When is Enough, Enough?

by

Keeping Land Developers in Their Box
By D.R. Richards,
I remember that particular afternoon, when a friend and I talked about trying to do something to help save Mount Sunapee from the dread of slope-side condo development. Sullivan county, New Hampshire had no history* of activism, none, zero, zip. Being a native, of a conventional, conservative county, I had to really watch my thoughts of not wanting to make waves in my home town.  I didn’t want to stand out. Besides, people I talked to said there was “nothing that could be done”, “it was already a done deal”, or they were “going to develop the mountain and what could anyone do anyway”.  That particular afternoon, the friend and I decided to call a few people, and set up a meeting at the Abbott Library in Sunapee to see what could be done. That first meeting eventually led to the formation of Friends of Mount Sunapee.  (*Current FOMS Vice President Linda Dennis was a founding member of a previous Mt. Sunapee land protection group, but  at the time we convened, it was not active).

Mt. Sunapee has Friends

Never underestimate what the efforts of a few committed people can do in the face of deep pockets and driven land developers.  Thanks to many, (too many to mention here) the word spread about the threat to our State Park, and eventually it spread to the candidate for New Hampshire governor,  John Lynch.  Lynch has been the most popular Governor New Hampshire has seen, and because of his courageous stance to defend the state lands of Mount Sunapee, the developers decided to sue him, and the state of NH, because their imaginary back-door deal wasn’t honored.  Now I read the owners  are threatening to sue again. This time they’re stomping their feet at  the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado,  for again, not getting their desires met to expand their ski area. (For more info click here)

Overdevelopment is not pretty, Okemo, VT

It makes  one wonder how some can be so incredibly out of touch with reality, out of touch with the wishes of the locals and the natural environment.  I just watched the movie Avatar, (I still have a headache from the Imax 3-D version three days later) and the Muellers’  insatiable appetite for land and profit remind me of the miners in Avatar and their lust for the precious “unobtainium” mineral at all costs.
My dad was a developer. He built one of the first “funnel developments” on Lake Sunapee called Fisher’s Bay. This type of development, using a small amount of shore frontage to accommodate tons of building lots in the back land is now forbidden in New Hampshire land protection laws. I remember, at age 13, standing in front of the bulldozer when he was punching the first road in Fisher’s Bay, saying, “Dad, you can’t do this, it’s our family land”, and his reply was, “Get out of the way son, we need to do this.” Where was Edward Abbey when I needed him. Fortunately I’ve not seen any of the inheritance from this development. I’ve been a radical since I was little.
Bob Bell a local developer, with a capital “D”, reminds me a bit of my dad.  I don’t know the guy, and have only seen him present his blueprints at a zoning meeting one night. He is, no doubt, good at what he does, and is passionate about his goals.  But he’s taken it to a whole another level that I think my dad would be frown upon. Bell seemed like a mad scientist, or more accurately, a grown up kid with a chemistry project that’s destroying the place, and with no one willing or able taking his toys away.  His specialty is high impact switchback roads and ridgeline clearcuts on a big scale. Other communties might have more protections in place, but here, he’s pretty free to slash and burn.
Then there’s Mountain Leach, Oh I’m sorry, I meant Mountain Reach, Mount Sunapee’s only “Ski-in Condos”. Great.  I think people should bushwack-in and bushwack-out just like the rest of us if they want to be near a state park ski area boundary with a buffer zone. Unfortunately, the two hundred foot stretch where there isn’t an actual buffer zone, someone took advantage of it. It’s akin to one’s immune system have a whole in it.

While I do see the value of developments leaving open space by clustering development and lots, the land developer’s time could be better spent actually preserving the land working for easements rather than making all that cash on destroying the rural standard of living with developments, and getting real job. These guys seem to have little understanding, and consequently regard, for the land, the wildlife and communities that were here before.

Different paradigms of what is right action. The Muellers

Which brings me back to the Muellers and their “Terrain Tug of War”.  Ever notice how some people and corporations continually attract drama to themselves. I wonder if the Muellers have recently stopped to consider why they are in (or soon to be in) two lawsuits at the same time with two different government agencies,  agencies which have wisely decided to protect the public lands with which they’ve been charged?
The mind of a land developer is, in some ways, not like ours. It sees green in “unobtainium” land. And, it sees red when anyone gets in the way of their world view of development for the masses of skiers and condo buyers. That’s so ‘90s. But maybe there’s hope. I appreciate Mt. Sunapee Manager Jay Gamble’s civility when we cross paths,  and am optimistic that someday he may actually see when enough is enough, and pass this revelation on to his boss Tim Mueller.
Below is a recent piece by Mark Reaman editor of the Crested Butte Weekly writing for BackCountry Magazine.

Terrain Tug ‘o War
FOREST SERVICE DENIES CRESTED BUTTE EXPANSION
By Mark Reaman
For BackCountry Magazine

A Good Mag. We recommend it.

In an admittedly unusual move, the United States Forest Service turned down a request by Crested Butte Mountain Resort to expand its lifts onto nearby Snodgrass Mountain. This has upset some business owners in Crested Butte, Colorado. But many in the backcountry community are pleased with the surprising decision.
Snodgrass Mountain (11,142 feet) is located next to the Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) in central Colorado and is popular with backcountry users. The ski company has tried for decades to expand lift-served skiing onto the mountain. A November decision by the U.S. Forest Service appears to have put an end to that quest. Forest Supervisor Charles Richmond rejected the plan on the grounds that “it was not in the public interest.”
CBMR owners Tim and Diane Mueller have been working with the federal agency for five years in a so-called pre-NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process to address concerns of geology, public support and land use. Richmond said the plan would not enter NEPA.

Friends of Snodgrass Mountain, CO

Snodgrass is a well-used backcountry stash given its easy access and close proximity to Crested Butte. “The backcountry community in town was pretty happy with the news,” explained Crested Butte Mountain Guides owner Jayson Simons-Jones. “The group was pretty against lifts moving over to Snodgrass. It’s like a bunch of old surfers around here. Nobody wants to give up their wave. I understand that.”
CBMR President Tim Mueller was shocked. “It is difficult to express the depth of our disappointment regarding this decision,” he said. “We I have worked methodically with the U.S. Forest Service over the past five years to address concerns and meet and exceed requirements with the goal of entering into the NEPA process, as so many of our competitors have done.”  Mueller said the ski company was investigating how to appeal the decision through the I Forest Service. If that wasn’t possible, he said the company would likely go to court.

– – – End- – –

Fortunately, Friends of Mount Sunapee and Friends of Snodgrass Mountain have been successful thus far in protecting open space, hopefully for generations. Want to help?  Make a donation to help us keep up the good work. Also speak up and speak out. The land needs a voice of many. FOMS and FOSM have had been in contact and supporting each each other’s work and sharing updates on what are plans for owner  Tim Mueller, of both resorts plus the “Mother Ship” Okemo in Vermont.

Friends of Snodgrass Mountain
Mission Statement

A c0-founder of FOSM, & a co-founder of FOMS in Crested Butte, 2008

Friends of Snodgrass Mountain is a group of concerned citizens who prefer that Snodgrass Mountain remain lift-free and in public hands. The Friends of Snodgrass Mountain intend to preserve the current undeveloped state of a lift-free, publicly owned Snodgrass Mountain.  As stewards of our public lands, it is our responsibility to preserve these lands now and for generations to come.  We believe that Snodgrass Mountain is more beneficial to our economy, our quality of life and our environment without ski lifts.
Image at right: The author at right, a co-founders of FOMS with a co-founder of FOSM in Crested Butte winter of 2008. Snodgrass Mountain is in the background.

Friends of Mountain Sunapee Mission Statement

Our mission advocates for protection of Mount Sunapee State Park for its essential public values; conservation of the Lake Sunapee watershed and Sunapee highlands; and preservation of the unique character and natural beauty of the rural communities in the mountain’s shadow.

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