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Casino vision divides Foxborough

Opinions mixed on drawings of project sent to residents by developer

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

George Bently, owner of George’s Barber Shop on Foxborough Common, with customer Chris Foley. Opinions on a casino in the town are varied.

FOXBOROUGH - To some at George’s Barber Shop, on the edge of Foxborough Common, the drawing of the proposed casino was hardly worth a look.

“It’s just a picture; it’s not reality,’’ said Levi Bertumen, a resident for 12 years, of the artist’s rendering sent to his home by a Las Vegas developer. “It looks good, but I don’t like the idea of a casino in Foxborough.’’

At Aubuchon Hardware, a straight shot across the snow-covered common, employee Debra Ogilvie saw promise in the picture of a sprawling, stone-and-timber structure, modeled on a luxury home in Idaho ski country.

“It looks beautiful,’’ said the 55-year-old, a longtime resident who spoke for herself in an interview, not the business. “I don’t know what [the opponents] are picturing.’’

As residents here got their first look this weekend at the resort casino envisioned by developer Steve Wynn, in the form of an artist’s rendering mailed to 7,000 households, opinion was mixed, with some recipients impressed and others dismissive. One thing, however, seemed clear: the visual aids would not bring consensus to the town of 17,000, where the casino issue has already proved deeply divisive.

In downtown Foxborough, where small businesses ring a central rotary around the town common, dozens of residents and businesspeople approached by a reporter yesterday said their minds were made up one way or the other. A dozen more declined to share their opinions, saying they did not want to alienate friends and neighbors who may feel differently. A few others said they need more information before they can decide if they support the project.

Kevin Broderick, a resident for 12 years who was in line at the barber shop yesterday morning, said he initially opposed the idea of a casino. But he has become more open to the concept recently, he said, in part because of the style of the development described by Wynn.

The artist’s renderings of the project made him feel more comfortable with it, he said.

But to Kathy Daniell, 58, the picture was almost beside the point. An employee of The Sober Camel, a book and gift store for recovering addicts, she said what matters to her most is keeping the town safe for herself and the grandchildren who visit her.

“For me, it doesn’t matter what the casino looks like,’’ she said. “This is a really nice small town, so why bring in something that has a good possibility of detracting from it?’’

Most residents interviewed yesterday said they had received the glossy drawings in the mail, but had not had time to watch the 20-minute DVD included in the mailing.

The $1 billion hotel, casino, and convention center would be built on Route 1, across from Gillette Stadium, on land owned by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Foxborough’s Board of Selectmen voted narrowly to oppose the project late last year, but two board members are up for reelection this spring. Some residents expressed concern that changes on the board could bring new life to the issue.

Many residents - both for and against the casino - began their comments to a reporter by expressing appreciation for Kraft, who they said has been a good neighbor and a positive force in the community.

Dan Krantz, director of site development for The Kraft Group, praised the drawings of the resort in a statement.

“As we anticipated, the design and décor assimilates to its surroundings, and is likely in stark contrast to the Las Vegas-style high-rise that some may have envisioned,’’ Krantz wrote.

Spokesman Scott Farmelant said the procasino group Jobs for Foxboro received 200 calls and e-mails Friday and yesterday from residents reacting favorably to the mailing. “It’s a very positive reaction,’’ he said. “I think it’s a lot different than anyone imagined.’’

The group, which was organized and funded by Wynn, has polled 1,513 registered voters since December and found 62 percent are undecided about the casino, said Farmelant.

An online petition addressed to Kraft urging him to “do the right thing’’ has garnered 1,800 signatures, said Holly Steel, a spokeswoman for the opposition group No Foxboro Casino.

She said the group will hold a long-scheduled open house tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Union Church where undecided residents can gather information and lawn signs will be available to opponents.

In a sign of tensions running high around the issue, at least 100 signs have been stolen from opponents’ yards in recent weeks, Steel said, with some homeowners seeing more than one sign disappear.

“Unfortunately, this is such a passionate subject, because people who live here love this community,’’ she said. “No matter how it looks, this is a casino, and we don’t really know what it will bring.’’

Still, not everyone feels impassioned, pro or con.

Over coffee in a Route 1 Dunkin’ Donuts a mile from the proposed casino site, Foxborough residents Janet Fallavollita and Mike Titus considered the project, and came up with no good reason to oppose it. Traffic is already bad, and new jobs would be welcome, they said.

Besides, Fallavollita said, “it’s beautiful. . . . So go for it, I guess.’’

Mark Arsenault of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jenna Russell can be reached at jrussell@globe.com.
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