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Pearsall: Sense that casino timetable unfair shared by other towns

Date: 10/17/2013

By Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM – Planning Director John Pearsall said the feeling of Wilbraham’s leaders that the timetable to negotiate surrounding community agreements is unworkable is a sentiment shared by other communities and that aspect of the situation was addressed at length at a meeting with the Mohegan Sun’s representatives on Oct. 9.

“There was a lot of talk about how unrealistic the timetable is. I think everyone agrees on that,” he said. “Mohegan Sun said they wouldn’t be opposed to asking for an extension to the deadline.”

According to gaming legislation in Massachusetts surrounding community agreements must be included in casino developers’ application for a gaming license. Those applications are due by Dec. 31.

The Board of Selectmen already agreed at its Sept. 31 meeting to write a letter to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission requesting an extension of the deadline to complete surrounding community agreements with MGM or Mohegan Sun.

Pearsall said being able to achieve a level of flexibility is important in this process, especially for Wilbraham.

“We’re in the unique situation where we have to respond to two of these studies,” he noted.

Town officials are still awaiting more details on Mohegan Sun’s findings regarding impacts on surrounding communities, even after the meeting.

Pearsall, who was named one of the point people for casino impact mitigation discussions by the Board of Selectmen, was one of several Wilbraham representatives – including Board of Selectmen Chair James Thompson, Town Administrator Robert Weitz and Police Chief Roger Tucker – who attended the meeting at the Palmer Public Library, said procedure, not details, were discussed.

“There wasn’t much in the way of things we could review. Their promise was to have that to us hopefully by the end of the month,” Pearsall said. “This meeting focused on the process Mohegan Sun planned on taking regarding mitigation.”

He added that while Mohegan Sun and the town of Palmer have provided a wealth of information regarding the details of the host community agreement, “they haven’t released any information as it relates to surrounding communities.”

He explained that communities at the meeting were informed that Mohegan Sun has agreed to take a regional approach, utilizing the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) as a third party consultant to help communities review the company’s findings regarding casino impacts.

MGM has also tapped the PVPC to peer review the traffic study for the proposed Springfield development, however, Pearsall said the regional planning entity’s involvement with the proposed Palmer project is much greater.

“Their scope of work is much more comprehensive,” he said. “In addition to traffic, it will include a review of the social and economic impacts.”

Communities interested in participating in the PVPC’s review must inform the commission by the end of the month.