After a four-hour public hearing and a lot of controversy over the past few months, Sudbury’s planning committee on Monday approved a rezoning application that authorizes the building of a casino on the Kingsway. It would be part of the long-anticipated Kingsway Entertainment District, which is yet to obtain rezoning permissions for an arena and a parking lot.
The project received strong criticism from casino opponents during the public hearing that took place Monday afternoon at council chambers at Tom Davies Square. Sudbury residents were invited to the meeting and were allowed to ask questions and speak on the subject, which drew a lot of disapproval from religious and anti-gaming groups. Despite the vocal opponents of the project, however, Greater Sudbury’s planning committee voted unanimously in favour of the rezoning application filed by developer Dario Zulich, who owns the 20-hectare vacant lot intended for construction of the gambling and entertainment complex referred to as Kingsway Entertainment District.
Local businessman Tom Fortin who attended the hearing said that he and another 500 businessmen from the area were against the casino. They believe it would harm Sudbury’s economy by diverting revenues from other businesses in the city that contribute to the community’s quality of life. Fortin pointed out that the Official Plan, the planning document outlining all projects in the city, does not include an analysis of the casino’s financial impact.
Other opponents of the casino commented during the meeting the moral aspect of gambling. According to some, while there will be financial gains for the province and the casino developer, Gateway, the local community will only lose from the development of yet another casino. Environmental and public health concerns were also expressed by some members of the public who pointed out that the preparation of the parcel would require processing with salt. This, according to them, may be dangerous to the Ramsey Lake, the city’s major source of drinking water.
More than 50 representatives of religious groups also objected the plans for a new Sudbury casino, arguing the gambling facility would have harmful effects on the local community. In a joint letter, they unified against the casino and warned that it would increase the rates of gambling addiction, poverty and crime in the area.
Casino Approval Likely to Be Appealed in Court
The decision made by the city’s planning committee on Monday does not fully authorize the development of a gambling venue. It rather determines what the land will be used for. The projected casino must acquire multiple permits by provincial and state authorities in order to be built. In addition, the committee’s decision needs to be ratified by city councillors at a meeting scheduled for April 10. The vote may be rejected but if it is approved, it will most probably be challenged in court.
Fortin warned that the rezoning decision for the casino would be appealed in court by the local business. Moreover, if approved, the projects for the arena and the parking lot would also be challenged, as they are all a part of the plan for the Kingsway Entertainment District. The city’s planning committee will review the rezoning of land for the arena and the parking lot Wednesday on a second public hearing. Meanwhile, Gateway spokesperson Rob Mitchell replied that the company is ready to go to court.