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More sparring expected after Sunapee land ruling

This July 15, 2014 photo shows a real estate sign in the woods on the north west side of the Mount Sunapee ski area in Goshen, N.H. A judge ruled last week that state park land adjacent to the ski area  should be included in the lands held by The Sunapee Difference company. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

This July 15, 2014 photo shows a real estate sign in the woods on the north west side of the Mount Sunapee ski area in Goshen, N.H. A judge ruled last week that state park land adjacent to the ski area should be included in the lands held by The Sunapee Difference company. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Nearly 20 years after a ski area operator signed a lease with the state for land adjacent to the Mount Sunapee Resort, the legal fight to expand the ski mountain will continue despite a recent court ruling that the lease includes state park land.

The Sunapee Difference, the company that operates the resort in the western part of the state, signed a lease in 1998 but sloppy drawings, incomplete memories of discussions and changing political sands over the years cast doubt on just exactly how much land was included in the lease. The company maintained the boundary went all the way through the northwest corner of Sunapee State Park, and last week, a judge agreed.

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler ruled that state officials and Sunapee representatives had acknowledged the piece of land in the northwest corner of the park was part of the Sunapee leasehold. In his 11-page ruling, Smukler said that while the sides made a “mutual mistake” identifying the boundaries on maps, Sunapee had proved its case that it believed it was leasing the land up to the northwest border of the park.

Sunapee owns private land on the other side of that part of the park, and if the lease stops short of the private land, it creates a buffer zone between land it leases and land it owns. The company says it wants to expand the ski mountain by adding a lift and four trails, but opponents of the expansion worry that the company will build condominiums on the private land and connect it to the ski mountain.

Tom Elliott, a spokesman for the Friends of Sunapee, said the main concern is not only about what would happen to the character of the mountain but also the negative effects a condo project would have on the community and the precedent it would set if the state cedes over public land. The group was disappointed but undeterred by Smukler’s ruling.

“The people of New Hampshire really have to look hard at what it means to use a state resource to enable somebody else’s real estate development,” Elliott said. “We could probably use Hampton Beach or one of the other beaches, or the Old Man (of the Mountain Historic) site to enable a lot of real estate development, but that’s not what they’re there for.”

The vice president and general manager of the ski area said there has never been a specific plan to develop condominiums but since it’s a possibility, it has to be addressed in its five-year Master Development Plan filed with the state. Jay Gamble said blocking the expansion plan would hurt the regional economy.

“We’ve done a lot of work but the part that we have not done is any condominium development planning. We’ve done a lot of due diligence to make sure Mount Sunapee would not be harmed,” he said. “It is not a key component of the plan as some of the opposition groups would like everybody to believe.”

Legacy Comments3

"The vice president and general manager of the ski area said there has never been a specific plan to develop condominiums but since it’s a possibility, it has to be addressed " I have no opinion for or against, but who do they think they are fooling and why did they purchase this convenient parcel of land. Do they think we are that stupid.

Well Mrs Carson I believe you have answered the question for yourself. Jim & Diane use to be neighbors of mine and they dont have any plans for condos as their interests have changed. But maybe they will look at it again.

As a life-long resident of the Sunapee area, local business and a skier at Mt. Sunapee since about 1960, I would be thrilled if the Mount Sunapee Ski Resort was able to expand into the West Bowl. If there are some condos on private land next to the expanded ski area, GREAT! This would not degrade anything and would provide expanded recreational opportunities for us!

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