MILFORD — Design plans for a Foxwoods gambling resort in Milford call for a campus of low-rise buildings around a town square green and come with a promise to maintain more than 90 percent of the development’s 187-acre site as open land, according to Foxwoods, which presented its plans to town officials Monday night.
Foxwoods also released the first renderings of the project Monday, after weeks of furious design work. The casino giant joined the Milford venture as a partner in February and immediately began an overhaul of earlier plans.
For inspiration in the new design, “we looked at what we consider the grand New England resorts,” Scott Butera, Foxwoods chief executive, said in an interview. Those resorts are “buildings with beautiful rooftops and magnificent porches, and which integrate with their surroundings, so there is both an indoor and outdoor experience,” he said.
“This is meant to be something that looks like it has been in New England for a hundred years and not something that is new and from another area,” he said.
The reception that the design receives in Milford will be critical to the fate of the project. If the redesign is well received, the Milford partnership will seek to begin formal negotiations with town officials about the terms under which the town would accept the project. The developer would commit in the negotiations to making payments to address possible negative effects.
Once that agreement is done, town voters would weigh in on the project at a referendum. No casino proposal can win a license unless the voters of the host community endorse the project at the ballot box.
On Monday night, Butera received applause at the end of the 90-minute presentation during which experts in traffic, water, architecture, and landscaping displayed their plans.
“There’s nothing in the world that calls itself a casino and looks like this,” Butera said of the New England style design of his proposal.
Although Geri Eddins, a 20-year resident of Milford and member of Casino-Free Milford conceded that the plans look great, her mind was not changed.
“They keep focusing on this being a resort, really downplaying the casino aspect,” she said. “But the fact of the matter is, we wouldn’t be here without the casino.”
Although Milford selectmen generally applauded the presentation, they all had questions about traffic and water issues, in particular.
The chairman of the Board of Selectmen, William D. Buckley, said he anticipates four or five more meetings in coming months so residents can get their concerns addressed. He also asked that Foxwoods representatives present more details about the company’s restructuring and financial standing.
“It’s not even possible for this community to come up with all the questions that need to be answered tonight,” he said.
Selectman Dino B. DeBartolomeis called the presentation “a good first step,” but said it will be important to “augment, beef up” the traffic information.
“I question a lot of that information,” he said.
Earlier, about 50 electricians, carpenters, and laborers held signs outside Milford High School before the meeting.
“This is all about local jobs for local people,” said Chris Murphy, business manager for Laborers Local 609. “I was really looking at this as a tough fight. I thought it would be nasty, but it’s been fine and we’ve gotten a lot more thumbs up and honking horns in support than I thought we would get.”
But John Grecoe, who lives on Pine Needle Circle, next to the proposed site, complained, “Beyond the myriad of issues, I want to know who is going to give me the $100,000 I’ll lose when my property value sinks like a stone.”
Foxwoods promises that its $1 billion development would create 3,500 permanent jobs, with a hiring preference for local residents. The resort would provide about $20 million a year in tax revenue to the town of Milford, and the development would spend about $50 million a year on items and services provided by local vendors and suppliers, according to Foxwoods.
As part of its plans for Milford, Foxwoods proposes building a new interchange off Interstate 495 and has been discussing the scope of the work with state and federal transportation officials, Butera said.
The Milford proposal’s suburban location, about 35 miles from Boston, makes it unique among the contestants in the fierce three-way fight for the sole Greater Boston casino resort license.
Foxwoods is competing with two urban proposals: Suffolk Downs in East Boston, which has proposed a casino at the horse track with partner Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts, which has released plans for a hotel and casino on the Mystic River waterfront in Everett.
Opponents of the Milford project, many from surrounding towns, say the suburbs are the worst place for a massive gambling resort.
Suburbs are more densely populated than rural locations where a casino could be more out of the way, said Brian Herr, a Hopkinton selectman and chairman of the MetroWest Anti-Casino Coalition. Suburbs also lack the infrastructure of cities, he said.
“The suburbs are the one place not designed to handle something like this,” Herr said in an interview with the Globe.
Only one of the three projects can win casino development rights for Greater Boston. The state gambling commission, which controls the casino license, is expected to choose the winner by early 2014.