Cog didn't break rules, board says

Union Leader Correspondent
April 18. 2018 9:05PM

LANCASTER — The Coos County Planning Board on Wednesday voted that improvements made by the Cog Railway last summer did not violate the county’s planning regulations.

The nonprofit group Keep The Whites Wild had asserted the railway built an unpermitted road along its tracks.

Without deciding if it’s a trail or road, the board by voice vote decided the improvements are for maintaining the tracks and a state-built power line to the summit of Mount Washington.

Keep The Whites Wild had originally taken the matter to the Coos County Commission, which directed the matter to the planning board.

Wayne Presby, president and owner of the Cog, told the Planning Board Wednesday that in 2007 the state installed an electrical conduit from the Cog’s base station to the top of Mount Washington.

Last summer the Cog brought in heavy equipment to fix some potential erosion issues created by the 2007 work, with Presby also offering to bury parts of the exposed conduit for the state.

“Yeah, we were doing work on behalf of the state” said Presby, who added later that he does not ever envision widening the trail.

The state built the trail in question, said planning board member Mike Waddell, and “even if you call it a road, it’s a state road” and does not require local planning board approval. He later said that the road was built and is being maintained for a state purpose.

Planning Board Chairman John Scarinza said the state told him recently that conduit maintenance would be a long-term, ongoing issue.

If the Cog ever changes the use of the trail from the dual purpose of maintaining its tracks and the conduit, it probably should come before the planning board for a review, said Scarinza.

Presby has previously proposed but has not yet filed a formal site plan application with the planning board for a 35-room hotel astride the train tracks at about 1,000 feet from the summit.

Several conservation groups have opposed the hotel plan, saying it would damage Mount Washington’s fragile alpine zone.

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