By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO December 3, 2004 The casino train continued to roll along this week as the Town of Thompson Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved resolutions clearing the local hurdles the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and Caesars Entertainment needed to pass.
The planning board approved the subdivision proposal and SEQRA findings Wednesday evening, as well as conditional final approval on the site plan for their proposed casino at Kutshers Sports Academy. The board met in a special session after its members were handed the 75-page statement that same morning.
Preceding the planning board vote was a unanimous vote by the zoning board concerning a height allowance for the parking structure with porte-cochere and connection bridge to construct a hotel/casino.
The elevated walkway and porte-cochere will be allowed to reach a maximum height of 75 feet according to the resolution. The resolution states that the maximum allowed use is 35 feet and that the building will rise 40 feet above that limit.
The impact statement finds the increase irrelevant since it is not supposed to be visible from any adjacent parcels or public highways.
The moves by the boards followed a vote over the weekend by two of the three factions of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to ratify a land claim settlement offer by New York State Governor George Pataki. One other faction has yet to vote.
If the third tribe ratifies the agreement, approval would still be required from the United States Congress and the New York State Legislature to proceed. The tribe would also need to agree on a gaming compact with the governor, to be ratified by the state legislature.
The approvals handed out on Wednesday signified a significant milestone in the journey of the Mohawks and Caesars to win local approval for their casino, especially since a public hearing on their draft environmental impact statement over the summer was contentious.
The planning board adopted a finding statement which stated the casino would be located on a site of over 175 acres. The gaming facility itself would encompass 134,000 square feet. There would be 160,600 square feet of a food, beverage and support area; a 742-room, 492,600-square-foot hotel; a 2,800-seat theatre; 3,000 square feet of retail space; structured parking for 6,010 vehicles; a central plant; a facilities garage; a 178-bus parking area; a wastewater treatment plant; and a portable water plant.
The document further states that 66 acres of the property will be removed from the tax rolls, to be held in trust by the federal government.
The tribe and the developers will donate a total of $15,000,000 in annual payments to the county for impacts. The county agreed to direct $1,650,000 of that to the town. The casinos revenue in the Town of Thompson has been widely estimated to reach one billion dollars a year.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers is said to have concurred with the delineation of wetlands on the property. There are approximately 13.05 acres of federal wetlands on the project site.
One of the most controversial issues facing the project involves its impact on local traffic, and the findings spend more time detailing the traffic impacts and mitigations than any other portion of the statement.
Planning board member Charles Goldberg, who supports the project and voted for it, said afterwards that he had concerns about traffic impacts, including its effect on Patio Homes, a large community of homeowners on Anawana Lake Road.
The developers state in the approved document that they do not intend to improve the main stretch of Route 42, since the New York State Department of Transportation plans to reconstruct the road and widen it.
However, to lessen the impact to westbound traffic on Route 17s Exit 105 trying to head northbound on Route 42, the applicant proposed a traffic signal to be placed at the intersection, as well as an additional right-hand turn lane on the off-ramp.
In addition, the developers will widen Anawana Lake Road from Lanahans Road to Route 42 and modify the pavement markings and traffic signals to provide for two eastbound right-turn lanes and a combined eastbound left-turn and through lane. Also, the intersection will be widened so that the southbound right turn lane will accommodate through movements.
Anawana Lake will also be widened to provide a northbound left turn onto Kutshers Road.
The findings further state that the project will result in excessive delays at Anawana Lake Road and Fraser Road due to traffic. The developers believe a traffic signal and exclusive left turn lanes for northbound and southbound traffic will lessen the impact.