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News from everywhere *but* Central New Hampshire.

Les Otten: More Confident About Balsams Renovation, Hopes Construction Will Begin Before Year's End

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Chris Jensen for NHPR
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Balsams resort developer Les Otten said Wednesday night that he is more confident that the ambitious project portrayed as providing a huge economic boost to the North Country will move forward...

And, he said he hopes construction will begin before the end of the year.

Otten appeared in Colebrook to update the Coos County Planning Board on the project and answer questions from about five dozen people in the audience.

And, with the so-called Balsams bill having been signed into law by Gov. Maggie Hassan earlier this month, Otten was more confident about the project.

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Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR
Displays indicated floor plans and amenities.

The bill becoming law opens the door for a state-backed $28 million loan that Otten had said was crucial.

“So, with the passage of Senate Bill 30 I am feeling much less tentative about that portion of the project. It is the little extra kick that the project really needed to really look good on paper from a financial standpoint.”

But the loan – which must be approved by the Business Finance Authority - isn’t a done deal. 

And various elements of the project still require approval from state regulators and the planning board.

So, Otten said he doesn’t have a fixed date for construction to begin.

“If it happens in September, great. If it happens in January, great. Even if it should slide past that, which I don’t anticipate, I think the project has got some really strong wings now.”

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The Coos Planning Board members heard an outline of the plan but did not receive a formal application.

Originally Otten said he hoped to begin construction next month. But he said he misjudged the time it would take to get Senate Bill 30 passed.

Some legislators questioned whether it was wise to guarantee a $28 million bank loan to Otten, even if the resort itself was the collateral.

Nevertheless with the enthusiastic and relentless support of state economic development officials the bill eventually passed in the House and Senate by considerable margins and it was quickly signed by Hassan.

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