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Francestown

Night skiing ruling delayed

FRANCESTOWN — The Zoning Board of Adjustment postponed a decision on the variance application from Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride, putting off a ruling regarding the mountain’s lighting system for at least another month.

The board’s next meeting is Nov. 26, and if a decision is not reached, the issue could extend into 2014. Meanwhile, Crotched Mountain indicated Monday that if the resort is forced to make significant changes to its lightning, it would likely have to wait until the ski season is over.

Zoning Board Chair Silas Little said at a ZBA meeting Wednesday that board members received Nancy Clanton’s report late Tuesday evening and, therefore, they did not have sufficient time to review her report prior to the meeting Wednesday night. Clanton was hired by the town to provide objective, critical analysis of the information gathered by Crotched Mountain’s lighting engineer Vic Reno.

In Clanton’s report, available at the Francestown Town Offices, she said the current light fixtures, angled Juno luminaires, create excessive light levels and considerable glare down the slope. Clanton recommended the mountain implement full cut-off We-ef luminaires for all 38 lights in the new expansion. The alternative lighting, she wrote, still meets the criteria for ski area lighting but will reduce light levels and glare. Clanton’s alternate concept “requires in-depth product selection, internal shielding, refined orientation angles specific to varying slope conditions and detailed modeling,” according to the report.

The board agreed to meet Nov. 26 and hopefully, as Little said, close the receipt of evidence and begin deliberation. He also said the board may not be able to reach a decision Nov. 26, so another meeting is likely to be scheduled. With the upcoming holidays and considering the board members’ busy personal schedules, a follow-up meeting might not be able to take place until the second week of December or even January, well into ski season at the mountain.

“It’s a fairly stressful time with conflict,” Little said in an interview Friday. “My intention is to get this thing decided.”

Normally the board convenes the second Thursday of every month, but for some of the recent Zoning Board meetings it took over a month for all the board members to find a meeting time that worked for everyone. Crotched Mountain General Manager Pat Terry said in an interview Monday that depending on what the outcome is and the time it is decided, the mountain may say that it has to wait until next year to implement the requirements of the decision. “We may not get this resolved until after the season is over,” Terry said.

Regarding the numerous potential outcomes for this variance application, Little said Friday he doesn’t see why the 2012 lights are needed at night. “To my knowledge this variance application only concerns the expansion for the 2012 lights. Before this there was night skiing,” Little said. “I don’t see why they wouldn’t be able to [operate] night skiing without the 2012 lights.”

Terry said Monday that without the lights, the mountain would not be able to operate the new ski lift, the only lift that allows skiers to access the expert trails. Prior to 2012, skiers could reach the expert trails on the lift to the former summit. But since the expansion, skiers are now dropped off at a higher elevation that currently includes the lights in question. If that lift is shut down, much of the mountain would be unusable after sunset.

“We can’t operate without night skiing,” Terry said.

One conclusion discussed at several meetings is the potential of attaching caps to the light fixtures to help angle the light more downward. “If we had to put caps on the lights, then we will have to put up more lights,” Terry said. “We need a certain amount of light for skier safety.”

Any final decision made by the board to approve or deny the variance or request certain changes would be enforced by the Board of Selectmen, Little said Friday. He said the Zoning Board is not an enforcing agency and any final decisions will be up to selectmen to implement.

Before the meeting on Nov. 26, Reno and Crotched Mountain’s SNH Development Inc. attorney, Brian Murphy, will have a chance to review Clanton’s report and provide comments. “It’s sort of normal if you have a report you give it to the other side,” Little said. He added that Clanton had just received the information about the lights a week prior and met her deadline of sending the board her report sometime before the next Zoning Board meeting.

According to the invoice from Clanton and Associates, Clanton and two others contributed to reviewing the lighting information. Clanton’s pay as the principal engineer was $3,000, Senior Designer David Roederer’s service cost $1,760 and CAD Technician Jon Ehnert’s service cost $195, $4,955 in all for the lighting consultation. Little said Friday that the Board paid Clanton a retainer of $2,000 a week prior to her work, so a remaining $2,955 is yet to be paid by the town.

Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or larceci@ledgertranscript.com.

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