Four meetings are being planned for next month to give Milford’s selectmen and residents a chance to get detailed information on specific issues related to the Foxwoods Massachusetts proposal for a $1 billion resort casino off Interstate 495.
The first meeting, scheduled for July 10, will focus on traffic, according to Cezar M. Froelich, a lawyer with Shefsky & Froelich, a Chicago-based firm hired by the town with funds from the developer to oversee the review of Foxwoods’ plans. Traffic is a major concern for many residents and the Board of Selectmen, whose members have questioned the figures and plans provided by the developers.
The next two meetings will focus on water and sewer, mitigation, and environmental impacts, Froelich said, with the exact grouping of topics still to be determined. The final meeting will give a general overview.
The informational sessions will have town department heads, the town’s consultants, and Foxwoods representatives providing details and answering questions from residents. They will take place on consecutive Wednesdays, but their times and locations have not been pinned down, Froelich said.
Meanwhile, a group formed by local residents, Casino-Free Milford, said it is preparing a report questioning many of the developer’s assertions that it will present to selectmen.
On June 3, representatives from the development team, led by the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, presented plans calling for a “luxury” resort of low-rise buildings around a town green. It would use 10 percent of a nearly 200-acre parcel to the east of I-495, between routes 85 and 16 and near Milford’s borders with Holliston and Hopkinton.
The project will create about 2,500 construction jobs and 3,000 full- and part-time permanent jobs, Scott Butera, Foxwoods president and CEO, said at the presentation. He also said the resort would spend about $50 million a year locally for goods and services.
The presentation, in a crowded Milford High School auditorium, left Selectman Brian Murray frustrated by the format, which he said left little opportunity for him to ask the questions he wants answered before deciding whether to support the proposal.
“I’m not ready to make a decision one way or another,” Murray said during the board’s meeting last week. “I didn’t have the opportunity to ask the kind of questions I think I can.”
Selectman Dino DeBartolomeis, who has said he is also undecided about the project, said he is not swayed by crowds cheering in support of one side or the other.
He said he wants to hear from the town’s department heads and consultants about whether they support the proposal before deciding.
Froelich said the four meetings should give selectmen the information they want.
Froelich, who said his law firm has 20 years of experience advising clients in the gaming industry, also told selectmen that every detail in the developer’s plans will be scrutinized and independently verified.
He said his firm has hired leaders in the field to work with the town’s department heads to review the information provided by Foxwoods.
‘Are we taking what the developers say at face value? I assure you we are not.’
While Froelich said that in many cases the consultants would be working with figures from the developer, they will be cross-checking everything.
Froelich and two associates attended the Monday night meeting at the request of the board’s chairman, William D. Buckley, who wanted assurances that the consultants would not simply be “reviewing” the data, but doing work on their own.
“Nobody in their right mind would hire all these consultants to go out and do a quick once-over,” Froelich said. “Are we taking what the developers say at face value? I assure you we are not.”
The three selectmen are expected to decide in the next few months whether to sign a “host agreement” with Foxwoods detailing the terms under which the town would accept the project, including payments to address possible problems.
Buckley has already said he opposes the project.
If the host agreement is approved by selectmen, then town voters would weigh in on the project through a referendum, and Town Meeting would vote on rezoning the land. No casino proposal can win a license unless the voters of the host community endorse the project at the ballot box.
The suburban location of the Foxwoods proposal contrasts with the urban settings of the two other competitors for the sole casino license to be granted in Greater Boston.
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, are also seeking the license.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is expected to make a decision on the license early next year.Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@ gmail.com.