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Council submits its requests for the host community agreement


June 28, 2013
By Carley Dangona

carley@thereminder.com

WEST SPRINGFIELD — The Town Council would like Hard Rock New England (HRNE) to pay three separate fees to West Springfield, but didn't specify a dollar amount to developers.

On June 21, the Town Council submitted its recommendations for the HRNE host community agreement (HCA) per the mayor's invitation.

On June 7, the council received an invitation from Mayor Gregory Neffinger's office to submit its ideas to be considered for the HCA. Neffinger set a deadline of June 21, providing the council two weeks to reply.

"I want to personally thank the members of the committee and council for taking time during the summer to delve out what might be the most important document [in the process]," Brian Griffin, City Council vice president and chair of its Town Council Casino Mitigation subcommittee, said.

Griffin discussed the request for a Community Enhancement Fee, which would support betterments to the West Springfield Senior Center.

"Improvements to the senior center would benefit the people who've sacrificed most of their lives to build this foundation [to sustain] West Springfield. It's important that we give back to them," he said.

The aforementioned fee would also support the creation of a public safety complex and infrastructure improvements to the Memorial Avenue corridor.

The goal of the requested HCA clauses is to require HRNE to comply with all laws, taxes and permits and to provide temporary and permanent employment for local residents.

The councilors suggested a "Citizens' Foundation in the amount of $250,000 paid annually with 2.5 percent increase per annum, which will go to supporting local groups" be created. The foundation would benefit groups that provide support and enrichment to the West Side community, including the West Springfield Public Library, the Boys & Girls Club of West Springfield and the Park & Recreation Department.

"We would also like HRNE to give a percentage of [its revenue] — a payment in lieu of taxes — so as to reduce the citizen's tax burden," Griffin said. A dollar amount was not specified, but does state the figure would increase 2.5 percent annually, according to Griffin.

The proposal also requests that HRNE make use of the Majestic Theater to ensure that performances still occur at the site. In addition, the council would like to see the return of hockey with an outdoor skating rink included on the HRNE site. Per stipulation, the rink would remain operational for the first five years the resort casino is open.

"It is a great opportunity to bring youth hockey to the forefront while providing a chance for families to spend time together," Griffin commented.

In the letter to the mayor Griffin, on behalf of his fellow councilors, summarized the concerns regarding traffic. "We would like to see the plan for impacts on U.S. Route 5 and U.S. Route 20 addressed inclusive of the roads that branch from them. We would like to see an ongoing review of traffic set every six months from the inception of the project for at least the first five years," Griffin wrote.

"[HRNE must] address the location and access points for employee busses, parking and visitor busses. Also, a provision that ensures that after the first two years of the project, HRNE would be required to formally address the immediate traffic patterns going into and out of the project compared to the initial development," the letter continued.

The councilors also requested HRNE continue to provide free parking to Eastern States Exposition (ESE) events — which does not include the Big E — to West Springfield residents who register with and obtain a sticker from ESE.

Other requests include the establishment of a treatment program for compulsive gamblers, a fund to educate children about the environment and the use of local vendors for goods and services.

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