Coos County Commissioners To Vote on New Balsams Proposal

Paula Tracy

CONCORD – Closed since December of 2011, the Balsams Resort in Dixville Notch may be headed with a new investor into constructing its first phase of redevelopment as early as this spring.

It would be a $200 million project that would employ about 650 in the construction phase and offer 400 or more full-time jobs once open.

Les Otten, who has been working for the past seven years to revive the resort on 11,000 acres, including its ski area and the Donald Ross-designed Panorama Golf Course, addressed the Coos County Commissioners on Wednesday.

Otten announced that he has a partner, Provident Resources Group, a nonprofit that would own and construct the 650-seat Gloriette House convention center on the property and will invest $100 million.

The county would not issue the bond for Gloriette House. It would be issued by a national issuing authority.

“Our responsibility is not just to renovate and expand the Balsams,” said Otten. “Our responsibility is to make sure we are supporting the North Country in many ways, supporting our hospitals, raising the economy, helping to meet housing needs, offering good full and part-time employment for adults and teenagers.”

The final piece, if the project is successful, is making sure any profits are reinvested back into the county since Provident Resources Group is a non-profit organization.

Scott Tranchemontagne, the development spokesman, called it “a major component of our redevelopment plan.”

But before anything can happen, the Coos County Commissioners need to “invite” the project to satisfy the Internal Revenue Service.

“As a 501-c-3, Provident has requirements from the IRS that state they need to be ‘invited’ to participate in a project that will benefit the county,” Tranchemontagne said.

The developers said that by passing the “invite” resolution, the county is simply showing support for the project and Provident’s participation, but does not encumber or make liable the county.  

“The resolution in no way, shape or form makes the county liable in any way for the bonds that will ultimately be sold and paid back by the taxes/assessments on the real estate,” Tranchemontagne said.

With the help of local elected officials, the House and Senate passed and the governor signed HB 540 in May of 2019 that gave the county the ability to create a Tax Assessment District (not to be confused with tax increment financing) around the Balsams property.

The district agreement works like this: real estate taxes/assessments on the property go back to repay the bond over 20 or 30 years, depending on the terms.  

Tranchemontagne said getting the $100 million commitment from Provident is critical to attracting more investors.

He said Goldman Sachs is looking at underwriting the bond which will be sold to institutional investors – like at Blackstone or Fidelity or another similar entity.

“Again – there would be no financial risk to the County taxpayers in any way,” he stressed.

Tranchemontagne said the proposal was offered before the commissioners and House Representatives Edith Tucker, D-Randolph, and Robert Theberge, R-Berlin, from the county delegation Wednesday.  

The commission did not take action on the request but is expected to next Monday.

“This is a significant step forward that could lead to financing for additional elements of the project – and perhaps breaking ground at some point in the spring.  As you know – this could help the North County economy in a significant way – with 600 construction jobs, 400 plus new jobs at the resort, and the potential for 1,500 new jobs at the resort,” he concluded in an email.

The immediate vision of the first phase is the renovation of Hampshire and Dix house, building, the 650-seat convention center and building all the amenities, including a Nordic hot and cold bath spa, gondola connecting the resort with the ski area across the road and an initial expansion of the ski area, opening up the east side, and will probably involve some housing.

He said the construction window would be 18 to 24 months and that it could commence this spring.

“This is really a tipping point kind of moment,” Tranchemontagne said in a telephone interview noting Provident “will suddenly make it more attractive for other investors in the project and other aspects of the project.”

Reopening the Panorama golf course is a central part of the project, one of Donald Ross’s first courses in the United States, built when he was young in 1911 and 1912.

It is one of the only courses Ross lived on as he developed it.

Part of the land on the golf course is in Colebrook and could be developed for housing, which would be taxable to the town rather than Dixville, an unincorporated place in the state’s north country.

The first phase includes bringing the course up to standards and redeveloping the clubhouse.
Several years ago, the first phase total was originally $185 million but now it is a little over $200 million, Tranchemontagne said, with half of that coming from Provident.

“Now it is a lot easier…to raise more,” capital, he said.