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The Balsams is for sale — if the price is right

May 13, 2009
DIXVILLE — The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, known across the globe as the site of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary balloting, is for sale to any buyer who makes an offer that is acceptable to the five Tillotson directors. If an offer is acceptable, the directors, in turn, would then recommend the sale to the trustees who represent the Tillotson trust. The trust was set up to benefit a number of charities in the North Country, adjacent areas in Vermont and Quebec, and other locations in which the Tillotson Corporation has generated earnings.

Tillotson Corp. president Grafton Corbett III confirmed that the hotel is for sale in a Monday morning telephone call to his office in Lexington, Mass., a suburb of Boston.

A number of potential buyers have looked at the property; no offer acceptable to the directors has been made, however, Mr. Corbett said.

The 7,000 acres of forest that surround the hotel and Wilderness Ski Area are available for sale as an option.

Likely, a good portion of the forestlands would be restricted in some way to preserve their conservation value, he said. Most potential buyers have said, however, that they would like to see significant acreage left available for future residential development.

The Tillotson Corporation is seeking a property tax abatement from Cos County, which is a topic likely to come up at today's 9:30 a.m. county commissioners' meeting in the DRED building in Lancaster.

A Feb. 2 letter to the county, signed by Mr. Corbett, cites a market assessment of the hotel and points out that the county's valuation of $18.5 million is nearly twice that which the Pinnacle Advisory Group of Boston, Mass., Newtown, Penn., and Pompano Beach, Fla., had come up with in November 2008.

Since then, Mr. Corbett noted in his letter, the country's economic tailspin has only served to further reduce the value. His letter points out that the Tillotson holdings are "grossly overvalued" and that the county's assessment figures "bear no resemblance to the real market value."

The hotel has been losing approximately $4 million a year, a figure that includes both depreciation and all expenses.

The hotel's new manager, Jeff McIver, has been charged with keeping a far closer eye on expenses than did Delaware North, which has managed the hotel for the last four years, Mr. Corbett explained.

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