By Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW – Long-meadow’s special counsel, led by attorney Brandon Moss of Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, are in the midst of preparing the town’s petition for surrounding community status to be submitted to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
MGM Springfield became the first company to file an RFA-2 application for a Category 1 gaming license with the commission on Dec. 30, 2013, a day before the commission’s deadline. The 7,000-page document included Ludlow, Agawam, Wilbraham, East Longmeadow and Chicopee as surrounding communities, however, Longmeadow and West Springfield were excluded. The latter two communities have not signed surrounding community agreements.
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.
Because the town and MGM could not reach an agreement prior to the submission of the gaming company’s license application, Longmeadow was on the clock, initially having until Jan. 10 to submit its petition. Due to recent inclement weather, that deadline was moved to Jan. 13.
“Our attorneys are actively engaged in creating a petition, which we will submit to the Gaming Commission before that deadline,” Town Manager Stephen Crane said.
Crane said there was no specific format for the petition and the results of other communities’ petitions are serving as a guide for the town’s attorneys.
“There have been other petitions made recently, so we are reviewing what was included in those petitions and also what the Gaming Commission took into consideration when making their determinations,” he said. “It appears based on other communities’ experiences that the decisions are largely data-driven and traffic has been a big component.”
Longmeadow was identified by Greenman-Pedersen Inc., the firm hired by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to peer review of MGM’s traffic study, as one of the communities that would be most affected by traffic generated by the casino.
With that data, additional information from consultants hired by the town, as well as anecdotal evidence, such as the traffic tie up on Route 5 because of a truck accident that shut down Interstate 91 and caused traffic to be diverted through the town on Jan. 2, Crane said he is confident the commission would find that a downtown Springfield casino would have an impact on Longmeadow.
“I think we are well-prepared to make a strong, data-driven argument that will prove our point,” he said. Public hearings will take place later this month and a determination will be made in February. If the town is granted surrounding community status, it would have 30 days to negotiate an agreement. If an agreement is not reached in that time, arbitration proceedings would begin.