The Coos County Planning Board will consider Wednesday night whether to allow new developments on Mount Washington. This follows a Cog Railway proposal to build a hotel about 1,000 feet from the summit.
NHPR's Jessica Hunt spoke with Union Leader correspondent John Koziol about response to possible development.
(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)
First, tell us more about the Cog Railway's proposal to build a new hotel. Who is in support of the possible development?
It is the Cog Railway that is obviously in support of its own plan. Wayne Presby, who is the owner of the Cog, feels that the existing zoning regulations allow him to build that hotel, like you said at about 1,000 feet below the summit. And what we're going to hopefully get tonight is the beginning of a clarification on whether Wayne's interpretation of the zoning regulations is consistent with what the planning board's interpretation might be.
The Cog Railway, have they received any backlash over this? Anyone speaking out?
They have, so absolutely. In December 2016, Wayne Presby and then Joel Bedor, who was also co-owner at that time of the Cog, made a conceptual presentation to the planning board. And at that time he proposed a 35-room hotel. Shortly thereafter, there were six conservation groups that wrote letters to both the planning board and also to the Coos [County] Zoning Board of Adjustment saying they had significant concerns about the hotel, and so far that it might have a deleterious impact on the alpine zone on Mount Washington. And for that reason they opposed it. And then subsequently what happened several months later is we had a group of hikers form their own group called Keep the White Wild that also opposes the hotel. And furthermore, they have argued and presented a case to the Coos County Commission saying that a road or a trail that the Cog built last summer is unpermitted and therefore should be sanctioned. So we're doing a couple of things this evening.
And what do you expect from the meeting? Will it be contentious?
Mount Washington is a great place and a lot of people feel very passionate about it. So I expect that there will be some open throated discussion. With that said, the planning board chairman John Scarinza runs a very tight meeting and I suspect that all sides will get a fair hearing as much as possible. Also, Wayne Presby
the owner recently told me that based on the fact that he's still gathering all the necessary documentation he needs, he will not be able to build the hotel in time for the 2019 150th anniversary of the Cog Railway. I think that fact alone takes the pressure off the planning board to render an immediate decision. And again, having witnessed this board operate on other matters, I would expect that they're going to consider both the items that relate to the potential development of the hotel this evening. They'll hear from all sides. And then I would imagine because there is no immediate time constraint on them, they would probably take the matter under advisement.