City, Foxwoods spar; SugarHouse moves forward

Posted: June 02, 2007

If the two casinos planned for the Delaware riverfront were the city's offspring, SugarHouse in Fishtown would be the favorite child while Foxwoods in South Philly would be the little brat.

SugarHouse took big steps toward starting construction last week, getting design approval from the City Planning Commission and introduction of key zoning legislation in City Council.

Foxwoods, stuck in a feud with Council and the Street administration, yesterday asked the state Supreme Court to step in.

Foxwoods asked the court to set aside a law passed by Council in April to rezone from commercial to residential its proposed site on Christopher Columbus Boulevard at Reed Street. Councilman Frank DiCicco proposed the law but conceded then that it was a delaying tactic on casino construction that might not hold up in a state Supreme Court challenge.

Foxwoods calls it illegal "spot zoning" that unfairly targets one location.

Foxwoods' animosity toward Council has been roiling for months, but the open shot at the Street administration is new.

Last week, City Solicitor Romulo Diaz praised SugarHouse's cooperation in the process while saying that Foxwoods still had not provided basic information about what it hopes to build on its site.

Foxwoods yesterday countered that it had already provided all "necessary plans and information" and should also have been considered during last week's Planning Commission meeting.

Diaz yesterday said the city now has all of the information necessary for Foxwoods to proceed with a Planning Commission hearing on its casino design.

The Street administration provided to Council this week the zoning legislation needed by Foxwoods to start construction, but no Council member chose to introduce it.

"Ultimately the introduction of legislation is the responsibility of City Council," Diaz said.

Diaz disputed a claim by Foxwoods that its plans were being held up because it has not finalized a development agreement with the city on issues such as local hiring and environmental and traffic impacts. "That's just inaccurate," Diaz said.

The 2004 state law that legalized slot-machine gambling at 14 venues across the state, including two in Philadelphia, designates the state Supreme Court as the arbiter in such disputes in an effort to streamline the construction of casinos. *

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