Bats could stop Tuxedo casino
Town Board sets Dec. 4 public hearing on casino
Christian Goode, CFO and senior vice president of development for Genting Americas, which is proposing a casino in Tuxedo, watches Monday's proceedings at George Grant Mason Elementary School on Monday night at a table with two casino opponents. Photo by Nathan Mayberg
Christian Goode, CFO and senior vice president of development for Genting Americas, which is proposing a casino in Tuxedo, watches Monday's proceedings at George Grant Mason Elementary School on Monday night at a table with two casino opponents and another unidentified person. Photo by Nathan Mayberg.
Tuxedo Councilman Kristian Matthews (left) questions town's consultants on draft environmental impact statement for proposed Genting casino.
By Nathan Mayberg
TUXEDO — The Sterling Forest Resort and Casino in Tuxedo proposed by the Malaysian gambling company Genting could be derailed by bats.
Endangered Indiana bats have been spotted at the casino site near Tuxedo Ridge Ski Center on property surrounded by the Sterling Forest State Park.
The presence of the endangered species could affect the casino plans, an environmental consultant told the town board on Monday at a meeting on the casino's draft environmental impact statement (DEIS).
The casino proposal has been the subject of one lawsuit and widespread opposition from regional environmental groups.
The Town Board voted Monday to accept the DEIS as complete, sending it up for a public hearing on Dec. 4. The public's comments would need to be addressed in a final environmental impact statement before the project could go to the planning board for site plan review.
On Monday, councilman Kristian Matthews grilled town consultants with questions about traffic, noise and storm water runoff relating to the proposed casino.
Answering the majority of his questions were E. Gail Suchman, special counsel to the law firm of Stroock, Stroock & Lavin, and Bonnie Franson, a planner with H2M.
The consultants are all being paid out of a $3 million escrow account set up by Genting.
Matthews complained of not having enough time to review the impact statement, which he received from Supervisor Mike Rost on Saturday.
Matthews also questioned whether the proposed Thruway exit for the casino might back up traffic in part of the town and make it tougher to get off the Thruway. He said the original proposal was for a clover leaf interchange and questioned why that had been changed to a diamond interchange. He was told the New York Thruway Authority would review the plans.
“I'm extremely concerned,” Matthews said, “about how this thing is going to affect our quality of life.”
He questioned why the DEIS wasn't made public before Monday's meeting.
Suchman said the document had to be deemed complete by the board before the public could comment.
A sound study showed the casino could cause a six decibel increase in noise for approximately 36 nearby homes, according to consultant Nancy Neuman.
Genting has proposed paying $25,000 to each of those homeowners to upgrade their insulation.
Matthews said the study didn't identify enough properties that could be impacted, such as a local nursery.
Police, fire and impact fees
According to the consultants, state police would be relied upon for security issues inside the casino.
The casino could have a $7 million impact on the town's police department, they said.
Suchman said property and gaming tax revenue generated by the casino should cover that cost.
Franson said the casino would have a “negative fiscal impact” on the local fire department, which wouldn't be addressed by casino revenues.
Genting, through its subsidiary RW Orange County LLC, has pledged to provide $50 million to the town if a casino is developed. An unconditional payment of $1.5 million to the town has been made.
Voting in favor were Rost, councilman Clifford Loncar and Gary Phelps.
“I am in favor of putting it out to the public but I can't say it is complete,” Matthews said.
Rost and town clerk Elaine Laurent said they weren't sure how to count the vote. Laurent said she would consider it a no vote.
Councilman David McMillen, who won re-election last week against anti-casino candidate Kristen Apostolides, did not attend Monday's meeting due to a death in the family.
There is confusion as to how tall the casino will be. According to the consultants, the height could be either 172 feet or 194 feet.
Matthews took issue with the cover of the DEIS which says “Sterling Forest Resort.”
“It should say casino,” he said.
Approximately 50 people were in attendance at Monday's meeting, including Genting CFO and senior vice president of development Christian Goode, who left right before public comment.
Town resident Michele Lindsay questioned whether the board should move forward with the review while a decision on a proposed new Thruway exit interchange has not been settled.
“The town board has made a very large mistake of allowing the segmentation of the environmental review,” she said.
The Palisades Interstate Park Commission has opposed the casino and voted to deny land on County Route 106 be used for a new highway exit, she said.
Rost said that if there is “no exit, it (the casino) doesn't go through.”
Lindsay called the proposed diamond thruway exit interchange “horrific.”
Dolores Marchand felt the review process was being rushed.
“It is to the detriment of our town to rush through the process,” Marchand said.
John Kilduff, of Tuxedo Park, requested the board set up a workshop with residents and the consultants in order to get more answers.
Rost said the board's decision would allow the public a chance to comment and review the impact statement. “We're not saying everything's right,” Rost said.
A decision by the facility location board of the New York Gaming Commission on whether Tuxedo could be a site for a casino could be reached this month.
Copies of the DEIS have been posted to the town's website and are available at the Tuxedo library.
Reporter Nathan Mayberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 845-469-9000 ext. 359.
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