Foxwoods: Let's get a move on

Posted: July 17, 2008

The developers of a proposed riverfront casino in South Philly, fed up with what they say are tactical delays by Mayor Nutter's administration, went back to the state Supreme Court yesterday to get help to start building.

The court in April ruled that City Council had improperly blocked Foxwoods from being built on Christopher Columbus Boulevard and ordered that the city make necessary zoning changes to let the project start.

Foxwoods now claims Nutter and his staff are throwing up roadblocks in an effort to force the casino to move to a new location.

The casino developers cite the city's rejection last month of their zoning-permit application, which is needed before building permits and other city approvals are issued. Foxwoods said the city improperly claimed that the application was incomplete because it didn't contain information on traffic, parking and other issues.

The city code does not require that information in the application, Foxwoods said, but Nutter staffers claimed they were working from a "new policy." Foxwoods complains that it hasn't seen the new policy and the city could not say if it has ever been applied to any other projects.

Terry Gillen, a senior adviser to Nutter on casinos, yesterday said the new policy has been "kicking around" for months with city planning officials.

"It's something we're using on all large developments," she said. "I don't know if it exists on paper."

Gillen said the city has held several meetings with Foxwoods and is "a little disappointed" that the developers went back to court.

"They just seem more interested with litigation than conversation," Gillen said. "Their location has problems and it would be better to focus on the problems than running to court."

Foxwoods also cites a letter Nutter sent last week to state Sen. Vince Fumo and state Rep. Dwight Evans, which called the city-permitting requirements that Foxwoods needs to meet "practically insurmountable."

Fumo and Evans, along with Gov. Rendell, have agreed to host meetings to discuss relocating Foxwoods and SugarHouse, a proposed riverfront casino in Fishtown.

Both casinos say they'll attend the meetings but refuse to move.

Foxwoods asks the court to force the city to issue its zoning permit within two days and then act on future permit requests within 10 days. Foxwoods also wants the court to appoint a "special master" who would review permit requests and fine the city if it continues to delay the project. *

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