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Francestown

Board says ski area violated deal on lights

Cease and desist  order sought

  • The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Francestown resident Larry Laber voices his opinion on Crotched Mountain's failure to comply with its shield lighting promise at Tuesday night's Planning Board meeting. Laber, an electrician, brought lighting props with him to show his points.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Francestown resident Larry Laber voices his opinion on Crotched Mountain's failure to comply with its shield lighting promise at Tuesday night's Planning Board meeting. Laber, an electrician, brought lighting props with him to show his points.

    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • The Fancestown Planning Board concluded its second public hearing regarding Crotched Mountain's nighttime lights Tuesday night, finding the mountain staff in non-compliance with the town's notice of decision.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Francestown resident Larry Laber voices his opinion on Crotched Mountain's failure to comply with its shield lighting promise at Tuesday night's Planning Board meeting. Laber, an electrician, brought lighting props with him to show his points.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

FRANCESTOWN — After Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride officials failed to attend Tuesday night’s Planning Board meeting for a second compliance hearing regarding lighting fixtures at the ski area, board members voted unanimously to find the company in non-compliance with a April 2012 decision requiring them to add shields to lights associated with a high-speed chairlift.

The Planning Board will now ask the town’s Select Board to seek an appropriate means of redress against the company. The ski area is located in both Francestown and Bennington.

Crotched Mountain General Manager Pat Terry said in a phone interview Wednesday that he was not aware a representative was supposed to be at Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting. “I don’t know where we’re at right now as far as moving forward,” Terry said. “I was not aware we were supposed to be there.”

Terry presented a document to the Planning Board at a hearing on April 16 from a lighting expert outlining reasons shields had not been added up to that point, and why shields are not a viable option moving forward.

Planning Board Chair Linda Kunhardt and Select Board member Abigail Arnold both noted Tuesday that no one had signed the document presented by Terry in April, and questioned the document’s validity. They also questioned why the lighting representative was not present at the April meeting.

Arnold, the Select Board’s representative to the Planning Board, said Wednesday in a phone interview that Terry had volunteered to use shields on the newly added lights high up on the mountain at the April 3, 2012, Planning Board meeting, in order to mitigate the blare of light issuing from the mountain at night, which is now visible to many residents in the region. .

Crotched’s season opened in December 2012, and since then no light shields have been added. The result of the company’s non-compliance was a series of hearings that began in December and ended Tuesday night.

Arnold said she doesn’t like to think of the board’s decision as punishment.

“It’s not our intention to punish them,” Arnold said. “We’re just trying to get their attention.”

Zoning regulations state that the town can fine the ski area $100 per day every day the ski area is not in compliance with an agreement between the company and the town for shields to be added to the new lights at the summit. Civil penalty fines of $275 for the first day of offense, plus $550 per day for subsequent offenses, may also be sought by the Select Board.

The Planning Board is asking the Select Board for a cease and desist order, which would effectively end nighttime skiing at Crotched Mountain until compliance with the condition of approval for the high-speed chairlift are met, namely shields on the lights.

Before the 2012-2013 ski season, Peak Resorts, Crotched Mountain’s parent company, purchased a high-speed quad lift and added an additional 100 acres of skiable terrain to the top of the mountain.

Terry said night skiing is a critical component of the mountain’s success, and a huge draw for people around New England and along the East Coast. The mountain had its best year on record in terms of profits and ticket sales in 2012-2013, thanks in part to the large snowfall and the high-speed lift.

Kunhardt said Tuesday the compliance hearing process could have been avoided if Crotched had gone to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance for lighting a long time ago.

“I can’t answer why they didn’t go to the Zoning Board in the first place [for a variance],” Kunhardt said before the meeting Tuesday night in Francestown. “It would have been so much easier.”

Terry said Wednesday that he intends to submit an application for a variance as soon as possible.

“We’re deciding what type of variance to go for,” Terry said. “I’ll have to discuss it with Peak Resorts.”

Kunhardt said she would type up the non-compliance notice for the Select Board this week and submit it to Town Administrator Michael Branley so he could have it by Monday. The Select Board will meet again Monday evening, but it hasn’t been decided if the board will discuss the issue then or at a later date.

The positive, Arnold noted, is that by going through this compliance process now, the mountain has all summer to address the issue before ski season starts up again.

“It gives them a lot of time to take care of the matter,” she said.

I, for one, did not move to rural New Hampshire to see blazing lights on the horizon all winter! I don't think it's fair that Francestown can give these people a variance when it's people in all the surrounding towns that suffer from their light pollution. Fine them and make them put up the shields or turn off the lights!

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