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Officials seeking casino support

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 - Updated: 7:54 PM

By LAUREN LEWIS and HEATHER NELLIS

For the C-S-E

Economic development officials are seeking support from localities in endorsing the siting of a casino in Montgomery County.

Specifically, eyes are on a pair of properties in the town of Florida and city of Amsterdam.

Ken Rose, CEO of the Montgomery County Business Development Center, said he has been working on the initiative behind the scenes, and is to the point that in order to continue to engage the players, and keep them interested, his office needs to demonstrate local support through passage of local laws or resolutions.

“There’s a lot of things that need to fall into place,” said Rose. “First and foremost we have to gauge community input.”

Rose said he requested support resolutions from the county Legislature, city of Amsterdam, and the town of Florida. He hopes the local boards will consider the resolutions at their respective board meetings this month.

Rose said siting a casino also requires private business investment.

“The state is not just picking a site and developing it themselves -- the state is simply granting a casino operators license,” Rose said.

Any projects will be funded through the investment of a casino operator, developer, and possibly the municipality, should public infrastructure need to be extended to the proposed site, Rose said.

Mick Mullins, a broker of Mullins Realty, is promoting a pair of properties off Route 30 South on the border of the city of Amsterdamin the town of Florida as potential casino site for sale.

The properties comprise a 512-acre site.

Mullins compared the site to the Turning Stone Casino and Resort in Verona, N.Y.

“It’s right off the Thruway exit, has a lot of land, positioned similarly the way Turning Stone is to Syracuse, and the way this site is to Albany, and with Syracuse and Albany having similar sized populations,” Mullins said. 

It’s a closer reach to New York City and other states to the east.

“This site appears to be what the state is looking for,” Mullins said. 

In November’s election, New Yorkers overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution legalizing non-Indian casino gambling.

The general election vote in Montgomery County swung the same way, with 56 percent in favor and 44 percent opposed.

Montgomery County is only one of eight counties in the Capital Region that is being looked at for the siting of a casino.

A report released by the New York State Division of the Budget estimates that the regional fiscal impact to the Capital Region would be $35.5 million annually, which  includes $11.4 million in host county aid.

State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, recently wrote a bill that would require local governments to approve the siting of a casino in their area. 

That way, the state won’t be able to just place a casino without the local community supporting it.

Many local leaders seem to be in favor of bringing a casino to Montgomery County.

“I think it’s a great idea; any way to bring revenue to the county and new jobs -- that’s what it’s all about,” said county Legislature Chairman Thomas Quackenbush. “This county has been lacking for a long time and if there’s a way we can attract that sort of economic development and all of the things that will stint off of it, I think that’s great.”

Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane is amenable to the idea.

“The city is supporting this effort and we will be putting some resolutions to the county to support the county’s efforts,” Thane said. 

Thane can’t imagine a location within the city that would be large enough to play host to a casino.

“But certainly I look across the [Mohawk] River at exit 27 in the town of Florida, and I think that’s a lot of acreage there and maybe that would be a tremendous location,” she said.

Florida town Supervisor Eric Mead had heard that his town had been mentioned as a potential site. Mead personally supports the idea for Montgomery County and voted in favor of it on the ballot.

“I don’t know what the feelings are of the residents of the town of Florida,” Mead said. “Until I hear what my constituents think, I don’t know if it will fly in the town of Florida or not.”

District 7 Legislator Barbara Wheeler is a proponent of having a casino brought to the county.

“Not only did I vote for it when it was a proposition, I’m very excited,” District 7 Legislator Barbara Wheeler said. “And I think it’s a wonderful thing that would be an asset to Montgomery County if it was brought here.”

Rose said the big unknown now is what the reaction will be.

“We are approaching this from the county standpoint that this is going to be a local issue and were going to respect the wishes of the particular communities,” Rose said. “If the community does not want it within their jurisdiction then were not going to push that issue any further.”

Potential locations in the county include areas that are being marketed right now for commercial or industrial type development and that are actively on the market.

“It has to be a location that is easily serviced by public infrastructure, meaning natural gas, water and sewer that way the cost associated with bringing water and sewer to the site isn’t cost ineffective for the developer and the municipalities,” Rose said. “We’re concentrating on areas within the county where those services are readily available because its going to take the public infrastructure nearby a site to make it a reality.”

Also, once a location is chosen, the site would have to be re-zoned properly. 

“Right now I don’t believe the word ‘casino’ is mentioned in any of the zoning ordinance, throughout any of our municipalities,” Rose said. “There would have to be a re-zoning or a zoning amendment and that’s all locally controlled.”

Paul Parillo, former mayor of Amsterdam and local restaurateur, says Montgomery County and the city of Amsterdam should seriously promote the area as a serious contender for a resort casino.  

“Based on the information we were able to discover for ourselves, by doing some research, Montgomery County has the highest unemployment rate, the lowest income per capita rate, and the state is in fact looking to help distressed areas, so Montgomery County definitely fits the bill,” Parillo said.

     

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