FRANCESTOWN — After receiving complaints from people as far away as Nelson about the lights shining over the new trails at the Crotched Mountain Ski Area, the town is considering issuing a cease-and-desist order to force the ski area to comply with zoning regulations.
But the manager of Crotched Mountain said the town's ordinances don't apply to ski resorts and is seeking a variance through the zoning board.
According to Francestown Town Administrator Michael Branley, the lights installed last year to accompany Crotched Mountain's expanded trails and a new high-speed lift have cast a "big glow over the world" that can be seen for miles. On weekends, the sky above Crotched Mountain stays bright until the early morning hours due to the mountain's "Midnight Madness" extended hours.
"We're getting complaints about the lights from local residents, but also from people as far away as Greenfield and Nelson," said Branley.
Branley said that according to the planning board, the lights at Crotched Mountain need to have shields to direct illumination onto the trails so they're lighting only what needs to be lit.
"They've been going back and forth with the planning board about this since the expansion was completed," said Branley.
The planning board has since asked selectmen to issue a cease-and-desist order against the ski area, owned by Peak Resorts, and has drafted a notice of non-compliance requiring the lights to be shielded within 30 days. That notice will be sent to the ski area this week, Branley said.
Pat Terry, general manager of Crotched Mountain, said the ordinance the planning board and selectmen are trying to enforce doesn't apply to the ski area.
"Francestown's ordinances were really written for street lighting and parking lot lighting," said Terry. "Even if we shielded the lights, we still wouldn't be in compliance with the ordinance as written."
Terry said that due to wind and snow, shielding the lights is an impractical solution and could actually result in the mountain having to add more lights to the new trails.
"Instead, we're applying for a variance," said Terry. "That seems like the most practical way to go."
Terry said that Crotched Mountain's lighting follows industry standards.
"It's the norm for ski area lighting," he said.