Officials weigh in on proposed casino
Officials shared their initial thoughts and questions about the proposed casino and racetrack at Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting.
Peter Teitelbaum was concerned about noise from the racetrack disturbing the people who live on Glen Charlie Road, and asked whether the location of the stables and racetrack could be swapped so that the stables would be closest to the neighborhoods. Jeffrey Tocchio, a land use lawyer who presented to the board, said that swapping the locations would not work because there are natural habitats on the land that they want to protect. The habitats are situated in such a way that the track would only fit in one place.
However, he said that noise should not be too much of an issue. The track is about one-quarter mile from the neighborhood, and because of the extensive excavation carried out by the Graziano gravel business, the track will be between 14 and 17 feet below grade.
“We have a lot of experience in playing fields. The modern speakers are not loud, they just direct the sound in a specific area,” Tocchio said. He said engineers often produce “sound maps” to calculate the most effective and least disruptive ways to ensure crowds can hear announcements.
Teitelbaum also expressed his concern that the proposed road connecting the Route 25 interchange with Glen Charlie Road, and providing a second entrance to the complex, would increase traffic on Glen Charlie Road. Popular GPS apps like Waze redirect drivers around traffic, and can create secondary traffic jams on back roads.
“My preference would be one way in, one way out for everybody but the fire department,” Teitelbaum said.
Tocchio said that the traffic engineers the developers consulted had said that if anything, the road would relieve traffic on Glen Charlie Road.
Alan Slavin said that the revenue from the development could make a big difference in the town’s budget.
“This needs to be looked at carefully. Wareham as a town cannot survive on property taxes. Residents will keep asking for libraries, community centers, etcetera, the money has to come from somewhere. This project has a huge potential, but at the same time it has to work for everybody,” Slavin said.
Jim Munise asked the developers what they saw as the biggest challenges for the project.
Tom O’Connell, the developer heading the project, said that the biggest hurdle will be getting the state legislature to give the Gaming Commission permission to “right-size” the casino license by allowing a smaller scale development in place of the current license for a full-scale resort casino like Encore Boston.
Senator Marc Pacheco, who represents Wareham along with a good deal of the towns included in Region C, expressed his opposition to the project in an earlier interview with Wareham Week.
“As the senator that represents the district, I am not in favor of moving forward with this plan. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the legislature and the governor at the time passed a comprehensive piece of legislation which calls for one slot parlor and three destination casinos. Region C has not seen the realization of that destination resort casino,” Pacheco said.
“If it was just a thoroughbred track, that would be different. They’re interested in having a mini casino and having the law changed to undermine a mega destination-based casino in Southeastern Massachusetts,” Pacheco said. “I am extremely opposed to undermining the ability for our region to be treated exactly the same way as the other two regions in the state. We are not less than those other two regions. We are equal to the other two regions and we should have the same opportunity.”
As for the developers’ argument that the market would not support a third destination resort casino in Massachusetts, Pacheco is not convinced.
“Their argument is false. Their argument is set up to give them the answer they want to get their proposal passed,” said Pacheco.
He cited the millions invested in the planned Wampanoag casino in Taunton, which has been stymied by litigation at the federal level concerning whether the tribe qualifies to have its land taken into trust by the federal government, thereby exempting the land from state and local taxes and regulation and allowing for self-governance.
“The people investing in these projects are not stupid,” Pacheco said. “They’re investing their money because they know they’ll get a return on their investment.”