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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Charlie Dooley Opposes Casino Next to Columbia Bottom Conservation Area

Posted By on Wed, May 19, 2010 at 11:45 AM

click to enlarge Charlie Dooley may have killed the Riverview Casino development - IMAGE SOURCE
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  • Charlie Dooley may have killed the Riverview Casino development
Daily RFT first reported on the proposed "Riverview Casino" next to the pristine wetlands of the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area and the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers way back in July 2009.

Despite strong opposition from environmental organizations and neighborhood associations in nearby Spanish Lake, the plan to build the sprawling hotel, resort, golf course and casino -- replete with 8,000 parking spots -- slowly gathered steam. First the St. Louis County Planning Commission allowed the land in the floodplain to be re-zoned for commercial use, then the Missouri Gaming Commission torpedoed the Admiral Riverboat, freeing up a gaming license.

Yesterday, however, the North County casino plan may have finally crapped out. According to the Post-Dispatch, County Executive Charlie Dooley penned a letter to the Gaming Commission stating that he opposes the casino.

Here's the highlight from the P-D's scoop:
As recently as February, Dooley was still sidestepping, telling protesters only that he wanted a "win-win" outcome for all involved. Top aides said he would consider the casino's impact on jobs, tax revenue and the environment before making a decision.

But, unlike the city of St. Louis and other places, the county did not give the Gaming Commission a letter of interest in the new license. And with the process of awarding that license about to start, Dooley said now was the time to speak up.

"I gave it some considerable thought," he said. This is a sharp contrast from Dooley's position on the new River City Casino in south St. Louis County, where he appeared at the grand opening in March and gave a rousing speech about job creation and the reuse of a polluted industrial site. But there are significant differences, he said.

The North County site, Dooley said, is "not environmentally friendly," and community opposition is much stronger than in Lemay. There was another factor: market saturation. The project would be the metro area's seventh casino.

"Do we need another?" Dooley said. "No, we have enough."
Dora Gianoulakis, president of the Spanish Lake Community Association, was ecstatic about the news but cautioned that Dooley's opposition doesn't necessarily mean the end of the Casino proposal or that another development couldn't move forward on the now re-zoned 376-acre tract of land.

The Missouri Gaming Commission could still award project developers Brad Lakin and North County Development LLC a gaming license. (For a detailed breakdown of the competitors vying for the gaming license, check out this story in yesterday's St. Louis Business Journal.)

Gianoulakis, however, said that the Common Sense Coalition (a network of anti-development organizations) has grown "exponentially" over the past nine months and that they will continue to vocally oppose any construction near the environmentally fragile conservation area.

"We believe strongly that this area of St. Louis County is a beautiful area that needs to be perserved for generations to come," she said. "It's the last pristine, natural area on the rivers in the St. Louis metro area and we think that's the way it needs to stay."

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