|Casino in RP gaining steam
State Assembly fastracks vote to OK compact
California’s State Assembly voted 63-4 to approve a gambling pact for a tribal casino on 254 acres of former hayfields west of Rohnert Park on the former Wilfred Avenue, renamed Golf Course Drive West. The Assembly vote was taken Thursday, May 10, (there was no discussion on it), and swiftly followed a lopsided state Senate approval three days earlier in Sacramento.
The votes were necessary after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a compact with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR) on May 27, 2011 to build the casino less than a quarter-mile from Home Depot hardware and building supply on Redwood Drive in Rohnert Park.
Votes taken in Sacramento will be forwarded to the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) in Washington D.C., for probable approval.
At this point, there’ve been no plans revealed for a resort hotel to be built by FIGR’s partners, Station Casinos of Las Vegas. Vague mentions of “at a future time” have been mentioned but no date set.
However, there’ll be a hotel built near the casino. RP’s Planning Commission has OK’d a five-story Oxford Suites hotel to be built in the Wilfred-Dowdell Specific Plan area in the city’s northwest corner. This project does not require city council approval, but they could call it up for a look-see.
Cotati’s City Council discussed the casino’s approval in Sacramento votes, but took no action at their May 9 meeting.
City Manager Dianne Thompson said, “The casino in Rohnert Park will have impacts on Cotati, and we are working with our Second District Supervisor, David Rabbitt on mitigation of those impacts.”
Basis for the agreements with Rohnert Park and FIGR go back to a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) signed in September 2003 and approved on a 4-1 vote at a tumultuous public meeting held in the main theater inside Spreckels Performing Arts Center. Councilman Jake Mackenzie (now mayor) was the only dissenter.
The MOU goes to work with many categories of a total of $9 million given to the city and the school district. They go into effect, according to the MOU, “beginning in the year the casino is open for business.” The total 20-year package is $200 million.
The FIGR will also buy land south of the casino to the Laguna de Santa Rosa at a cost of $2.7 million and donate it to the city as open space.
Groundbreaking on the casino construction could start before Oct. 15 of this year. But no date has been set so far.
Casino foes have not given up the fight. Stop the Casino 101 Coalition (STC101), the group fighting the casino for nine years, have an ally in Petaluma City Councilman Mike Healy. “We’re certainly not giving up,” he said. He cited weaknesses in the casino’s environmental impact report and pending or future lawsuits against the project.
Pastor Chip Worthington, spokesman for Stop the Casino 101, has also mentioned the possibility of
lawsuits dealing with water wells that would hold up construction.
”We do not believe that the county of Sonoma has the authority to negotiate with a ‘sovereign nation’ for mitigation affecting privately owned wells on privately owned property, especially since the well owners aren’t even being consulted,” said Worthington.
“Owners of private wells need to be brought into the conversation as to what will be done with their wells if they go dry as a result of the casino. A successful challenge in which water will be one of the key elements, means that the casino will never open its doors.”