Tribe agrees to cover full cost of Wilfred Avenue, gateway to its resort
By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria will pay the full $10 million cost of widening Wilfred Avenue, the access road to the Rohnert Park casino resort they are now building, under a tentative agreement with the city and county.
That would be a shift from an earlier contract between the city and the tribe that required the tribe to fund half the project, a condition of the federal government’s approval of the casino.
“In order for us to move expeditiously and have this road ready, they agreed to pay for the full cost,” said Rohnert Park City Manager Gabe Gonzalez.
“It’s a good indication of the city’s ability to have a good working relationship with the tribe and their willingness to be a good neighbor,” he said.
The tribe plans a 3,000-slot-machine, 317,750-square-foot casino and, at a later date, a 200-room hotel on 66 acres of its 254-acre reservation just south of Home Depot.
The casino is supposed to open in 2013; the tribe secured $850 million in financing in August.
While the $10 million road project would address one of casino foes’ major concerns — the safety of what is now a narrow, two-lane road bordered by ditches — it hardly ameliorates their opposition.
The leader of the main opposition group, Stop the Casino 101, said the city is, in effect, paving the way for the massive casino resort. Construction on the resort began in June.
“The casino could not be built without the help and approval of the City Council,” said Pastor Chip Worthington. His group is challenging the casino project in state court and also plans a federal lawsuit.
The environmental report projected the casino would produce 14,274 additional vehicle trips a day. Opponents say other studies show it will be more like 40,000.
Under the agreement, which the Rohnert Park Council is to take up Tuesday, the tribe would design and pay for a four-lane road with bicycle lanes from Redwood Drive to Stony Point Road.
“We see this as being the key mitigation measure to make sure that traffic doesn’t impact our residents in the area,” said Gonzalez.
Parts of the roadway are outside city limits, but the county would cede oversight of the project to the city, which would manage the construction.
“We want to make sure this road is built on time and this will allow us to control that. It’s a big plus,” said Gonzalez.
The council is to take up the item at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Rohnert Park in June approved the connection of the casino resort to the city’s sewer system.
Tribal representatives declined comment Friday.
(You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)