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Raynham

Easton presses for mitigation from Raynham slots plan

Other communities eye similar move

As a designated “surrounding community,” the town of Easton says it wants $1 million a year from the developer of a proposed slots parlor in Raynham to mitigate the impact of locating a gaming complex just a tenth of a mile from the town line.

And now that the deadline to apply for “surrounding community” status has been extended to the end of the month, a raft of other potentially affected communities in the Interstate 495 and Route 44 and Route 24 corridors are also taking steps to press their own case for compensation to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

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Those communities include Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, Norton, Middleborough, Taunton, Dighton, Lakeville, and Rehoboth.

Raynham residents recently voted to approve a host agreement with Greenwood Racing, an organization teaming up with Raynham Park owner George Carney in the Parx Raynham Casino proposal, one of three applicants in the race for the state’s sole slots license. Two others hope to site similar facilities in Plainville and Leominster.

In Easton, Town Administrator David Colton said his town has every right to ask for, and receive, payment, since it is likely to be just as affected, if not more, than Raynham would be.

In a Sept. 18 letter to the developers of the $220 million project, Colton said Easton will suffer significant impact “with respect to traffic, construction, housing, municipal services and the environment.”

Further, he said, “nearly half of all vehicle trips to and from the proposed casino will be traveling through Easton,” according to a report the Raynham group commissioned from Nitsch Engineering of Boston.

‘Unfortunately, the way state racing law is written, it gives surrounding towns an awful lot of leverage.’

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And that’s in addition to the increased fire and police calls that could result from the presence of a gaming hall, Colton said, as well as any number of school-related costs that spring from its employees needing housing.

“Impacts don’t respect borders,’’ Colton said, in an interview. “Logically, if you have agreed to mitigate Raynham’s impacts by $1 million, tell me why Easton doesn’t deserve the exact same treatment?”

Negotiations between Easton and Raynham Park LLC have been fairly contentious, both sides agree.

“Unfortunately, the way [state racing law] is written, it gives surrounding towns an awful lot of leverage,’’ Carney said in an interview last week. “And it gives them the ability to be abusive and unreasonable.”

Easton has contended, among other concerns, that roads, especially Route 138, would be compromised by the project, Carney said. But “they don’t own the roads,” he said. “They are maintained by the state and federal government.”

Carney said the development team has reached out to the other communities to hear concerns, but Easton “has been impossible.”

Colton countered: “We are waiting for them to make a reasonable offer.”

The Raynham plan includes a rehab of the former Raynham dog track and the installation of 1,250 slot machines. Ultimately, the proposal also includes adding a range of restaurants and stores.

In Massachusetts, applicants for a gaming license are required to reach agreements with their surrounding communities per the provisions of the state’s 2011 gaming law, but it is the state Gaming Commission that makes the final determination.

Last week, the developer of a proposed slots parlor at the Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville said it will negotiate with four towns on mitigation agreements that address the potential consequences from a gambling operation on the region.

At the time, Penn National Gaming Inc. said it would try to work out deals with Foxborough, Mansfield, Wrentham, and North Attleborough, and if it can’t, it will go to arbitration.

Spokesman Eric Schippers said the company not only planned to negotiate with the towns, it would also discuss opportunities for job fairs and the cross-marketing of assets.

That means promoting, for example, the Premium Outlets in Wrentham, the Comcast Center in Mansfield, and Patriot Place and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, he said.

“We will work together to create a regional draw, and there is a commitment to look at and study traffic,” he said.

Before that declaration, however, Foxborough selectmen had said last month that the company clearly indicated in talks it had no plans to compromise.

In Middleborough, Town Manager Charles Cristello said the town is awaiting clarification from the Raynham group on a study that has identified the impact of traffic “from I-495 South” but offers no detail, for example, about how much of that flow comes through the Middleborough Rotary, considered a commuter nightmare.

“We are seeking more information to determine whether we should seek surrounding community status,’’ Cristello said.

“If they don’t provide the information we are looking for, we will petition for it to protect our interests.”

Officials in Norton, Dighton, and Rehoboth have already stated that they will be seeking agreements with the Raynham group, and town leaders in Lakeville have said they would discuss the issue among themselves to see whether it makes sense.

Lakeville Town Administrator Rita Garbitt could not immediately be reached for comment.

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at michelebolton@live.com.
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