decision from NH’s Department of Resources and Economic Development allowing the Mt. Sunapee Resort to expand to the west to be unacceptable. I know there are many others who are also against the encroachment on our State Park and it is time to take a stand. Please come to DRED’s public hearing at Mt. Sunapee State Park on May 5, at 6 PM, and stand up and voice your opposition! Please write letters and copy all of your legislators.
DRED’s decision includes the mandate for the resort to turn over to the state the 150 acres of private land currently owned by the resort operators (the Muellers), including “all land that would incorporate all facilities necessary to operate the ski area”. In theory, that would seem to mitigate the problems associated with the building of a public facility on private lands, however, the lands do not have to be transferred until 2028! Would that mean that public/private ownership of the lands can exist for 13 more years, to benefit the Muellers?
The Muellers would still retain 250 acres that abut the expansion area, and if they want to develop that land there is little to stop them. In fact, DRED’s arrangement allows the developer to use the 150 acres to meet local “density” requirements. This clearly paves the way for residential development.
We can look to the town of the town of Ludlow, Vermont, at the base of Okemo, which has changed tremendously since the early 80’s when the Muellers came to town and started building lifts and on-hill condo units.
- Property taxes more than doubled when Ludlow became a “donor town” due to increase in property values. Homes were bought by out-of-staters because the locals could no longer afford to buy them.
- Okemo lawyers lobbied for and got the residential density requirement misconstrued from its original one acre zoning per residence (meaning one family) to one acre per residence which could house a 100 unit development.
- Most locals cannot afford to ski, or play golf. Most small businesses in Ludlow are gone, locals shop in Claremont or Rutland.
- Okemo lawyers had kept pushing to amend permits, relentlessly going for special exceptions on density and height, visibility and landscaping.
This could happen here. Money talks. It would seem that the state of NH is in collusion with the Mt. Sunapee resort owners as DRED suggests rewarding the resort for the 10 years that the operator and the state have been in court discussing boundary issues, by adding another 10 years to the lease, free of charge, which would bring it out to 2028.
After living in several western resort towns, I saw first hand how the character of beautiful mountain towns was changed dramatically when ski corporations turned to real estate investments and started creating theme park diversions such as ziplines, roller coasters, indoor waterparks, Frisbee golf courses and other devices to enhance their own wallet , despite the environmental degradation involved.
Herbert Welsh, the father of land conservation on Mt. Sunapee, worked to “Save Mount Sunapee for all people for all time!” Now it is our turn! Please go to www.friendsofmountsunapee.org for more information.
Deb Flanders is a avid skier and hiker and lives in Newbury, N.H.