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Neighboring towns object to proposed Foxborough casino

Steve Wynn (left) and Robert Kraft say a casino would add $10m in local revenue.

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH - Rumblings of opposition to a Las Vegas-style casino in Foxborough are becoming louder in neighboring communities, as officials worry about the strain the operation would place on local schools, housing, roads, and public safety departments.

Selectmen in Wrentham and Norfolk are sending letters this week to their Foxborough counterparts, protesting any plan for a local casino, town officials said yesterday. Town leaders in Walpole had previously penned their own letters of opposition.

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The Wrentham selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose any plan for a casino in Foxborough.

Their letter states that opposition is “due to severe adverse impacts that such a development would have on the people, infrastructure, and services of the town.’’ Copies of the letter are being sent to state Senator Richard Ross and state Representative Daniel Winslow.

The vote by Norfolk’s selectmen was also unanimous. In its letter to Foxborough town officials, the board points out that part of the town abuts the target site for the casino, located across from Gillette Stadium.

The negative impacts would go beyond traffic, noise, and lighting, the selectmen wrote.

“It is also the added driving-under-the-influence incidents and related crime that have impacted other casino areas. . . . This has been validated in a number of studies.’’

The letter goes on to offer Foxborough assistance in any battle it wages against a local casino.

Town managers and administrators from Foxborough, Wrentham, Norfolk, Mansfield, and Walpole sat down yesterday in North Attleborough to informally discuss the possibility of a regional meeting of their top elected community officials to address the proposed casino. No date for such a session was set.

“We are all concerned about traffic, but housing was one of the key issues we discussed,’’ William Ross, Mansfield town manager, said about the session. He said several communities have not yet met the state’s 10 percent requirement for affordable housing stock.

Town officials say they worry that a casino would create the potential for an explosion of low-to-moderate housing needs.

“They’re saying they would hire 3,000 to 4,000 people,’’ Ross said of job figures touted by casino proponents. “That could be 9,000 to 10,000 people, because you’re talking spouses and kids. It could add 3,000 to 4,000 children to our schools, and that’s a major concern.’’

Steve Wynn, a Las Vegas businessman, has proposed a $1 billion hotel resort for land off Route 1 owned by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Wynn says a casino would add jobs and at least $10 million a year in local taxes.

Kevin Paicos, town manager of Foxborough, said aspects of the state’s new casino law that provide for help to mitigate the impact on communities adjacent to a casino were discussed at yesterday’s meeting.

“I think the consensus in the room is a proposal will likely come forward, and they are trying to decide the best way for their communities to respond,’’ Paicos said.

Paicos said a regional campaign for mitigation would probably not include Foxborough, even though a majority of selectmen in that town recently voted not to support a casino proposal.

He said Foxborough may have interests similar to adjoining communities, but it will get a great deal of cash for mitigation, as the casino’s host.

Paicos predicted neighboring towns will not receive nearly as much.

“No matter how a mitigation agreement reads, it’s highly unlikely they will get all the resources they need,’’ he said. “The mitigation money would be significantly below what the impacts would be.’’

Ross agreed. “The legislation said there will be mitigation subject to appropriation,’’ he said. “That means the money from the casinos could go anywhere.’’

Following their recent vote, Foxborough selectmen sent a letter to Governor Deval Patrick and Stephen Crosby, chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, opposing a local casino. Paicos said selectmen have yet to discuss letters of protest now coming in from other communities, but they could decide to forward those to state officials, as well.

“I am hopeful that boards in all the towns will ultimately write to Foxborough selectmen to oppose the casino,’’ Paicos said.

Christine Legere can be reached at christinelegere@yahoo.com.
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