By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO July 4, 2003 In an attempt to clear the air about all the latest casino rumors, the topic was broached at the Sullivan County Legislatures Planning and Community Development Committee Tuesday morning.
The past week, there has been a lot of rumors relating to gaming, Committee Chair Bob Kunis commented. There are a lot of questions. We will not answer all of them today. We need to have a better understanding of what is going on. We have done a lot of research into what is taking place.
With that, Kunis turned the meeting over to County Attorney Ira Cohen, who stated that they were aware of these issues three months ago when he, Legislature Chair Leni Binder, County Manager Dan Briggs, and Indian gaming attorney John Jacobson traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
One of the BIAs recent Indian land claim decisions was overturned due to an inadequate environmental study. The BIA and the Justice Department wanted to make sure that would not happen again and decided to require all applicants complete a NEPA (the federal environmental review).
We had conversations with all the applicants and their developers, Cohen commented. They will all be actively working to comply with the regulations. There will be a formal statement sent to the tribes either today or tomorrow. There needs to be some clarification on what the countys role will be. We will have discussions on it.
It now makes it clear what is expected, Cohen commented. This will not cause a lengthy delay. It will make a stronger case. In the long run, it may deter litigation or get it dismissed quicker. It is a significant and positive thing.
The county equally wants all projects to move forward, Kunis said. This is a BIA decision it has nothing to do with us. It will give the tribes applications more strength.
In attendance were Barbara Garigliano, representing the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe/Park Place Entertainment project at Kutshers Sports Academy, and Jay Billig, who represents the Stockbridge-Munsee/ Trading Cove project on Bridgeville Road. Both attorneys stated that their projects are moving forward and that this will not cause significant delays. Stockbridge plans to have its done in three months, while it will take the Mohawks three and a half months.
We are working every day to get to the goal line, stated Billig. This clarifies where the goal line is. This is not insurmountable.