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Neighbors irate over late notice on west Chandler casino plan

By: Mark Moorehead

October 13, 2007

Gambling that west Chandler residents would put up less of a fuss than their Gilbert counterparts over a planned $60 million, 24-hour casino, the Gila River Indian Community has opted to build its new Lone Butte Casino at Kyrene Road and Loop 202.

And although some residents aren’t happy with the decision or the timing of notification they received to attend a public meeting, their concerns appeared to come too late.

Tribal officials broke ground for the project on Oct. 8, just four days after a public meeting that had been announced only 72 hours earlier.

Opening is scheduled late next year.

In Gilbert, a vocal and unexpected outpouring of protests from local homeowners near the proposed site at Gilbert Road and Hunt Highway persuaded tribal officials to quickly consider an alternate location, in southwest Chandler.

A last-minute open house, arranged by Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn on Oct. 4 and held at the Desert Breeze Police Substation just north of Chandler Boulevard, was intended to provide a forum for residents to ask questions.

The audience seemed more concerned, however, with the lack of notice and indications that the project appeared to be a done deal.

“I am extremely disappointed with the city of Chandler,” said Twelve Oaks resident Luke Garner. Garner claims residents in his neighborhood never received notice from Chandler of scheduled construction of a new casino complex, within walking distance of nearby Sundance Park, until just days earlier.

“My concern is a big casino means easy money, crime, alcohol served 24 hours a day, and more drunk drivers on our local streets.

“Last year my home was broken into and my wife’s checks that were stolen were cashed at the local casino,” says Garner.

Neighbor Cindy Cullins voiced similar concerns.

“I don’t oppose casinos. But build it away from a neighborhood. Our children play baseball at our local park, which is less than a quarter mile from the proposed casino.

“I’m concerned about the increase in drunk drivers on Kyrene Road and the safety of children at the park.”

Jenni Layton, also from Twelve Oaks, said she can’t understand, when Arizona lawmakers drafted legislation legalizing gaming on Indian reservations, they provided for the building of casinos next door to residential neighborhoods and elementary schools.

“When they voted to legalize casino gambling why (were) no rules written prohibiting the building of casinos next to parks, schools and neighborhoods?”

The mayor, however, had an altogether different view on the casino.

“I think it’s a positive development,” he said.

“The Gila River Community is transforming a heavy industrial area by moving a cement recycling plant and replacing it with a casino and high-end retail.”

Audience member Garner replied that he’d rather have the cement plant.

Dunn reminded residents that Chandler has no influence over where the Gila River Community builds its casino since it is not being built within city limits but on the reservation.

After the public forum portion of the meeting ended, most who attended complained vehemently over the lack of notice that was afforded them.

“I’m very upset the city of Chandler has not kept us informed. I just found out yesterday…that they were going to break ground on the casino at Kyrene and Loop 202 next week,” said Warner Ranch resident Shashi Karpur.

Karpur noted that such development is not compatible with neighborhoods with children.

“Casinos create a bad environment and increase the number of drunk drivers on our streets,” she said.

Dale Enos, president of Gila River Gaming Enterprises, admitted the tribe’s decision to locate the new Lone Butte Casino at Kyrene and Loop 202 was due to objections from residents in the Gilbert Road-Hunt Highway area, so planners looked west.

“We chose the new location for its accessibility and visibility from drivers on Loop 202 and I-10.

“And, we’re helping the Lone Butte Industrial Park change from an industrial to a retail business location,” he said.

The new casino will have 750 slot machines and five restaurants including Café 247, open 24 hours.



Photo by David Stone


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