|By Chris Maza
The Select Board discusses MGM Springfield’s initial mitigation proposal at its Dec. 2 meeting.
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW – At its Dec. 2 meeting, the Select Board agreed not to accept MGM Springfield’s initial mitigation agreement proposal.
The offer, which special counsel Brandon Moss of Murphy, Hesse, Toomey and Lehane said was the same proposal made to all potential surrounding communities, called for a “look-back” approach to mitigation funding, with studies to be conducted in years one and five to determine the proposed casino development’s “net negative impacts.”
The town would receive $50,000 to offset legal and consultant fees, plus an annual $75,000 annual mitigation payment.
Third party consultants would be used to study baseline conditions, as well as the impacts in years one and five with the town receiving $25,000 annually to offset those fees.
All disagreements regarding the net negative impacts would be settled through arbitration.
Moss, speaking to the board via speakerphone, told the board that the offer “flies in the face of state legislation.” The model offered by MGM, he said, puts a heavy burden on small towns like Longmeadow that are close to their levy limits and cannot raise taxes to garner additional funding due to Proposition 2 ½.
The “look-back” model, he said, was non-negotiable according to MGM, who set an internal deadline for an agreement to be reached of Dec. 15. The company has until Dec. 31 to submit its gaming license application to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
The board unanimously agreed that a complete “look-back” approach was not acceptable.
“You’ll never get them to admit any net negative impacts,” Selectman Alex Smith said. “This is essentially their way of seeing to it they never pay us.”
Moss also said that MGM’s offer “pales in comparison to the Lancaster agreement,” referencing the pending settlement between the Worcester County town and PPE Casino Resorts MA LLC, which has proposed a slot parlor in Leominster.
In that agreement, which has yet to be ratified, if awarded a Category 2 gaming license, PPE would give the town a $200,000 payment for roadway improvements; an annual payment of $35,000, to increase one percent per annum; and public safety reimbursements for mutual aid responses to the site and responses involving patrons who had left the slots parlor within one hour. The town would also receive a portion of the gross gaming revenues should they exceed $200 million.
Grant, as well as Selectmen Paul Santaniello, Mark Gold all expressed the feeling that the message they were hearing through this offer was that unless the board agreed, the town would not be would not be designated a surrounding impact community.
If the town were not named a surrounding impact community when the license application is submitted, it would have 10 days to petition the MGC to be considered.
Being located within two and a half miles of the proposed site, the board has emphasized its stance that it qualifies for surrounding community status.
Santaniello suggested that the board direct Moss and his team to demand surrounding impact community status before engaging in any future negotiations.
The board, however, agreed to allow Moss to attend a meeting requested by MGM in order to convey to them that it wanted the town to be considered a surrounding community in advance and, as Mark Gold noted, “The look-back process is a non-starter for us.”
In addition to the Dec. 2 discussion regarding that status, Grant took matters into his own hands on Nov. 28, sending a letter to the MGC advocating for the town as a community that would be affected by the development and accusing MGM of providing the commission with false information in an attempt to minimize the perception of impacts on surrounding towns.
Sending the email from his town-issued email account, but stating he was acting as a private citizen and not a representative of the Select Board, Grant alleged that during a Nov. 7 presentation to the MGC, MGM utilized a map that inaccurately displayed Longmeadow’s proximity to the site.
“The MGM map falsely shows the surrounding communities to be farther from the project site than they actually are. For example, the MGM map places much of Longmeadow beyond the five-mile radius, when in fact the five-mile radius encompasses Longmeadow and reaches down to the Longmeadow/Enfield line,” he wrote.
“While MGM is entitled to its own opinions on the impact of its project on surrounding communities, it is not entitled to redefine a universal measurement of distance, the mile, much less do so without disclosing its redefinition to this commission. I would add that MGM’s understatement of distance between its project and surrounding communities is matched by its overstatement of the purported outreach to surrounding communities like Longmeadow.
“I would ask that the commission accept nothing at face value from MGM until it is has had a chance to hear opposing viewpoints from the public and the surrounding communities,” he continued.
Select Board Chair Marie Angelides acknowledged Reminder Publications’ request for comment on the validity of Grant’s claims and the possible ramifications of a board member submitting such a letter independently, but had no response as of press time.
Carole Brennan, spokeswoman for MGM, and Town Manager Stephen Crane declined to comment. The MGC did not respond to a message requesting comment.
In addition, No Casino Springfield, a group with which Grant is actively engaged, sent a press release stating it had 1,206 certified signatures for the statewide Repeal the Casino Deal petition drive to abolish the casino legislation certified by the town clerk on Dec. 1.
“Coupled with the overwhelming approval of a resolution opposing a casino in Springfield at the Longmeadow Fall Town Meeting, the impressive number of signatures collected by town residents leaves no doubt where Longmeadow stands,” Grant said in the release.
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