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Pluta sees potential resort casino as a major employer for city

Date: 7/5/2011

July 6, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE — Mayor Elaine Pluta views the establishment of a casino in Holyoke as a “significant priority.”

“I don’t see another way to bring a large number of jobs to Holyoke at this time, she told .

Pluta met on June 23 with representatives of Paper City Development Co. LLC, a group that plans to apply for a casino license for a gambling facility at the Wyckoff Country Club — once, and if, the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick approve the current expanded gaming bill.

Holyoke residents, who have approved gambling coming to the city in referendums in 1994 and 2002, would have to once again agree with the development for it to move forward. Pluta said that all of the reactions she has heard to the concept of a resort casino at the Wyckoff location have been positive.

Pluta said that from what she has been told, the Legislature would address the current expanded gaming bill sometime this month before the body goes on its summer break.

“While we have also considered potential sites in our downtown, land assembly and a litany of other issues would present some daunting challenges at this late date. With positive action expected on Beacon Hill in early July, the time is now for the city of Holyoke to begin coalescing around a single site and enter into formal negotiations on a host community agreement as mandated by the legislation now being considered,” Pluta said.

If Holyoke is selected as a site and if Paper City Development Co. LLC is the selected developer, Pluta said there are a number of criteria the developers would have to meet in a host city contract. In keeping with the green development that has characterized the city in the past few years, Pluta said the facility would have to be built along green construction practices. She would like to see a resort that could attract families and provide young people with outdoor recreational activities.

Although making sure Holyoke has its fair share of revenues from the casino is important — one estimate has been as much has $5 million annually — Pluta said the top priority is to make sure the traffic for the casino creates the least possible impact on the city’s streets. She would work to make sure the bulk of the traffic would come directly off Interstate 91.

Her support, of course, is contingent on the final proposal itself.

Members of Paper City Development Co. LLC also met with local labor leaders to discuss their involvement in the development of the casino on June 23.

“Since Paper City Develop-ment announced its plans to pursue the development of a destination resort casino at Wyckoff last July, I have been in regular contact with the principals. They have had their engineering, planning, traffic and other advisors in my office to meet with me and, in addition, will be meeting with key city department heads to discuss concepts and ideas,” Pluta explained.

“In these discussions I have made clear my concerns about traffic and neighborhood impact, stressing the need to develop an overall comprehensive transportation master plan for the betterment of traffic flow, conditions and connections between Interstate 91 and the Route 141 corridor. This plan must achieve a greater public purpose than simply providing access and egress to the resort casino. It must adequately address the ‘quality of life’ concerns of residents who live closest to the Wyckoff site, while, at the same time, balancing that with the implementation of roadway infrastructure needed to create a convenient and attractive gateway for casino patrons.

“Through collaboration with the developers, neighborhood residents, city and state officials, Easthampton Mayor Mike Tautznik, and organizations like the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, I’m confident that we will find the right solutions needed for Holyoke to put its best foot forward in the competition to land this project,” Pluta continued.

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