June 19th – President Message Building Update

Presidents Message ~ NEHSA before Newbury Planning Board for final permits Tuesday June 20th

Just like every NEHSA member I have been waiting on pins and needles for news about the building!

As you may recall at this year’s annual meeting, we needed to clear one more hurdle to obtain the permits for the planned expansion of the NEHSA lodge, and Tuesday June 20th marks that day.  NEHSA’s building project is an agenda item for Newbury planning board review, and we are hopeful that the following day we can finally celebrate with permits in hand.  However, considering the history of this project we do enter this meeting with measured confidence.

Before that celebration, I wanted to share the details of this incredibly complicated process and the many things we have learned.  It’s hard to imagine that we undertook this project in earnest the summer season of 2014 when then Building committee members brought forth a plan that built on the current NEHSA structure similarly to using pre-fabricated components. That plan was a capital outlay of less than 1/3 of the current proposed project.  What seemed like a simple and straightforward project adhering to codes and compliance was followed by countless hours of research, dozens of forms detailing data, forms in duplicate and too many emails to count.  And of course a significant fundraising effort!

With Tuesday’s public meeting in the wings, the NEHSA team has learned not to try to predict these outcomes, but instead to be steadfast in our approach towards each hurdle.  There are three possible outcomes—each with their own set of challenges. First would be we are simply denied our permit as presented in our plan.  Next, as a result of required modifications to the original site plan, we are asked to resubmit the current plan for approval by DRED and the National Park Service. Lastly, we are simply granted our permits and allowed to move forward.  I wanted to offer the Boards thoughts on each of these cases.

Although we don’t feel the first option is the likely outcome, I wanted to share Tom’s sentiment stated during this project.  Simply, NEHSA is NOT a building!  Should we be denied the final permits, our next step would be to submit for a renovation permit and undertake modifications to the existing building without expansion, which allows us to continue serving our community in confidence.  Although not ideal, it would be a way forward that we think can meet the needs of NEHSA for the next phase of its history.

Next, as we learned from our first effort, an additional review from the state’s Division of Environmental Resources (DRED) and National Park Service will likely add another year to our timeline.  Even if we are subjected to an accelerated review process, it would be unlikely that review would be complete in a timeline short enough to achieve a successful completion of the project before 2017/2018 snow sport season.  If this is the outcome on Tuesday, we will likely undertake the second phase of capitol fundraising in order to be fully prepared to move ahead as soon as these reviews are complete.  A fundraising plan has been developed, yet we have not pressed into action since the Board strongly feels the need to be highly confident in the direction of the project before we can comfortably ask for more support.

Should the final option be achieved on Tuesday, NEHSA still faces yet another unique set of challenges and contingencies.  As you recall from the annual meeting, in order to occupy the newly renovated building for the upcoming winter season, a 120 day construction plan puts us right on the edge of what is possible during the summer.  As a further complication, our general contractor is challenged to find the required subcontractors to work on this project since we moved into the high season without permits in hand.  With this direction, we have begun to determine if it is possible to construct over 2 seasons.  With the help of our general contractor, we have begun to “deconstruct” the construction plan in an effort to determine the best ways to split the project across the remainder of 2017’s construction season and the first part of 2018.  A strategy that likely adds both costs and logistical issues to an already complex path.  The first phase to this approach also involves further requirements from permitting so that we can obtain an occupancy permit to run our programs out of an incomplete building.  We will also then need a rapid rollout of the Phase II Funding Campaign in an effort to bridge the project’s requirements.

I wanted to share this information and the Board’s work around on each of the possible outcomes for Tuesday’s meeting.  I realize my message is long, but I wanted to be sure to offer our membership as much information as I could and the approaches the Board is developing around these most recent and hopefully final challenges we face in the building expansion.  I also wanted to express the Board’s complete support and admiration for the tireless effort that has been made by so many NEHSA members and staffers on behalf of this project.

As always, please direct any questions into info@NEHSA.org and myself or someone from the NEHSA team and we will do our best to address them.  Also please check out our website to take part in our amazing summer sports programs.

Best

Erik Wheeler

Board President