Executive Council Wants More Info on Mt Sunapee Expansion Plan

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Mt Sunapee

The Executive Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to table a vote on a newly released plan to expand Mt Sunapee in Newbury. (full Gov. and Executive Council meeting audio above)

District One Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney said Jeffrey Rose, commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, will present the new plan to the Executive Council on Wednesday, March 30, from 2 to 4 p.m. in the council chambers in Concord.

The public is invited to attend, but will not be allowed to ask questions. Kenney said anyone with questions can contact him any time before the meeting and he will ask them. The expansion vote will likely take place at the Executive Council meeting the following Wednesday April 6.

“The final draft report came out late last week. Most of the councilors didn’t have a chance to review it,” Kenney said. Kenney can be reached at joseph.kenney@nh.gov

The Sierra Club issued a news release on Monday asking for the delay. It includes the new plans. (see below)

NEWS RELEASE

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 21, 2016
CONTACT: Catherine Corkery, 603-491-1929 or Catherine.corkery@sierraclub.org
Gary Stansfield, 603-863-8737, inuknh@gmail.com

CONCORD, NH – New Hampshire Sierra Club and Friends of Mount Sunapee with local community leaders and experts held a press conference to ask the Governor and Executive Council to delay the approval of the newly released ski area expansion plan. The new deal was released on March 17th by Jeff Rose, the Commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) and he stated his plans to present it to the Governor and Council for a vote 4 business days later on March 23rd , this Wednesday.

The speakers included:

Gary Stansfield, Vice President of the Friends of Mount Sunapee, Topic: forestry and impacts
Tom Elliott, park and public lands advocate, Topic: historical
John Tuthill, Acworth, former legislator, Topic: public trust
Jerry Curran, NH Sierra Club Chapter Chair, Topic: time limit and public opinion
Moderator: Catherine Corkery, NH Sierra Club Chapter Director

The advocates called for a delay at the Governor and Council meeting scheduled for Wednesday and more public involvement in the new deal. Specifically, the groups point to the unintended consequences of the plan on state parks across the state, the abutting towns, and year-long recreational activities; as well as, the quick turnaround and new changes in the deal itself. For instance, it is clear that the plan ignores environmental law safeguarding exemplary natural communities. And that it uses public land to enable real estate development on abutting private lands creating sprawl and fragmenting a sensitive forest block. The plan also ignores climate science and binds the future economic wellbeing of our region to an industry that is likely in decline.

The two groups worked together to oppose a previous similar proposal last year by collecting signatures and recruiting local residents to attend hearings to voice their concerns. At the public hearings the opposition to the plan was an overwhelming 3 to 1 ratio and over 2,000 signatures were delivered to the Department of Resources and Economic Development. But even despite the vocal opposition, the state and the developer crafted this new deal without the benefit of public involvement.

See quotations from the press conference below:

Gary Stansfield, Vice President of Friends of Mount Sunapee, inuknh@gmail.com:

The first priority of the NH State Park system is “To protect and preserve unusual scenic, scientific, historical, recreational and natural areas of the state.” The expansion will carve a new ski lift line directly through the heart of legally protected “exemplary natural community” that hosts trees over 200 years old. Such forest communities are protected by the New Hampshire Native Plant Protection Act, RSA 217. The state’s largest conservation organizations have expressed deep concerns regarding the expansion.

Jerry Curran, Chapter Chair of New Hampshire Sierra Club, jerryglc44@gmail.com:

Last Thursday, DRED Commissioner Rose presented his recommendation to expand the ski area in the West Basin at Mount Sunapee. We have objected to this from the beginning. A rush to vote this Wednesday will allow very little time to understand this very lengthy and complex amended proposal, not only for the Executive Council, but also for the public. The Commissioner wants complete transparency. This slam dunk approach is anything but transparent. We appreciate the Governor’s willingness to table the proposal if such a motion is presented.

This expansion is opposed 3 to 1 by local residents. The opposition comes from many sources, from people who’s families have enjoyed the Park for generations to business and community leaders. Educators across the state tell stories of taking classes to this last undisturbed Exemplary Natural Community, which is a living laboratory in their back yard. Young residents tell us the jobs touted by Okemo/Mount Sunapee are seasonal, part time jobs paying minimum wage. They can work at the Mountain, but can’t afford to ski there. Local residents see this as what it is, a shameless corporate grab by a real estate investment trust, Orlando based CNL Lifestyles. Last Spring with our partners, we delivered nearly 2,000 signatures to the Governor opposing this most recent expansion attempt. In the coming weeks, Friends of Mount Sunapee and the New Hampshire Sierra Club will use the enormous grass roots opposition to this project to show the democratic voice for the common good can defeat heavily funded out of state interests who seek to destroy a valuable treasure which is the Mount Sunapee State Park.

John Tuthill, former state legislator and resident of Acworth, jtuthill@sover.net:

DRED Commissioner Rose has not demonstrated that changing the original lease agreement of 1998 will benefit the public or the natural environment. The development and management plans approved in his final decision of March 17 significantly weaken the previously agreed upon protections of Mt. Sunapee Resort’s predecessor. This is a breach of the public trust. The Governor and Council should reject any amendment which places private interest ahead of the interests of the State to the lease agreement. New Hampshire has a responsibility to preserve and protect Mt. Sunapee State Park under law and the terms of the original lease.

Catherine Corkery, NH Sierra Club Chapter Director, Catherine.corkery@sierraclub.org:

“To ignore the climate trends we are facing in New Hampshire from the historic warmth of this year to the extreme weather trends that are much more frequent, is worse than sticking your head in the sand. This plan would put New Hampshire’s state park legacy and local economy into a bottomless pit without hope of returning,” stated Catherine Corkery, NH Sierra Club Chapter Director. “Just last week NASA reported that February marked the 374th consecutive month of above-average temperatures, going back to December 1984. It was also the most any month has been above average in the 135-year record. Now we want to build infrastructure for skiing? Let’s throw a party while Rome burns while we are at it.”

Important Links

Friends of Mount Sunapee – includes a treasure trove of historical and additional information.

–         Facebook page of Friends of Mount Sunapee

Facebook page of NH Sierra Club

DRED FINAL DECISION ON THE MOUNT SUNAPEE RESORT REVISED MDP/EMP (2016-20) AND RESOURCES webpage

–         Letter of approval conditions

–         MOUNT SUNAPEE REVISED FIVE-YEAR MASTER DEVELOPMENT PLAN 2016–2020

Catherine M. Corkery Concord, NH 03301

Office: 603-224-8222

Cell: 603-491-1929

catherine.corkery@sierraclub.org

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