- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A bill to pave the way for an ambitious plan to restore a faded North Country resort got the go-ahead from New Hampshire’s House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The bill creates a special taxing district allowing the state to back $28 million in bonds toward redeveloping the Balsams, which closed in 2011.

Maine businessman Les Otten is seeking the state-backed bond to help finance the $143 million project that would reopen the Dixville Notch resort where the first presidential ballots are traditionally cast.

The House passed an amended version of the measure by a vote of 293-57. The amendment makes it clear that the state’s Business Finance Authority is the agency that will consider any bonds, raises the limit to any one project from $25 million to $30 million and raises the BFA’s total borrowing limit from $95 million to $115 million. The Senate passed the original bill and now must vote on the amendment.

Supporters have said it would help create jobs in a poor region of the state that has suffered economically. Opponents worry that if the Balsams plan fails, taxpayers would be on the hook for the $28 million bond.

Otten’s proposal would renovate existing buildings and build a 400-room hotel, a conference center and a spa and retreat. It would also expand the ski area around the inn. Some 1,700 jobs could be created, according to a study commissioned by the developer. The full project, estimated at $320 million, could be finished by 2024.

Sen. Jeff Woodburn, who represents the region and was the prime sponsor of the bill, praised Wednesday’s vote as an example of bipartisan cooperation.

“This important legislation sets the stage for an economic transformation of Coos County and expands business and employment opportunity in the state’s unincorporated places,” the Democrat said in a prepared statement.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said the bill was an important tool to create jobs and said she’ll sign it if the Senate approves the amendment.

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