New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed HB540 into law on Wednesday, potentially providing new financing for the shuttered Balsams Resort. As a result, a bond can now be issued, to be paid by assessments levied on property owners in the tax district.
Introduced by North Country Democrats Edith Tucker and Henry Noel, HB540 would change 2015's SB30, which was also sponsored by North Country Democrats and signed into law by then-Governor Maggie Hassan. The developers ran into issues obtaining a $28 million loan that would have been backed by the state's Business Finance Authority. According to Otten, the new legislation would enable the project to move forward by removing the Business Finance Authority's oversight.
In order to pay off the Balsams bond, HB540 would also allow for the creation of a local tax to be assessed on "every owner of each lot or parcel located within the redevelopment district."
Though the bill states, "under no circumstances shall the county or the unincorporated place, as issuer of a bond under this section, have any obligation of any kind to repay" the bond, it does not specify who would cover the debt in the event of default.
Otten's current timeline is to reopen the ski area for the 2020-21 season. Since missing a mid-2015 planned groundbreaking, the project has been through numerous delays, most recently labelled as being in "grave time jeopardy." The total price tag for the project is estimated at $173 million.
The northernmost chairlift served ski area in New Hampshire, the Balsams Wilderness operated from 1966 until 2011, when the Dixville Notch Balsams Grand Resort was shuttered. While equipment has been sold and some hotel related structures demolished, the ski lodge and triple chairlifts remain in place. Les Otten has been involved in the project since 2014. Plans include 22 ski lifts serving 1,200 acres of skiable terrain.