The Milford Selectmen voted 2-1 Monday to approve an agreement with Foxwoods Massachusetts, which hopes to build a resort casino off I-495.
The vote was the first of several to approve the host community agreement, and authorize a town election that will put the issue before voters.
Selectmen Brian Murray and Dino DeBartolomeis voted in favor. Board Chairman Bill Buckley voted against.
Foxwoods will cover the cost of the election, and of promotional materials that will explain the agreement to voters. Milford Selectmen, following the vote, said the town would hold several public meetings, at convenient locations and times, to explain the host community agreement to residents.
The host community agreement exceeds 100 pages, including exhibits. A summary should be mailed to town residents, argued Selectman Dino DeBartolomeis.
"So people at home will know what is in that document," he said.
The document, negotiated by attorneys for the resort casino development and for the town over several weeks, covers what the town will be paid in taxes and mitigation for the casino, and when, and describes the project construction, anticipated employment and hiring goals, and what mitigation will be paid to affected homeowners.
One of the more significant changes made in recent days to the agreement, since selectmen gave it initial approval last week, concerns the fund for impacted homeowners, those property owners who live north of Route 109 and East of I-495. The agreement signed Monday will cover applications to a $2.5 million mitigation fund for devalued properties for 10 years, rather than five.
Selectman Buckley, who voted against, said he was disappointed the agreement did not include any mitigation for Milford Regional Medical Center, which had sought, unsuccessfully, to have the resort casino cover up to $5 million of its planned emergency and patient room expansion. "I'm disappointed they were not a part of this," he said. Buckley said he also felt the amount provided for homeowners who sell at a loss was not sufficient.
The lead casino attorney for the town said the hospital could not document that it would have a substantial impact from casino operations. The hospital's executive estimated it would have 300 additional calls a year, said Cid Froelich, a partner with Milford's casino attorneys, Shefsky & Froelich, and the primary negotiator for the town. "I've got no data to say: 'give me money'."
Foxwoods Massachusetts expects to spend $1 billion on the casino, which could take between two to three years to build. The primary access would be off I-495, using a new "collector-distributor" road that would carry both southbound and northbound traffic off I-495 and on to an access road to the casino. The access also would be extended to Route 16.
It could draw 7 million visitors a year, according to Foxwoods projections.
Under the agreement, Foxwoods will pay the town at least $25 million a year in property taxes, once the casino opens. It will pay $32 million for up-front mitigation and community enhancement, paid out over four years following the beginning of construction. It is expected the casino will take at least two years to build, once it gains the necessary state and federal approvals and permits.
In addition to the taxes, the casino also will contribute some $7 million a year to cover the cost of hiring additional police, firefighters and civilian 911 dispatchers, as well as the costs to cover any increases in Milford Public Schools enrollment, in the English language learner and special education programs, that can be attributed to the casino operation.
In a statement, Foxwoods Resorts CEO Scott Butera said the agreement was, on a per-capita basis, the most lucrative for residents of the three under consideration in the greater Boston region. "Through months of hard work collaborating with town officials, we are pleased to reach an agreement that will help us develop a unique, world-class resort that enhances the Milford community,” he said. “The Milford Board of Selectmen deserve praise for pushing us to develop the most comprehensive proposal of any applicant.”
Foxwoods Massachusetts is one of three resort casino developments vying for the single state license available in greater Boston. Everett is the proposed location for the Wynn Resorts casino, while Suffolk Downs in East Boston is the site for a resort planned by Ceasars. Boston has not yet voted on its host community agreement. Everett voters already have approved their city's deal with Wynn Resorts.
For the project to move forward, a majority of town voters must approve the host community agreement at referendum, and the project will need zoning amendments approved by Town Meeting.