Developers of a proposed slots parlor at Raynham Park have begun talks with nearby communities that could lead to agreements on easing traffic and other project impact.
Raynham Park LLC has held initial meetings with officials from Easton, Taunton, and West Bridgewater, according to Conor Yunits, a spokesman for the company. He said a meeting was being scheduled with Bridgewater.
“We want to make sure their concerns are addressed,” he said.
Yunits declined to say whether the company intends to negotiate formal agreements.
But Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southeast Regional Planning and Economic Development District, said he believed the fact that the developer initiated talks with those municipalities was a sign it planned to do so.
Raynham Park LLC has reached a host community agreement with Raynham. But applicants for a state gambling license must also reach agreements with “surrounding communities.” The state Gaming Commission has final say on which cities and towns meet that designation.
The number of communities meeting with Raynham Park LLC could grow.
The commission recently sent advisories to nine adjacent communities — the four identified by Raynham Park LLC plus Dighton, Lakeville, Middleborough, Norton, and Rehoboth — encouraging them to meet with the developer about potential impact of the project. At least four of those other five communities plan to seek talks.
Smith said his organization and another regional planning agency, the Old Colony Planning Council, have agreed to help facilitate the negotiations.
Raynham Park owner George Carney and Greenwood Racing are partnering as Raynham Park LLC to seek the single state license for a slots parlor with up to 1,250 machines.
The park on Route 138 was a dog track until the state ended greyhound racing in 2010, and it is now a simulcast facility. Greenwood owns Parx Casino outside Philadelphia.
The proposed $220 million development at Raynham Park — which is competing with plans in Leominster and Plainville — calls for converting the simulcast facility to a temporary slot machine parlor, and then in a second phase erecting a new building to house the slots parlor, an entertainment venue, retail stores, and restaurants.
Potential future development would include a hotel and more restaurants and retail shops.
The state has set Oct. 4 as the deadline for groups to submit their final applications for the slots license.
Applicants must submit “surrounding community” agreements with their applications.
If an agreement has not been finalized, or if the commission finds that a municipality not designated by the developer qualifies as a surrounding community, the applicant would have 30 days to negotiate a deal or have the matter go to the commission for arbitration.
The commission’s recent letter to adjacent communities was “our way of saying you may want to reach out and see if you want to start the conversation,” said Elaine Driscoll, spokeswoman for the agency. She said the state has made no determination that the recipients qualify as surrounding communities, or that others do not.
The state defines a surrounding community as a municipality close to the host community that is likely to experience impact from the gambling establishment.
“The impacts for the slot parlor are far less dramatic than for a full-blown casino,” Smith said. But he said there will be some, and the role of the regional planning agencies will be to help the affected cities and towns evaluate them.
In West Bridgewater, the Board of Selectmen recently voted to create a team of officials to negotiate an agreement with Raynham Park LLC, according to Town Administrator David Gagne. An initial meeting was held with the developer on Aug. 29.
“The fact that they were here I think represents good will on their part that they recognize there are going to be impacts to West Bridgewater,” he said of the developer. “To get to their facility, there are only a couple of ways to do it — [Interstate] 495 and Route 24, and Route 24 goes through West Bridgewater.”
Bridgewater Town Manager Michael Dutton said his town is seeking an agreement with Raynham Park LLC.
“There certainly are potential impacts,” he said. “The most obvious ones . . . are traffic. Certainly there are housing issues and certainly school issues, to the extent you have a sizeable number of employees moving into the community with school-age kids.”
Easton officials held an initial meeting with Raynham Park LLC in July, at which the town asked for information on potential traffic impact at the intersection of Route 138 and Route 106, according to Colleen A. Corona, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.
She said that the developer has provided that information and that it will be among the issues covered when selectmen discuss their concerns with the project at their next meeting, which is Monday.
“We are going to continue having discussions . . . about the impacts of the project on our community, and we are aware of the Oct. 4 deadline,” Corona said.
Taunton Mayor Tom Hoye said his city has begun meeting with the developer with the intention of negotiating an agreement.
“We wish the Carneys and Raynham the best of luck in their quest, but we are just making sure Taunton’s interests are protected,” he said.
Hoye said the city’s concerns “are mainly focused on traffic” on Route 138 and I-495. Another issue is what impact the project would have on Taunton’s waste-water treatment system, which serves a large portion of Raynham.
Norton and Dighton officials said they plan to pursue agreements with Raynham Park LLC. Middleborough and Rehoboth officials also said that they intend to seek talks with the developer, but that it is premature to say whether they will seek agreements.
Lakeville Town Administrator Rita Garbitt said she planned to speak with selectmen and the town’s Casino Advisory Committee to see whether they are interested in pursuing an agreement with the developer.John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.