Brayshaw on Powder Ridge Petition: 'It's a Soap Opera'

Middlefield First Selectman disputes resident's claim about negotiations involving ski area.


Nearly 70 people showed up for an open house at Powder Ridge on Saturday for the chance to hear Sean Hayes present his vision for the abandoned ski area, including Portland First Selectman Susan Bransfield.

Bransfield's appearance might have been insignificant if not for a claim made this week by Middlefield resident Laura Williams.

Williams, who has created an online petition called "Save our Ski Area" that calls for the town to lease the property to the owners of Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park rather than sell it to them for $700,000,  she felt that Middlefield First Selectman Jon Brayshaw hadn't properly vetted Browntone's proposal.

"I don’t think that Jon Brayshaw or anyone else reached out to the town of Portland," Williams said.

On Saturday, Brayshaw disputed Williams' claim.

"I see [Susan Bransfield] on a regular basis. Susan and I have talked several times about Sean Hayes and about Brownstone, going back to December," Brayshaw said.

Bransfield's relationship with Brayshaw and Hayes is significant because of Brownstone's success in Portland. Since opening the water park in 2007 under a lease agreement, the company has turned the town's historic but abandoned brownstone quarries into a multi-million dollar business.

As a result, Portland has received more than $500,000 over the past five years from a share of Brownstone's gate fees.

Williams, according to her petition which had been signed by 11 people as of Saturday, would like to see a similar deal in Middlefield. She recently visited Bransfield to request the lease agreement between Portland and Brownstone, as well as other financial information.

Brayshaw called Williams' actions "unprofessional."

"I honestly am embarrassed. I think it was very childish and very inappropriate for Middlefield citizens to make their way to Portland, take two hours out of the first selectman's day and then come back and use it in a manner that was never imagined by the first selectwoman," he said. "What they're doing is they're turning this thing into a soap opera."

Bransfield has been supportive of Brownstone, Brayshaw said, and he's invited her to attend a second public hearing on Hayes' proposal in Middlefield.

Brayshaw said the town will not offer to lease the property to Hayes because of the significant investment needed to restore the property. Hayes has previously said he would initially need to spend between $4 to $5 million to reopen Powder Ridge.

"It is what it is. We're not leasing, we're selling," said Brayshaw. "That's the way the previous deals were structured and the people voted 10-1 to go with it. We want [Hayes] to be successful. We want him to make the place a shining example of what can be done to bring something back from the brink."

Karen Greenbacker March 25, 2012 at 01:08 PM
We had a great tour given by Sean Hayes. He has a great vision and a lot of work ahead of him. We need to support and help him through town meeting process. Lets get this done so that we see a Dec. 2013 opening of the Ridge.
Just my opinion March 25, 2012 at 02:07 PM
At this point in time I don't know anymore what is best for Powder Ridge anymore. One thing is evident there are citizens whoa re not happy with what is happening. I would like to know how the selectman of the town 1 person out of the entire town can make a decision like no we are not leasing we are selling. I wonder if the towns people were presented with the option would it be the better one? Why are we now subdividing the ridge? Was the subdivision voted on because as far as I know the ridge was supposed to be sold in its entirety. Who made the decision to subdivide. How much extra legal fees will be incurred by doing the subdivision? Do you see where I am coming from I have too many unanswered questions to make an informed decision. I am 1 person and after hearing about how much Portland has gotten plus the lease it might be a good idea. Also most people who rent property to build a business to the improvements on their own. Such as if you rent property for a restaurant you are responsible for making it into the business you want not the person who leases it to you. We have been on hold this long why not a little longer.
Middlefield Resident March 25, 2012 at 04:04 PM
The Powder Ridge sale to Sean Hayes is perfect for Middlefield. Sean is successful and local. He wants to incrementally expand into low key winter and summer projects that are and will be approved by our local committees. Unlike other potential proposals, this project does not depend on time share or condominium development. One of the reasons for Middlefield buying the property to begin with was to avoid housing development and therefore expanded education costs.... which we have accomplished. Mr. Hayes is NOT proposing condos or timeshares. Selling the property makes complete sense. No bank is going to lend millions to an operator at Powder Ridge without assets to support the loan, ie the land. And no operator in their right mind would invest 4 million in this property without owning the land unless it had timeshare or condos, which we don't want. This is NOT Brownstone, which required very little capital investment. A lease made sense there. And, by the way, there are NO investors who are willing to lease our property without plans to build housing, INCLUDING Mr. Hayes. The subdivision makes perfect sense. We retain control over the best part of the land; the potentially developable portion of the land, the portion of the land we bought to AVOID HOUSING. In addition, selling less land allows us to lower the price on the parcel we are selling. This makes Mr. Hayes likely to be more successful, something our residents want. This project is perfect.
Dave Rowe March 25, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I think it's time that the town of Middlefield stop allowing a small group of malcontents to control the Powder Ridge issue. Going back decades there as always been a few who put their personal feelings ahead of what is best for the town. They are a good part of what drove it to where it is now. While the make up of the group changes the fact is that they can ultimately destroy all of that property with their stubbornness. At no point in this process should private citizens ever approached potential buyers personally. And it's clear that they did, time and again. And it's also clear that someone who just moved to town can have no concept of the history and is likely pushed by others who choose to remain in the shadows. Like charter revision, like ethics oversight, like countless other issues it is a tiny minority armed with misinformation and selfish ambitions that ruin it for the rest of the town. It's time for that to end.
Amy Poturnicki March 25, 2012 at 07:36 PM
The Selectman represents the people, in this case, PR based on how people have voted. The ppl voted to restore skiing and SELL PR. To go back after the fact, it results in more attorney fees in drawing up a completely new agreement vs. working off of the Alpine contract that was well thought out. Plus, Brownstone does NOT want to lease nor wise for their investors on a run down piece of property that requires multi-millions to restore in fixed infrastructure that they wouldn't even own. Another point to ponder...would it really be wise for the town to own and have control of a leased business property w/ our outspoken ones rarely being able to drop the politics and unite on anything? If I were the business owner, I would fear never having control of the success of my own business. The liability to the Town would also be a negative. As far as how much Portland receives for their lease...we shouldn't get greedy, let's truly appreciate that better things lie ahead for Middlefield families, our town businesses and jobs. We may only initially start w/ a tax benefit to the Town of $35,000 yr (as it sits now) but as Brownstone restores the defunct ski area to a thriving business that will definitely increase. Those w/ questions...get out, ask questions, attend the series of Meet & Greet's and things will start to come into perspective as the whole picture comes together. I wish the best for Brownstone and our community & can't wait to unite in the lounge by the fireplace! :)
Dave Rowe March 25, 2012 at 08:11 PM
I did not mean to imply that newer residents should not have a voice or be active in town business. New blood is a good thing it's just important that all read, listen and learn rather than parroting a party or another group of people. An informed citizen is a good citizen. I do not currently reside in MIddlefield but grew up there and will likely be moving back. I would like to see a town that is thriving because of good decisions not one just hanging on and being torn apart by petty politics.
Cindy Di Lauro March 25, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Here, here, I love the feedback, this is a very positive thing for our town and I too, hope people will pay attention, be positive, and allow a wonderful opportunity to move forward. Ask the right questions, do not be greedy or envious, this offer and the Brownstone group sounds so positive! We will be paying attention, doing our best to support what sounds good, get questions answered and give our support of an excellent opportunity for our town, our children and grand children for years to come. Time for sourpusses to move on with life!
Cindy Di Lauro March 25, 2012 at 09:09 PM
A note in addition to my comment above, Richard my husband, says he echoes my sentiments! He approves the above feedback, and we vote! Thank you for the opportunities to be involved in our community! Rich & Cindy Di Lauro
Cindy March 26, 2012 at 01:42 AM
I attended the meet and greet Saturday with my family and was so impressed with Sean Hayes and his vision for the mountain. This is the best deal we have to date. Everyone interested in seeing Powder Ridge up and running again needs to vocalize their support, encourage our town's boards and committees to support Sean Hayes, and speak out against the small minority in town who tries to sabotage every deal proposed.
Anthony March 26, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Unfortuinately, it has become a Middlefield tradition to attack and criticise every attempt at progress. Many of the attackers are only interested in creating political casualites, and neither care about the Town's interests nor have any better ideas to offer. If the First Selectman had proposed a lease instead of a sale, they would have condemned it with equal distain. If he had proposed to hold onto the property, he would likewise be villified. The People own the decision to buy the Ridge. If the People have better ideas than the current one, now is the time to roll them out. The political snipers owe the public more than back door sorties to Portland and innuendo: Ask what is their better idea is. The silence will be deafening.
Jenny Brown March 26, 2012 at 03:26 PM
The nay sayers demanded a subdivision that would be sold off by the town. What is the real motivation behind blocking this deal? Grow a pair and tell everyone the real reason for countering any plan! it was easer to negotiate with Ken than you all! Every time the offer is changed to accommodate the 3 people who claim we can do better, the changes are than questioned. No wonder no one who has $ and experience wants to negotiate with the Town. The ski industry big boys are laughing at our inability to except that Powder Ridge should be given away to anyone who will risk time and investment. If you simply don't want a ski area say so.
Edward Bailey March 26, 2012 at 05:39 PM
I want to offer a word of thanks to Amy and Rob Poturnicki and all others involved for their efforts arranging the open house at Powder Ridge. I was very impressed with the turn out; it again confirms that the most important issue in the Town is the future of Powder Ridge. Many people had the opportunity to hear and speak with Sean Hayes about his plans for the property. I am quite confident that when the citizens of Middlefield and Rockfall vote on this matter they will be informed and use common sense.
Concerned March 27, 2012 at 03:07 PM
An investor who can lease the ridge and rebuild it with the idea of selling it on after a reasonable period...like 5-10 years, would enable we taxpayers to recoup much of the 4Million we have spent so far. The fact that the ridge has been seriously vandalized and is not a viable operation at the moment devalues the property. If it were a going concern, as it once was, would enable everyone to benefit. This is not a crazy idea...this was proposed to Mr. Brayshaw & Mr. Lowry even before they inked the papers to buy Powder Ridge from Middlefield Holdings. This proposal was ignored, even though it could have enabled Middlefield (and we taxpayers who are going to be paying - how much????) to come away with the out of pockets expenses and have a vibrant ski area once again. After we finiah paying of Middlefield Holdings, we will have a approx. $500,000. about 13-14% of what we have spent, not including the future costs of the borrowed money. Don't forget, we are still going on short-term lending, and interest rates are rising. We will end up with a taxable bond at who knows what interest rate. We could have had this bond at around 2%, but Mr. Brayshaw didn't want to lock it in. Our TAXES are at stake here! Can you as individuals afford to not know what the final costs will be? Can you afford indefinate increases? Think about it.
Jenny Brown March 28, 2012 at 12:03 AM
That ship has sailed Mary Beth. Please stop beating this dead cow. Remember how you pushed the deal with Alpine inc a few years ago? All of you who had "concerns" with Snow Time inc.( a very reputable ski company who grossed 98 million last season) went out of the way to make negotiations difficult, and one of your gang even went as far as threatening to hold them up for years in wetlands. The deal was crushed. I fought with the majority of the Dems( my party?) about this. I told you Alpine was not the real deal! I can't belive that anyone is offering 700,000. I was told by real ski industry leaders that they wouldn't take it for free! "Not worth the trouble" Dan Frank of Snow Time told me in Febuary. No one will ever offer 1 million for that place. He thought Jon Brayshaw had given an unrealistic expectation. So did I. Than we got an offer for 1 mill. The subdivision was a way to make the numbers work. Now we will obtain $ for the land. heres some old figures: per skier visit $6000 ( cost to ski area) multiply by 2000 skier visits = !2 mill investment. Sean can lower that price by working w/ what is there and using resources from Brown Stone. No one else can do that. Peak Resorts was interested but also thought it was too large of an investment. "Not worth it" They told us....3 years ago. Mr. Sundown was only in for 1500 at one point. We are fortunate to have Sean,s interest! But if you don't want skiing, no amount of blabbing on my part will help.
Laura Williams March 30, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Amy Poturnicki March 30, 2012 at 02:30 PM
3 more opportunities to catch up with Sean Hayes during their Meet & Greet series. Find out their exciting vision for Middlefield families! Also, learn why most people and Brownstone consider leasing this property a dead issue. http://durham.patch.com/blog_posts/meet-greet-series-with-sean-hayes-of-brownstone


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