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Homeowners call for environmental review of proposed casino

As Wilmorite Inc. celebrates one legal hurdle cleared on the road to developing a resort and casino in the tiny Seneca County town of Tyre, a local opposition group has doubled down on its effort to block the $425 million Lago Casino & Resort development.

In an Aug. 10 letter to Tyre town officials, lawyers for Seneca County homeowners opposed to the development claim the town has no choice but to conduct a full environmental review of the proposed development’s impact.

The letter from Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP came three days after an acting state Supreme Court justice in Albany shot down Finger Lakes Racing Association Inc.’s bid to kill the Wilmorite casino project on grounds that it would unfairly compete with Finger Lakes Racing’s Farmington racino.

Calling on the Tyre Board of Supervisors to authorize a full review of Wilmorite’s Lago Casino & Resort development, the Akin, Gump missive follows the Seneca County town’s approval of an environmental review submitted by Wilmorite that found no negative impacts.

Area casino opponents’ court challenge to the Tyre town board’s green lighting of the Wilmorite review was shot down by a state Supreme Court justice in June. A 4th Department Appellate Division panel reversed the lower court ruling in July, however, throwing the dispute back to the town board.

In what Wilmorite CEO Thomas Wilmot has written off as only a temporary setback, the appellate ruling forced Wilmorite to halt construction.
Tyre officials hastily passed a resolution reaffirming their support for Lago but have yet to weigh in anew on the project’s effect on the environment.

Chockablock with examples of allegedly negative impacts the 85-acre Lago development would have on the tiny 917-resident rural town, the missive from Akin, Gump maintains that there is little doubt as to what a full review would find.

Among contentions leveled by the homeowners’ lawyers: The development would destroy the area’s rural character, endanger wildlife including song birds, deer and two species of bats, impinge on nearby protected areas including the Montezuma National Wildlife Reserve and unduly inconvenience Amish residents.

In addition to an exhaustively detailed, 42-page list of negative environmental consequences Wilmorite allegedly overlooked in the review it submitted to the town, the letter includes an appendix loaded with photographs of natural features the casino opponents say would be harmed.

Also detailed are conflicts the project as proposed would allegedly have with Tyre’s and Seneca County’s zoning and planning regulations and with the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor Preservation and Development Plan.

The same group of eight Seneca County homeowners in June filed an Article 78 petition seeking to force the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency to rescind Lago tax breaks and a payment in lieu of taxes deal.
(c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.


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