Middlefield's Economic Development Commission voted 3-1 on Tuesday night to endorse a sales agreement between Powder Ridge buyer and the town, a largely symbolic move that comes on the heels of the approval of the agreement by the town's Board of Selectmen.
Commission member Cheryl Pizzo's lone dissenting vote came at the end of a 90-minute special meeting during which Hayes presented a "sneak peak" of his plan to buy and restore the ski area.
"We have to establish ourselves as something unique in the market," Hayes told the commission.
Hayes, who has agreed to buy the property for $700,000, said he will present a full proposal to Middlefield residents at a yet-to-be scheduled public hearing which could take place as early as next month, according to officials.
According to the 120-page , Hayes must restore skiing at Powder Ridge by December 31, 2014. In order to achieve that, Hayes said he will initially invest between $3.5 to $5 million using collateral from Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park, his successful outdoor water park in Portland.
"We can, by combining to these two entities create Middlesex County, or Route 66 as the adventure sports capital of New England. That is what we're going for," Hayes said.
Hayes spent about a half-hour presenting the commission and a small audience with some specifics of his plan, which would require both reconstruction and restoration of the property.
"The reality is to open these doors, you're talking millions," he said.
Funding for the project, according to Hayes, would come from investors. He also said he is also involved in finance negotiations with a local bank.
"Brownstone is putting everything it's got behind this project. If downhill skiing fails we're not talking about Powder Ridge. We're putting Brownstone, a very successful business at risk, 100 percent," he said.
Town attorney Kenneth Antin said Hayes has agreed to indemnify the town both professionally and personally.
"I think that's significant," said chariman Chuck Kreitler.
While a forensic audit of Hayes' finances is due this week, he said a feasability study of his business plan performed by the bank came back positive. Copies of a 7-page summary of the study were made available at the meeting.
The agreement between Hayes and the town came under scrutiny by commission member Cheryl Pizzo.
"I read through this entire document and I think there's some things in here that could cause a burden to the taxpayers," Pizzo said.
Among Pizzo's concerns is a $200,000 payment due to Middlefield Holdings if the town and Hayes close the deal before Dec. 1, 2012. Pizzo called the agreement "civic generosity."
"If we hold off the closing, that's $200,000 that goes to the taxpayers instead of Middlefield Holdings. It's only a matter of months," Pizzo said.
Antin said a delay in the closing would jeopardize the requirement that Hayes offer skiing on the property by the end of 2014. Antin said the payment was the result of negotiations between the town and Middlfield Holdings which bought Powder Ridge in 2008 but resold the property to the town shortly thereafter.
Pizzo also worried that a $500,000 grant from the state's Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) was in jeopardy.
Hayes said he'd spoken earlier in the day with State Rep. Matt Lesser who indicated to him that the grant money was still available and that only minor changes needed to be made to an agreement.
Contacted Wednesday morning, Hayes said he had mistakingly identified Lesser but had in fact had a conversation about the grant with State Sen. Len Suzio following .
Members of the audience raised issues ranging from the amount of taxes the town would collect to the expected increase in traffic in the area.
"The reality is we have an entrepreneur that has proven track record, who's local, who is committed to this market, who will do a fantastic job," said commission member Bill Warner. "I'm wholeheartedly in support of it."
EDC chairman Charles Kreitler also supported Hayes' proposal.
"I think you're going to get another 75,000 to 100,000 people to come through town that will notice the golf course, the lake, [Lyman Orchards'] Apple Barrel," Kreitler said.
Antin said if the agreement is approved by voters, a closing would take place within three weeks and construction could begin as early as late summer.