Camden Planning Board to begin new Snow Bowl lodge review

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 2:45pm

    CAMDEN — Plans for a new municipally owned and operated ski lodge at the Camden Snow Bowl will receive initial review by the town’s planning board Jan. 15. The design — the third iteration of the project since 2010 — was delivered to the town office at the end of December, and represents a major component of the Snow Bowl overhaul, and approximately $2 million of the $6.5 million-plus project.

    The proposed lodge is to be constructed next to the existing lodge, which is to remain in use for ski patrol, first aid, and programs. 

    The new lodge, designed by Stephen Blatt Architects, of Portland, is to have a footprint of 5,950 square feet, with a total area of 11,830 square feet of room spread over two floors. The lodge is to provide space for 200-plus seating, kitchen/food area, ticket and ski school counters, and restrooms, as well as a rental and repair shop, offices and equipment storage. 

    Snow Bowl changes

    Improvements include repurposing the existing double-chair lift, removing both T-bars and installing a used triple-chair lift to the top of the mountain, near the same path of the former Big-T. 

    Snowmaking is to be be expanded from 40 percent to over 80 percent coverage, including the improved novice area and the top of the mountain.

    Estimated price tags:

    1) Purchase of the triple-seat chairlift, reconfiguration of existing lift, removal of T-bars: $1 million.

    2) Improving snowmaking and equipment, trailwork, power upgrade and distribution: $2.5 million.

    3) New lodge: $2 million.

    4) Architecture, design, engineering, consultants: $1 million.

    Plans also indicate a 240 square-foot concrete deck on the mountain side, a 1,000-gallon propane tank, and a 1,000-gallon grease trap. The wetland impact is calculated at 3,311 square feet. Outdoor lighting is to consist of 18-feet-tall poles, with LED luminaries.

    The site plan calls for 287 parking spaces.

    The new plans of the lodge are far different from what was initially presented in 2010, which were then drawn at 13,000 square feet. That design was scaled down to 8,500 square feet, following intense public criticism that characterized the lodge as extravagant. A new design was presented in 2011 (see drawing to the right), and then it was revised again, this time to add a full basement to the structure.

    The full basement area has been enlarged by approximately 2,700 square feet. The previous plan did not have a full basement under the upper level Great Room.  A 260 square-foot meeting room was also added to the upper level.

    The new lodge is part of the larger Mountain of Possibilities campaign, and which includes expanding trails, increasing snow making reliability, enhancing Hosmer Pond access and otherwise improving the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area for the sake of year-round activities. The improvements, proponents have said, will increase the number of visitors not just to the area, but to the Camden region, and generate more business.

    While the Snow Bowl, with its ski trails, pond and sports field, is owned and operated by Camden, the campaign is a public/nonprofit collaboration of taxpayers and the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Foundation. The foundation's Capital Campaign Committee pledged to raise $4.5 million of the total project cost, and Camden voters approved issuing a $2 million bond to complete the funding package. The municipal Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Redevelopment Committee, consisting of foundation members, Camden citizens and town employees, is the framework for the public-nonprofit collaboration.

    In 2011, the Redevelopment Committee also received an alternative design from architect Justin Smith and a group of citizens calling themselves Friends of the Snow Bowl. Unhappy with how the first Blatt design looked, the Friends of the Snow Bowl held a design charette of their own and invited local architects and community members to submit sketches. Then, they turned around and submitted their drawings to the Redevelopment Committee, asking that their ideas be incorporate into the revised design.

    Project critics also questioned whether the overhead costs associated with a new lodge would increase overall operating costs at the mountain, and saddle taxpayers with more debt.

    The latest design, worked on over the past few years, was submitted as part of a site plan review application to the town of Camden, by the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area, a department of the town of Camden. The Camden Planning Board will begin its review of the application Jan. 15, at 5 p.m. in the Washington Street Conference Room.

    Snow Bowl Project

    In 2008, Camden voters approved a non-binding measure that positioned support for borrowing up to $2 million for Ragged Mountain Recreation Area improvements, if matched by a minimum of $4.5 million raised via private money.

    Following that vote, project proponents commenced soliciting contributions, as well as holding public fundraisers.

    The Foundation met the $4.5 million mark, with some cushion.

    The matching funds — $2 million of town funds and $4.5 million in donations — are to be expended together, not one before the other, and expenditures are planned to match the cash flow of donations over a two-year period.

    The cost of borrowing $2 million to the taxpayers could average $110,000 in annual interest payments for 30 years

    The capital improvement project at Ragged Mountain entails making mountainside improvements in 2014 and constructing a new lodge in 2015.

    The intent is to “provide the capacity to accommodate up to 600 skiers per day with adequate parking, lodge space, uphill lift capacity, and ski terrain serviced by snowmaking and enhance year-round trail use for hikers and mountain biking,” according to the plan.

    The mountain has been supported by the town in varying degrees since the town assumed ownership of its real estate and operations in 1983.

    In 1990-91, Camden voters approved funding the Snow Bowl with $149,000 of their tax dollars; in 2009-2010, it was $55,000. In 2012, and following several years of good snowfall, the town contributed zero dollars.

    The Redevelopment Committee, a municipally appointed group of citizens, has built a detailed finance and budget analysis of the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area through 2016, incorporating the entire mountain upgrade.

    Aside from debt obligation, the projected budget includes no town matching funds in 2015 and 2016.

    Instead, the budget anticipates additional revenue will derive from the increased numbers of daily and season ski tickets, ski school enrollment and new lodge rentals. 

    – Lynda Clancy

    With cost overruns estimated at $800,000 as of early January, the Foundation has said it will cover them.

    Related stories:

    Camden Select Board brings in old friend to help with Snow Bowl progress (Jan. 7)

    • Camden Snow Bowl to start making snow Jan. 5 (Jan. 2)

    • Camden Select Board pushes Ragged Mountain redevelopment project forward over protests of many Hosmer Pond neighbors (Dec. 18)

    • Snow Bowl progress report to Camden Select Board continues to be positive (Dec. 3)

    • One by one, 20 chairlift towers went up at the Camden Snow Bowl (Dec. 1)

     Helicopter to help raise, place 23 chairlift towers at Camden Snow Bowl (Dec. 1)

    • Report: Ragged Mountain Redevelopment Project $500,000 over budget (Oct. 8)

     Camden Planning Board approves Snow Bowl lighting plan as proposed (Oct. 6)

     Camden Snow Bowl on target for Dec. 20 opening, weather willing (Sept. 19)

    • Camden to contract with South Portland firm to manage Snow Bowl lodge, base area (July 24, 2014)

     Camden Snow Bowl project remains under DEP scrutiny, making progress, more work ahead (July 11)

     Vermont trail builder takes helm with Camden Snow Bowl project, new phase gets under way (July 10)

     Camden Snow Bowl prepped for more rain, assembling working group to assist with next steps (July 2)

    • Snow Bowl mountain mud runoff causes headache for neighbors, town (July 1)

     Camden Snow Bowl anticipates ending season in the black; work begins on Ragged Mountain (March 19)

     Homage to Camden’s Big T (March 15, 2014)

     By wide margin, Camden voters approve Snow Bowl improvement bond (Nov. 5, 2013)

     Camden voters consider $2 million Snow Bowl bond, three zoning amendments (Nov. 3, 2013)

     Camden committee selects new parks and recreation director (Sept. 6, 2013)

     Camden considers $2 million Snow Bowl bond, ordinance amendments Nov. 5 (Sept. 4, 2014)

     Camden ready to put $2 million bond before voters (Aug. 21, 2013)

     Camden pursues federal money to help with Snow Bowl upgrade (July 10, 2013)

     Camden learns about refurbished chairlifts, woven grips and haul ropes (April 10, 2013)

     Last run for Jeff (Jan. 21, 2013)

     Stellar start to season at Camden Snow Bowl (Jan. 9, 2013)

     Camden’s Ragged Mountain loses a good friend (Nov. 7, 2012)

     Ready for packed powder? Camden Snow Bowl to make it quicker, sooner with updated snow guns (Sept. 12, 2012)

    Editorial Director Lynda Clancy can be reached at; 207-706-6657