|By Chris Maza|
LONGMEADOW – Longmeadow officials formally submitted the town’s petition requesting surrounding community status for MGM Springfield’s proposed $800 million casino development in Springfield’s South End on Jan. 13.
The town’s package sent to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission included a 17-page petition and 226 pages worth of exhibits supporting its argument.
“The town’s petition clearly details that there will be significant and adverse impacts as a result of the MGM Springfield development based on an independent peer review of the traffic and other data,” Town Manager Stephen Crane told Reminder Publications.
MGM, which was required by the state’s gaming legislation to include surrounding community agreements within its RFA-2 Category 1 license application, reached agreements with Ludlow, Agawam, Wilbraham, East Longmeadow and Chicopee prior to submitting its application on Dec. 30, 2013. Since then, Holyoke and West Springfield were both designated surrounding communities.
“MGM has voluntarily designated six of the seven municipalities that are direct abutters to Springfield. The only direct abutter to Springfield MGM has not voluntarily designated as a surrounding community is Longmeadow,” the petition reads.
In surrounding community agreement negotiations, MGM offered Longmeadow $125,000 for reimbursement of consulting and legal fees, $100,000 in guaranteed minimum annual mitigation payments, plus a total of $750,000 in payments over 13 years for reimbursement of costs associated with annual impact studies with one- and five-year “look backs.”
Longmeadow countered with a proposal in which the town would receive $950,000 in up-front payments for infrastructure improvements and up to $100,000 in payments to offset the legal and consulting costs, $500,000 in annual payments with 2.5 percent annual increases and periodic “look back” studies.
The town asserts in the petition that MGM had previously stated its intention to only recognize municipalities as surrounding communities if they agreed to a surrounding community agreement. However, on Jan. 9, MGM voluntarily designated West Springfield without an agreement.
“Longmeadow, through its attorneys, contacted MGM’s attorneys on Jan. 9, requesting that MGM reconsider its prior position so that the parties can negotiate a surrounding community agreement and provide clarity on why MGM voluntarily designated West Springfield absent an executed surrounding community agreement,”?the petition states. “To date MGM has continued to refuse to voluntarily designate Longmeadow a surrounding community.”
Longmeadow’s petition specifically addresses the town’s serious concerns about added traffic and the impact it would have on the town’s infrastructure.
“MGM has designated a significant number of communities as ‘surrounding communities’ even though these communities are located further away from the proposed site of MGM Springfield and/or lack direct transportation infrastructure compared to Longmeadow,” it reads.
Greenman-Pedersen Inc., the firm hired by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to peer review of MGM’s traffic study, identified Longmeadow as one of the communities that would be most affected by traffic generated by the casino. The town also hired its own consultants to weigh traffic and other impacts that could be created by the casino project.
Longmeadow officials also pointed out in the petition that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has recognized that “Longmeadow Street/Converse Street (U.S. 5) is a National Highway System arterial with regional significance, especially as the only viable North-South alternative to travel on the interstate in that area” and that Longmeadow Street and Laurel Street corridors are “bottlenecks.”
“These are the same local roads in Longmeadow that will be significantly and adverse [sic] impacted by the additional traffic generated by MGM Springfield,”?the petition states.
In addition to infrastructure concerns, the petition addresses potential operational cost increases.
The Fire Department, the petition reads, responded to 22 emergencies on Interstate 91 during fiscal year 2013 and approximately 23 percent of those calls occurred between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., affecting the amount of overtime paid. As a department offering mutual aid to surrounding communities, including Springfield, Longmeadow spends an estimated $1,520 per call.
The petition also states that the town’s public safety consultant determined that an additional police officer on duty from Friday evening through Monday morning would cost the town more than $200,000 annually and a new cruiser at a cost of $35,000 would be necessary.
The town would also have to address impacts to code enforcement, social welfare, public works and public health, the petition reads, and while at the Proposition 2 1/2 levy limit, it would not be able to absorb those costs.
A public hearing will take place later this month and a determination will be made by early February.
“Longmeadow has been engaged in a fact-based approach to identify knowable, predictable impacts of the MGM development for several months,” Select Board Chair Marie Angelides said. “We look forward to discussing the information in the petition with the Gaming Commission.”
If the town receives surrounding community status, it would have 30 days to negotiate an agreement with MGM. After that time, the matter would move to binding arbitration.
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