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Thread: The Cog is in the news again for potenitally unpermitted building

  1. #16
    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Which Public?

    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I did show up, the buildings are not permitted and will require a zoning special exception/variance due to their location and elevation.

    Mr Presby stated they are for the public's use predominately as warming huts. Complete with a fireplace and porta potty...
    Interesting argument. By "public" does he mean anyone who wanders by, or only those who have paid him $10 to park and traverse his right of way?

    Also how does the porta potty get emptied?
    cb
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  2. #17
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    Just so there is no confusion, the new warming huts were stated to be at 3800 feet per Mr Presby which appear to be below treeline (using a USGS map which shows treeline around 4400). There is not independent verification and as the terminal point for winter ski operations was represented as "at treeline" I expect its time to get out the altimeter. They are located on the Cog owned land. The problem is that with rare exceptions (like backcountry shelters) there is no new development allowed at this altitude unless there is special exception/variance granted. There is also minor issue that the shelters needs to be setback from the property line which also requires a special exception/variance if they are in the setback. Mr Presby stated they were not. Realistically given the clutter of the cog along its land I expect few would notice these warming shelters. This really is an extension of a ongoing discussion that the planning board has been having with the Cog that the cog has to follow the planning and zoning rules of the county.

    The far more substantial above treeline summit development that was "flying under the radar" by myself and others is the so called "restoration" of a siding on the summit. What had been represented as rebuilding a section of siding on the summit is actually building a much larger elevated structure on the footprint of a section of track that was abandoned 20 years ago and was finally torn out 5 years ago as it blocked access to the summit building. This structure is an elevated trestle 11 feet high on one end tapered back to the existing track approximately 120 feet. So during normal operations at the summit there will be this new elevated structure with railcars parked on top of it further raising the impact to the summit in a place where rail cars have not been for 20 years. This new structure is on state of NH land which the cog has a non exclusive right to operate on. All the non state owned existing buildings on the summit are effectively grandfathered from planning and zoning by Coos county but once they are torn down, that grandfathered status goes away. Interestingly if you go on Google Earth the aerial shot shows the existing shortened track that is there today but the street view image from 2011 shows the track that has been torn out. The new structure is much wider than the track approximately 50 feet wide with a cut out for the stage office building.

    The claim is this for ADA and handicapped accessibility and yes this has been incorporated but to most folks it looks like a way to park, load and unload more railcars at the summit to support the publically stated goal of substantially increased daily Cog ridership while making accessibility more difficult for the autoroad,. It also impacts operations of other groups that operate on the summit. IMHO its grab for space in very crowded location but others may have other rational opinions.

    Despite the hiking publics lack of patience, the long term goal of the state and the Mount Washington Commission, is to reduce the visual impact and number of buildings on the summit. The state park building long ago was designed to consolidate several buildings into one lower impact building. When the WMTW generator building burned to the ground it was not rebuilt. I expect if the Tip Top building was destroyed it would not be rebuilt. The state has commissioned a study on the Yankee Building (the transmitter building) upgrade or replacement and last thing I heard the plan was to replace it and expect the replacement will be far lower profile. I don't see the antennas going away anytime soon So the goal is reduce the visual clutter on the summit when possible and adding a elevated train trestle with cars on top of it sure is a move in the wrong direction.

    The Cog had represented to the board that the proposed track extension and structure was on land owned by the cog, it came out that they actually do not own all of it and had submitted the application "in error". They tried to get the board to accept this as a minor error but the board ultimately decided to allow the application to be withdrawn. Since part of it is owned by the state, the application will have to be signed by the state that they are in agreement with the project which will put them at cross purposes with other summit users who will be impacted. The board also recommended that the Cog apply for the zoning exceptions and variances (that the Cog conveniently have not filed) as this is now new development in area where new development is effectively banned unless a special exception and variance is granted. The autoroad's lawyer was present and indicated that they were not in agreement with the proposed plan and suggested that in their opinion the proposal would have a hard time meeting the requirements for relief. The director of the state parks Phil Bryce was asked to make comments and was quite politically adept at not saying anything firm but holding out hope there would be a collaborative solution. He did definitely state that the state will not sign off on the application until all parties at the summit have participated. Mr Presby's lawyer indicated they were planning to meet with the state as soon as possible and the auto roads lawyer and others pointed out that all parties with interests in the summit need to be involved with any negotiations. The logical venue for this is the Mount Washington Commission which the Cog has been antagonizing for the last few years so it could get interesting.

    Unlike past meetings I have attended, Mr Presby stayed around after the official meeting was over and had individual discussions with various members of the board. It was not hard even standing across the room hearing him state to board members that the process was impossible and the board was unwilling " to work with him" Given that he is a lawyer and has attempted to bully the Mt Washington Commission in the past with legal arguments it makes it a bit difficult to juxtapose the two Mr Presby's.

    The net result is I expect the Cog is going to be spending a lot of future meetings on Cog issues or the Cog will just pull back like they did when it became apparent that the Cog hotel was in for a lot of opposition. The Cog does have the "bullys pulpit" this season as its the 150th anniversary and all sorts of news folks are looking at getting a free ride up to the summit to do a fluff piece.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 06-20-2019 at 10:10 AM.

  3. #18
    Senior Member kltilton's Avatar
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    Thanks for the update.

  4. #19
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    An update to the expansion of the cog at the summit. Here is link to the Cog's presentation to the Mt Washington Commission (MWC) . https://www.nhstateparks.org/getmedi...way-8-6-19.pdf Note that this was supplied by the cog so should not be considered unbiased. The Berlin Daily Sun has far more details on the site review that the was done with the commission Tuesday morning. Unfortunately the BDS is behind a paywall these days although on occasion the articles are recycled in the Conway Daily Sun.

    Some items from the article

    The cog is representing this as a "restoration" the MWC calls it and "extension". (note a smaller track structure was abandoned for many years and finally torn down several years ago so the Coos County planning regulations consider this new construction)

    The rendering in the attachment is in error. The person under the trestle (which is typical included for a scale reference is out of scale which makes the overall structure look smaller with lower impact that it would have. The elevation of the base of the steel beam is 11' while the figure represents 5'6". The cog agreed to resubmit. The actual platform is 2' above the tracks

    One of the commission members asked if rumors were true that a bar car or gift shop could be placed on the tracks at the summit. The owner of the Cog that there is no actual plan but that would not preclude those possibilities in the future.

    Even with the new structure, the Cog will not be able to handle all the cog cars at the summit and will have to continue their current practices.

    The owner of the autoroad was quoted that the project is a "land grab" at the summit and is "quite a change" to the access to the summit that the autoroad had enjoyed since 1975.

    The cog would like to have the project in place by next season.

    The MWC ultimately has to recommend to the state that the proposed project is "not unreasonable". They are strictly advisory. The various state departments responsible for the summit need to review and approve before it heads to the Coos County Planning and Zoning board of appeals.

    IMHO, given the recent planning board meeting where the auto road was ready with their lawyer to raise objections, the ongoing litigation with the Observatory over non payment of admission fees, withdrawing access to AMC from the base station for helicopter resupply access and encouraging denial of AMCs permission to land elsewhere on WMNF land, the cog does not appear to have a lot friends on the MWC. Not sure how the radio communications company feels. Walter Graf from the AMC appears to be encouraging a update to the summit master plan and given the recent Yankee building replacement recommendation I expect that any changes to the summit may end up being delayed by an overall revision to the master plan. There are also multiple points where the auto road or others could attempt to slow down the process. Add them all up and I do not see a swift and quick resolution to the cog's liking. The cog owner is generally not opposed to using the bully pulpit to express his displeasure but expect for now he has to play nice and keep quiet. He could try to get his "minions" to support his side as a "grass roots" effort and maybe use the anniversary year publicity to try to frame the project in good light but not sure how much that will forward the project.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 08-11-2019 at 10:01 AM.

  5. #20
    Senior Member CaptCaper's Avatar
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    Sounds good stuff for the summit by presby. good points he's made. He's doing a first class job for the cog now. I'm one of his "minions" I guess. Love the Cog and what if offers NH and Mt Washington.

  6. #21
    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptCaper View Post
    Sounds good stuff for the summit by presby. good points he's made. He's doing a first class job for the cog now. I'm one of his "minions" I guess. Love the Cog and what if offers NH and Mt Washington.
    Thank you for your positive comment without political posturing.
    Last edited by skiguy; 08-11-2019 at 02:44 PM.
    "I'm getting up and going to work everyday and I am stoked. That does not suck!"__Shane McConkey

  7. #22
    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptCaper View Post
    Sounds good stuff for the summit by presby. good points he's made. He's doing a first class job for the cog now. I'm one of his "minions" I guess. Love the Cog and what if offers NH and Mt Washington.
    Thanks for that link to the PDF Peakbagger. Very informative.

    In looking at the photo of the planned extension, I was struck by the scale of the Auto road's parking lots. The occupy a huge amount of summit real estate. Much more than the railway for sure. Why has no one complained about that?

    Question: Can you park overnight in one of those lots and hike to a hut or a campsite?

    I believe the Cog limits passenger time on the summit (2 hr?) . Not sure about auto road.
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  8. #23
    Senior Member jniehof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    Walter Graf from the AMC appears to be encouraging a update to the summit master plan
    That would sounds like a reasonable path forward given that disagreements among parties seem to be growing and it might make sense to get it all out there and sort things out. Of course part of the tension seems to be coming down to differences of interpretation on previous agreements and where they might contradict each other, so throwing another negotiated document on the pile might not do it.

    Given that the first recorded winter ascent of Washington was to serve legal papers, this is hardly new. High demand for limited space in a fragile environment.

  9. #24
    Senior Member TEO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptCaper View Post
    No reporters bias or false information and facts.
    Please keep your political views off of the forum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisB View Post
    Thanks for that link to the PDF Peakbagger. Very informative.

    In looking at the photo of the planned extension, I was struck by the scale of the Auto road's parking lots. The occupy a huge amount of summit real estate. Much more than the railway for sure. Why has no one complained about that?

    Question: Can you park overnight in one of those lots and hike to a hut or a campsite?

    I believe the Cog limits passenger time on the summit (2 hr?) . Not sure about auto road.
    From the Auto Road website: "ALL vehicles must leave the summit no later than 45 minutes after closing time and continue directly to the base. "

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisB View Post
    Thanks for that link to the PDF Peakbagger. Very informative.

    In looking at the photo of the planned extension, I was struck by the scale of the Auto road's parking lots. The occupy a huge amount of summit real estate. Much more than the railway for sure. Why has no one complained about that?

    Question: Can you park overnight in one of those lots and hike to a hut or a campsite?

    I believe the Cog limits passenger time on the summit (2 hr?) . Not sure about auto road.
    I have heard complaints at one point with respect to the autoroad parking lots and their expansion. I don't know the history of when and how they were built or the underlying agreements that are in place. They are cut in somewhat into the terrain and below the summit development so they are arguably less visually intrusive at the level where a typical ground based person would be able to observe them. The photo is taken well above ground level with the lots in the foreground so their presence is definitely more visible. I think Ball Crag shields them from view on Adams and Madison and I do not remember them begin very obvious from Wildcat since they are below the summit profile.

    I wasn't living in the area when the new state park building was planned but individuals I have talked to who did have some involvement have stated that during the process the concept of an overall planning approach to the summit as a whole was put in place. IMHO, if the auto road was coming forward with a proposal to expand their parking to what it is today they would get the same pushback as the Cog appears to be on the track extension. I believe the approach has been to minimize future impacts using a master plan while allowing the existing impacts to remain. This was used recently for the Yankee building replacement study which arguably has far more impact to the summit then the Cog extension. My understanding is that management of the autoroad parking lots are delegated by the state to the autoroad. I do not believe overnight parking is allowed. I expect the question comes up frequently given the popularity of people going to stay the night at Lake of the Clouds via the summit. Given the auto road's capacity is limited to available parking at the summit I expect they would not allow overnight or multiday parking as that one space could be turned over multiple times on a busy day. On many nice weekends the autoroad has to manage each space and limits new traffic from going up the road until traffic leaves. It causes quite a backup.

    Stated in the BDS article is that the cog currently has to manage guests due to lack of space at the summit and will continue to do so even with the extension. Given the substantial increase in ridership of the Cog from the introduction of the "biodiesel blend"electric Cogs, the Cog is setting record ridership every year and the owner has stated publicly that his goal is to further increase ridership by strategic track upgrades and possibly putting in additional parallel track. I am not aware of any daily limits on parking at the summit for personal cars by the autoroad, I am unsure if the van service has any limits but expect they need to do something to get folks down at the end of the day. Autoroad guests do dayhikes while parked along autoroad property, in particular its used by many to access the Alpine Garden.

    The Cog and Autoroad are both in the same situation that despite owning the land at the base of the mountain and the land heading up to the summit they do not own the summit and are both constrained by capacity constraints at the summit. Both are profit making corporations and the profit motive is expand the ridership to maximize profits. One party is trying to expand their ridership substantially and the other party feels that their access to the summit is being degraded by this. The state ultimately is the arbitrator on how to use what is a limited resource with Coos County having some regional control over new private development on the summit. The state is planning to replace the Yankee building so they can do what they please with respect to Coos county so the only regulated entities left are the Cog, the Autoroad and possibly some area assigned to the communication entity outside of the proposed Yankee footprint.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 08-12-2019 at 11:40 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Metsky View Post
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    Will do. Thanks, David.

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    Is there a possible compromise?

    Could the railroad switch be moved down a bit, the platform built lower on the summit cone, and the "extra length" of track in front of the Adams building demo'd? The platform wouldn't need to be elevated, would it?

    This solution would keep ALL of the stated benefits of the project for the COG Railways visitors (Eliminate congestion in front of Sherman Adams building, easier entrance/exit for passengers, Ability to fasten train to trestle/platform in the event of emergency or weather event, Compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act, and Improved safety of loading and unloading of passengers) while also not requiring the Auto Road visitors from having to pass under the platform. I am assuming that forcing the Auto Road visitors to go under the platform is a bug, not a feature.

    What am I missing?
    Last edited by Tom_Murphy; 08-12-2019 at 12:20 PM.

  15. #30
    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    ...The Cog and Autoroad are both in the same situation...
    In the PDF Presby refers to ADA (Americans with Disability Act) compliance for the construction of the new platform.

    Does the Autoroad have any ADA mandates that require it to deliver van passengers directly to the summit rather than to a drop off in the upper parking lot?

    All self-driving road customers must use the stairs to access the true summit.

    Seems like separating these two competing interests might be wise.
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