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Army Corps Moves Casino Location

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concerns over protecting aquatic life in vernal pools will mean shifting the proposed resort casino site closer to the residential neighborhoods along East Main Street (Route 16)







Foxwoods Massachusetts kicked off a series of community meetings last month, attracting dozens of people to presentations and question-and-answer sessions held at the Hoboken Citizen's Club on June 27, the Portuguese Club on July 1 and the DoubleTree Hotel on July 2. Changes to the company's proposed resort casino resulting from meetings with the town's consultants or regulatory agencies were being announced at these community meetings – including relocating the development closer to the residential neighborhoods along East Main Street (Route 16).

"I think we're probably in the third inning right now because we're just opening up the lines of communication right now," General Manager Allan Kronberg said after the session at the Portuguese Club. In terms of meeting any goal his company set for the community meetings, "I think we're exceeding it," he said, noting that the numbers of "Casino Free Milford" members wearing red shirts has dropped substantially from an initial presentation to subsequent ones. About 70 people, including Selectmen Chairman William Buckley and Selectman Brian Murray, attended the July 1 meeting.

Changes announced at that meeting included updated traffic counts, which Sean Reardon of TetraTech, Inc. – Foxwoods Massachusetts' consulting engineers – said were agreed upon with the town's consultants. Another change he announced was the possibility of relocating the development further back from Route I-495 and closer to Wildwood Drive due to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' concerns about disturbing aquatic life in vernal pools at the preferred site. At the next day's meeting, he confirmed that move.

Kronberg, Reardon and architect David Hancock gave a 45-minute presentation, followed by an equal time period devoted to questions and answers. Foxwoods Massachusetts' goal is to "create a signature resort casino," Kronberg explained. Hancock said the design would "embrace the New England aesthetic."

The general manager said the casino's surveillance equipment could be borrowed by area police departments to enhance store security videos within two hours, faster than waiting for statewide or federal law enforcement agencies to assist. The casino also plans to help enhance existing ballfields and possibly build new ones, Kronberg said.

Reardon spent his time reviewing water, sewer and traffic issues, He answered one man's question about why Foxwoods Massachusetts is talking to neighboring Medway about supplying water even though the casino believes the Milford Water Company has enough supply to do so. "We were asked to do it and we were directed to do it," Reardon replied.

"Under the [current state Department of Environmental Protection] permits, there's plenty of room" to add the casino's estimated 170,000 gallons per day water usage, he said. Reardon He said he needed to better understand what he termed the water company's "intransigence" about supplying water. "We're real comfortable that Milford Water Company can supply this project with water. There's room under your safe yield," he said.

Asked about getting water from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), the engineer said, "We do not want to go there," because the cost would mean the casino would not be able to do other types of mitigation.

Updated traffic projections show that 61 percent of casino visitors would come along Route I-495 south, 30 percent from Route 495 north, 1.5 percent along Route 85 south from Hopkinton, one percent along Route 85 through Milford, two percent from Route 16 to the east, two percent along Route 109 and 2.5 percent from Route 16 to the west, Reardon explained.

With 91 percent of projected traffic coming from Route 495, federal and state highway officials favor building a collector/distributor road along the interstate, he said. Two new lanes would be built in each direction in the median area of the interstate, with the right-most lanes of the newly widened roadway used for the collector/distributor road stretching from the Route 109 to the Route 85 exits, Reardon explained. A new interchange at Route 16 would "provide people a safe way to access 16 directly," which would decrease traffic at the two existing Milford exits, he added.

If the casino is not built in Milford, most people in the area would still travel to the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut, Kronberg said. He earlier joked that he could make the drive from Milford to Ledyard, Conn. in just 75 minutes. Since Foxwoods will manage the Milford casino, "There is no connection between the two projects," Reardon added.

In terms of job training, Foxwoods is the only casino proposing to build in Massachusetts that can provide on-the-job training at its Connecticut location, Kronberg said. He also has talked to Milford School Superintendent Robert Tremblay about establishing high school courses to prepare students for jobs in the hospitality industry, he said.

Asked by one woman how Foxwoods Massachusetts could balance off the effect of bringing gambling into the community, Kronberg said the main factor is the number of jobs that would be created. Local schools also could teach children about the dangers of compulsive gambling, he added.

Asked by another person about what charities the casino might donate to, Kronberg said the priority would be local one involving job training, children, schools and helping the water company to expand its capacity.

Maria Valenca asked whether property taxes would rise to pay for services needed by the town to support the casino. Her feeling was that the estimated $20 million in annual tax payments from the casino would mean that taxes would not rise. "Those decisions are made by everybody in town as well as elected officials," Kronberg replied, noting that $29 million is about a quarter of the town's operational budget.

Michael Visconti, a Town Meeting Member attending the July 1 community meeting, said as it began, "I'm waiting for concrete evidence that this is a good idea and I'm not hearing that yet. I'd like to hear guarantees and see something in writing."






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