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Healy wants Petaluma to oppose Rohnert Park casino

By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Petaluma City Council members will be asked Monday whether the city should urge North Bay legislators to reject the governor’s gaming agreement with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, who plan a huge casino near Rohnert Park.

Councilman Mike Healy, an attorney who has opposed this and other casino proposals in Sonoma County, argues the recently signed compact doesn’t require the mitigation of impacts to surrounding communities.

“Even if Rohnert Park is happy and the county ends up being happy,” he said, “that still doesn’t take care of all the impacts.”

The city of Rohnert Park in 2003 negotiated a 20-year pact under which the tribe would, if its revenues met expectations, pay the city and various community groups about $200 million.

The state compact requires the tribe to funnel $100 million into Sonoma County in its first seven years of operation and more after that. About $40 million would go to the county and $60 million to Rohnert Park.

The money is supposed to offset impacts on the environment, criminal justice and social service systems and traffic, among other areas.

But Petaluma Councilmen Gabe Kearney and Healy said that wasn’t good enough. They have asked the council to consider sending a letter drafted by Healy urging state lawmakers to oppose the casino.

“The feelings are pretty strong,” Healy said.

The state Legislature and the federal Department of the Interior still need to ratify the compact, although such actions are considered routine. The Legislature has held up approvals before but is believed to have rejected only one.

Casino opponents, including Assemblyman Jared Huffman, have acknowledged the odds against stopping the project now are slim.

The casino is approved for 3,000 slot machines, 5,500 parking spaces, a 200-room hotel and restaurants and bars. If built to completion, it would become Sonoma County’s largest private employer and, at $433 million, one of its most costly developments.

The 274-page compact outlines possible earnings of more than $400 million annually.

The 534,000-square-foot project, planned for just west of the Scandia Family Fun Center, would be the closest full-service casino to the Bay Area.

Healy’s letter argues that the underlying data used to approve the casino plan is inadequate, particularly with regard to traffic and water.

“I’ve not spent six years on the country transportation authority to get Highway 101 widened just to see these guys clog it up again,” he said.

An environmental study projected a smaller casino, with only 2,000 slot machines, would result in 18,000 additional vehicle trips a day, boosting traffic through the Petaluma-Novato area by 10 percent.

But with the compact’s approval of 3,000 slots, that estimate would be increased dramatically, Healy said.

“The casino’s traffic plume will extend all through Marin,” the letter states. “No compact should be approved until the casino is required to pay its full fair share of completed and future highway widening in Marin and Sonoma.”

The letter also states the study “inexplicably … fails to identify a water source” for the resort.

“It is not appropriate for this casino either to negate the sterling conservation efforts of our citizens, or to increase the risk of water supply shortages in the region,” the letter states.

The letter will be addressed to state Sens. Noreen Evans, Mark Leno, Lois Wolk and Assembly members Michael Allen, Wesley Chesbro, Mariko Yamada and Huffman.

A majority vote of state legislators is needed for ratification of the governor’s compact. No date has been set for a vote.

Monday’s council meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 11 English St.





8 Responses to “Healy wants Petaluma to oppose Rohnert Park casino”

  1. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    RE: puh-leeze – “Whether you like it or not, this casino is a done deal. The proposition that allowed these to happen did not leave much recourse for stopping the process. Besides, it’s a Rohnert Park issue, not a Petaluma one.”

    Only a Rohnert Park issue? Apparently it’s not even that: I sure can’t remember any of the residents having any say, or voting on the issue. All the meetings were done in secret and the decisions for the city council was based only on money, money and more money… mainly for police services and overtime for them and any other city department that can get it’s hands in the casino-promised money trough. What was best for the city’s residents was never a factor or even a consideration.

    Sears Point still looks like a great place place to build the casino. At least some of the ‘finer clientele’ would have to drive a little further before mugging, robbing or burglarizing the rest of us. At least when you go to a casino, you know ahead of time that you’ll get mugged, and that’s your choice.

  2. Larry White says:

    Really! You’re in Petaluma and this is a business decision that positively impacts RP, so butt out!

  3. Irony says:

    Yes, it’s pretty funny really…..Healy and Kearny were quick to overrule the planning commission on Deer Creek, without concern for traffic impacts….now they are complaining about traffic impacts with the casino. Consistency would be nice, but that’t not what Healy’s about.

  4. Follower says:

    @Will
    The “Evil Empire” is history and soon the liberal do-gooders of Marin will be able to help the needy right in their own backyards.

    I would think the Marinese would be quite happy about that.

  5. Will says:

    People are creating a lot of fear for nothing, and I’ve heard the rants about drunken drivers, prostitutes, loitering, undesirables lurking about, and now traffic. Three out of four of our closest casinos: River Rock, Twin Pines, and Hopland Shokawah are in the boonies where there are two lane roads. The casinos themselves are almost always packed and I have never once had to sit in traffic. The other in San Pablo which is practically in the ghetto along the 80 corridor and in an urban area doesn’t cause any problems either as far as I’ve seen. The median age of casino patrons is 45, and the majority of which have a college degree. Sonoma County has literally painted itself in a corner with its extreme rules, regulations, and anti-business sentiments. Ask the stuck up Marin-ites how they feel now that they are losing Lucas studios.

  6. puh-leeze says:

    Spitting into the wind.

    Whether you like it or not, this casino is a done deal. The proposition that allowed these to happen did not leave much recourse for stopping the process. Besides, it’s a Rohnert Park issue, not a Petaluma one.

    This is nothing but grandstanding and a publicity stunt by Healy. And Kearny riding on his coat tails makes him look like a fool too. Let’s just hope we’re through with them both after November’s elections.

  7. Reality Check says:

    So Healy and Kearney didn’t give a damn about clogging Petaluma streets with poorly conceived projects they approved (Target, Deer Creek) but they want us to roust out a development in another town because it may clog 101? It may also bring tax revenues to Petaluma if casino goers get off the highway to eat at one of Petaluma’s destination restaurants. Or stay at one of our hotels. This smells of racism to me. And grandstanding.

  8. Mind your own business says:

    It’s not enough to mis-manage Petaluma so Healy and the other Council members in Petaluma are compelled to reach out and inject themselves into other cities’ business. Petaluma is a mess. Poor streets, bad parks, cops laid off, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, but apparently there is still time enough to look into other communities and their business. Go away.