Balsams sold to Colebrook businessmen

Last modified: 12/8/2011 12:00:00 AM
Two businessmen from Colebrook announced yesterday that they have purchased the Balsams Grand Resort and Hotel for $2.3 million, about one year after the northern New Hampshire resort was put up for sale.

Daniel Dagesse and Daniel Hebert Jr., who formed a partnership called Balsams View LLC, bought the 7,700-acre property in Dixville Notch from the Tillotson Corp., which has owned the resort since 1954.

Hebert owns a private contracting business, Daniel Hebert Inc., in Colebrook. Dagesse once owned several car dealerships in the Northeast, including the Berlin city dealerships and others in Florida.

The Balsams is one of New Hampshire's flagship vacation spots, along with the Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods. The Balsams has operated for 144 years in New Hampshire and boasts a ski area, golf course, four lakes and hotel with fine dining and recreation activities.

The resort employs about 300 seasonal workers and often opens each winter in December.

'The trustees of the Tillotson Trust are confident that Dagesse and Hebert will continue the resort's rich heritage of excellence,' Tillotson Corp. said in a statement.

Hebert and Dagesse have reportedly been interested in the property since it was for sale. Their spokesman, Scott Tranchemontagne of Montagne Communications in Manchester, said the men made a new offer in recent weeks that 'met the Tillotson's criteria.'

'We care deeply about restoring the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel to its full glory as a world-class destination resort and seeing it thrive for decades to come,' Hebert said in a statement. 'We want to provide a stable operation that we can all be proud of.'

Renovations will be extensive, Tranchemontagne said, and will take about 18 months to complete.

The last renovations to the Balsams happened more than 40 years ago, Hebert said, and Balsams View has many goals in mind to improve the resort.

The hotel must be winterized, and the biomass plant will also be decommissioned, Hebert said in a statement. Other renovations have yet to be announced, pending an evaluation from architects and engineers.

Hebert said Balsams View is committed to preserving jobs and employing local contractors, but he said closing the hotel for an extended period of time for renovations will also be difficult for employees.

Even so, Hebert added, 'The renovations are absolutely necessary to ensure the resort's long-term viability.'

Hebert did not return calls seeking further comment.

The development rights to about 5,800 acres of the land will be owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, although one representative said the deal is not done yet.

Jack Savage, the forest society's vice president of communications, said the organization has reached an agreement with the Tillotson Corp. to buy the development rights for 5,800 acres of the land for $850,000.

The money will need to be raised by donors, he said. Donations to the forest society can be made online at the organization's website:

'We've long had an interest in conserving this piece of land,' Savage said. 'It's pretty remarkable: the old growth, scenic views, water resources, fantastic wildlife habitat.'

The $850,000 price is a 'bargain,' Savage said, especially for such a large parcel of land. He said the forest society purchased the rights for a 1,000-acre parcel near Black Mountain last year for $1.3 million.

'We feel it's a very good use of our donors' funds,' Savage said.

Despite the agreement, the money must be raised to prevent other buyers from purchasing the development rights, Savage said.

In November, the Boston Globe reported that the Northern Pass power line project was interested in some of the land. Savage hopes donors will raise the money to prevent that possibility.

'If we are successful in raising this money, there would be no opportunity for Northern Pass to have a right of way across this land,' Savage said.

The forest society is the oldest land trust in New Hampshire and owns about 700 conservation easements, Savage said. It buys properties or specific rights to them, all for the purpose of protecting the lands from commercial development or subdivision.

'We do allow sustainable forestry and recreational uses, but when we hold these conservation restrictions on these pieces of land, they can't develop it,' Savage said.

'That's what will happen in this case,' he added, referring to the Balsams.

Future plans remain uncertain, however, and will be decided after architects and engineers evaluate the property.

'The resort is an extremely complex property and we want to take the proper steps to thoroughly assess what needs to be done,' Hebert said in a statement. 'Once we determine necessary renovations, we will unveil our vision for the new Balsams Grand Resort, which will, once again, become a gem of New Hampshire's North Country.'

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