By Nancy West, InDepthNH.org
The town of Bethlehem wants the record on the Northern Pass high-voltage transmission project reopened after a hotel developer said it could jeopardize his plans to build a Homewood Suites by Hilton in Bethlehem, according to a motion file with the Site Evaluation Committee.
Cheryl K. Jensen, co-chair of the Bethlehem Conservation Commission, filed the motion Thursday on behalf of the town seeking to reopen the record ”to receive relevant, material and non-duplicative testimony, evidence or argument.”
The record was closed late last month after 70 adjudicative hearings in Concord. The Site Evaluation Committee will begin public deliberations Jan. 30 on Eversource Energy/Northern Pass’ application to build a 192-mile transmission line from Pittsburg to Deerfield. It would bring 1,090 megawatts of Hydro-Quebec electricity to the New England grid.
“This request relates to the question of whether Eversource is going to relocate Transition Station #5 in Bethlehem to make it less visible to a proposed Homewood Suites by Hilton and whether failure to do so will put that project in jeopardy, which would ‘unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region’ pursuant to RSA 162-H:16 IV(b),” Jensen wrote.
The issue came up when Jensen testified before the Site Evaluation Committee on Nov. 8, 2017. “My most current information was that Mr. Yizchok Rudich, the developer, thought he had an agreement with Eversource to relocate the Transition Station farther back from Route 302 so as not to abut the proposed hotel,” Jensen wrote.
But Eversource attorney Jeremy Walker said there was no plan to change the location, the motion states. Jensen told the committee that a Planning Board meeting was scheduled for Nov. 15, and Rudich’s representative, David Eckman of Eckman Engineering, would present a site plan review.
Patricia Weathersby, a public member of the SEC, asked whether Rudich, who had written a letter Jan. 23, 2017, in support of the project, was still supportive of Northern Pass. “I said I didn’t know,” Jensen wrote.
Chairman Martin Honigberg requested the meeting minutes. “But this issue was not settled at that meeting. It was left open as to whether Northern Pass would endanger the project,” Jensen wrote.
Jensen said she learned through Eckman, that Rudich felt “a little bit betrayed, deceived, tricked” and wouldn’t have written his letter supporting the project if the Transition Station was not going to be moved.
Over New Year’s weekend, Jensen said she learned from Cassandra Laleme that Rudich had said on a Facebook posting: “If the tower isn’t moved, it puts the hotel project in jeopardy.”
“Given the subcommittee’s interest in this issue, I want them to have this information for a full and fair airing on this issue,” Jensen wrote.
Jensen went on: “This information is important for the Town of Bethlehem to submit to the Site Evaluation Committee for several reasons. It is jeopardizing $385,000 annually in tax revenue as well as all the money that would be spent in Bethlehem and surrounding areas by visitors that would stay at this extended-stay venue — but only IF it is built.”
If the hotel isn’t built, it also jeopardizes another project that Rudich has mentioned -renovating the deteriorating Baker Brook cabins, the motion states. This development would be directly across Rt. 302 from the Transition Station #5.
She said Rudich had also mentioned getting “things straightened out with Eversource,” but that hasn’t happened so far.
“As things currently stand, and as this information makes clearer than it has ever been, Northern Pass clearly jeopardizes the Hilton Homewood Suites project in Bethlehem and will ‘unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region,'” Jensen wrote.
Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. According to Jensen’s filing, Northern Pass objects to the motion.
The following entities concurred with Jensen’s motion: Municipal Group 1- South; Municipal Group 2; Municipal Group 3 – North; Municipal Group 3 – South; Grafton County Commissioners; Combined Group of Intervenors Clarksville-Stewartstown; Abutting Property Owners (overhead portion), Dummer, Stark, and Northumberland; Abutting Property Owners (overhead portion), Whitefield, Dalton, and Bethlehem; Non-Abutting Property Owners (overhead portion), Stark, Lancaster, Whitefield, Dalton, and Bethlehem; Abutting Property Owners (underground portion), Bethlehem to Plymouth; Non-Abutting Property Owners (underground portion), Bethlehem to Plymouth; Abutting Property Owners (overhead portion), Deerfield; Non-Abutting Property Owners (overhead portion) Ashland to Deerfield; and Sugar Hill Historical Museum, NH Preservation Alliance and National Trust for Historic Preservation, North Country Scenic Byways Council.