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Plainridge neighbors cite traffic fears

Proposed slots parlor seeks OK from town board

Plainville residents living on side roads near a proposed slot-machine parlor at Plainridge Racecourse told the town’s Planning Board on Monday that developers had not factored the effects on their neighborhood into their plans.

However, Plainridge representatives maintain that there would be minimal problems on secondary roads in and around the facility, at Route 1 and Interstate 495.

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As part of the state’s application process, Plainridge must gain the Planning Board’s approval for its change-of-use request before the harness racetrack operator can be considered for the lone slots-only license to be awarded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

In addition to a recently completed 1,080-space parking garage on the property, Plainridge officials envision renovating the track’s 50,000-square-foot building, and adding a 106,000-square-foot facility with 1,250 slot machines, a restaurant, food court, and bars.

“When we give them an order of conditions, and if they’re in violation of those conditions, the building inspector can shut them down,” Planning Board chairman Stanley Widak said during the hearing. “The permitting is still local.”

Plainridge’s traffic engineer, Gary McNaughton, said most traffic would come from Interstate 495, and the racetrack would pay for improvements near the I-495/Route 1 interchange to cope with the anticipated traffic increase.

Mirimichi Street resident Mary-Ann Greanier said she was worried about the expanded gambling operation’s effect on nearby back roads.

‘We are headed toward a real problem, and it will impact my neighborhood profoundly.’

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“We are headed toward a real problem, and it will impact my neighborhood profoundly,” she said.

Greanier said it was “unthinkable to me that we’re going to have something this huge” with no mitigation plan for her street.

Widak said he also was “a little appalled” that Plainridge did not include back roads in its traffic studies.

McNaughton, however, said there would be, at most, three more cars an hour traveling on Mirimichi Street as a result of the combination slots parlor and racetrack, or “racino.’’

Greanier and Foxborough resident Erin Earnst both said they were worried that the racino could serve free alcohol, which might lead to more drunk drivers.

Plainridge’s lawyer, Robert Kraus, maintained that the track has been a responsible member of the community, and at times appeared to set up his questions for Police Chief James Alfred as if the chief were on the witness stand.

“We have not had . . . any problems with OUIs associated with the facility?” Kraus asked.

“They’re responsible,” responded Alfred, describing Plainridge’s operators to the Planning Board.

According to the state’s new gaming law, a facility’s beverage license will not permit the sale or distribution of alcoholic beverages between 2 and 8 a.m. The law, however, allows the distribution of free drinks.

“As a company policy, we really haven’t decided whether it would be free or not. Probably leaning toward the nonfree side at this time,” said Domenic Longobardi, Plainridge’s director of community relations and marketing, after the hearing. “We haven’t made the ultimate decision yet, but it’s probably not going to be free.”

The 2011 state casino law authorized one slot machine parlor that can be built anywhere in the state, as well as up to three resort casinos in separate geographic areas.

Although the town of Raynham and Raynham Downs have already drafted an agreement to host a slot machine parlor at the former dog track, Longobardi said Plainridge’s plan is still firmly in contention.

“I think we’re still in the front-running, and I think our speed to market is faster than theirs,” Longobardi said. “And that will be the deciding factor.”

Other rivals for the slots license include the Cordish Cos., and Chicago casino and real estate tycoon Neil Bluhm.

Longobardi previously said that he hoped to have a host agreement with Plainville officials finished by the end of this month. However, after last week’s meeting, he said there is still work to be done.

“A few preliminary talks have happened, but nothing concrete,” Longobardi said.

Under the state’s new gambling law, developers and the host community must reach an agreement on the local operation, and the proposal would then need to win approval from voters before the group could file its final application.

John Swinconeck can be reached at johnswinc@ gmail.com.
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