More Details Sought On Unity Land Deal
Unity — The state representatives in the Sullivan County delegation who are weighing the proposed purchase by the county of nearly 600 acres in Unity said Thursday night they want more information before approving the deal.
The representatives said they wanted to know how much the current owner, hotel owner Dan Dagesse, of Gilford, N.H., paid for the parcel and also whether the county could be prevented from placing a conservation easement on the parcel, which would reduce the taxes base of the town.
The deal would have to be approved by a majority of the 13-member delegation of State representatives because the purchase would involve a special appropriation from Sullivan County’s government fund balance.
About a dozen residents attended the hearing with a handful speaking both in support and opposition to the proposal during a discussion and public comment forum on Thursday night.
Former County Commissioner John Callum said he strongly opposes the county buying and holding land. He said the county already owns too much property — 1,600 acres — in Unity.
“If you think you need this, sell off 600 acres and use the money to buy this,” Callum said. “I see no reason to spend $300,000 of taxpayers money because it is a want, not a need. If you can justify that you need this, you can change my mind.”
Two other residents, Craig Shute and Tyyne Cox, supported the purchase.
“I think we need to buy this land to protect our water rights,” Shute said.
Before the discussion, the county’s natural resources manager, Lionel Chute, gave a slide presentation of the property and listed its attributes. Chute said the advantages of owning the parcel include potential for timber harvesting in about 20 years, passive recreation and protection of the western shore of Marshall Pond, which lies just east of the property’s boundary and is owned by the county.
Additionally, there is an 8,000-foot pipe that runs from the pond and across 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike to a fire pond on the county complex property. The fire pond supplies water for the hydrants and sprinkler systems at the county jail and nursing home. If the county buys the 600 acres, it would own roughly 75 percent of the land where the pipe is located. Though it has an easement to access the pipe, Chute said maintenance and repairs are “often easier if you own the land itself.”
Resident Karen Davis questioned the need to own the land if the county already has a right-of-way to get to the pipe.
“The easement is not perfect,” said County Commissioner Ben Nelson. “People working on their land broke the pipe.”
Nelson and commissioner Jeff Barrette both said they favor the purchase for the reasons Chute cited.
“It just seemed to come along at the right price and made sense,” Nelson said.
“I view it as an opportunity we won’t see again,” added Barrette, who also said the Unity Selectboard supported the purchase.
State Rep. Joe Osgood, R-Claremont, was the only delegation member to speak strongly in support of the purchase.
Osgood said he was initially concerned that Unity would be losing tax revenue but pointed out that the county will pay the same taxes as a private owner, who Osgood said could place a conservation easement on the parcel. Later in the evening, Osgood said the wood on the property could supply the biomass plant now being built at the county complex.
“This lot could supply heat at the nursing home and jail 20 years down the road,” he said.
Another issue discussed was development of 10 lots on the property but that seems unlikely because of the cost to build the infrastructure and bring in power. “I’d cross that off as far as development,” said James Callum, of Sunapee.
Barrette said the current owner is the last of several investors he believes bought the land about 15 years ago and logged it extensively.
Dagesse is the former owner of the Berlin City Car Dealerships and bought The Balsams hotel in Dixville Notch, N.H., in 2011.
The delegation will meet at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 13 in the county offices in Newport.
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org