By Kellie Patrick
Philadelphia City Council Thursday overturned the mayor’s veto on a zoning change designed to block the Foxwoods Casino from its proposed Delaware Avenue site.
By unanimous vote, city council switched the 20-some acre parcel from commercial to residential.
“This is clearly spot zoning,” said Jeffery B. Rotwitt, an attorney representing Foxwoods. “It certainly is patently illegal and we will go to court to overturn it.”
Councilman Frank DiCicco, in whose district Foxwoods wants to build, expects a court battle, said DiCicco spokesman Brian Abernathy. Whatever the outcome of the court case, it would buy more time, he said.
It was a busy day for DiCicco, who also submitted legislation that would prohibit casinos from going up within 1,500 feet of residential communities, schools, playgrounds, and places of worship.
If that language sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the very same language that was to be placed before city voters in a referendum during next week’s primary.
The State Supreme Court issued an order barring the question. But while a sticker saying “removed by court order” will cover the referendum on the official ballot, anti-casino activist organization Casino-Free Philadelphia will hold its own referendum. While not court-sanctioned, the Casino-Free Philadelphia ballot also uses the same language. And DiCicco said he will use the vote as a barometer on whether to push the legislation he submitted Thursday.
Registered voters can cast ballots in boxes at various polls and other places around the city, or they can vote by phone or online at www.PhillysBallotBox.org. The website’s name is also used as the name of the voting event.
“If PhillysBallotBox is successful, we will push the legislation. If it is not successful, it will remain stagnant” and die for lack of action, Abernathy said.
Casino-Free Philadelphia spokesman Daniel Hunter is pleased that DiCicco has decided to tie his legislative proposal to the ballot box results.
“What he’s saying is, ‘Look, they are offering this vote, it’s the closest we are getting to an official vote, and City Council should respond to the will of the people,’” Hunter said.
Rotwitt said he could not comment on DiCicco’s proposal, since he had not read it. He has previously called the PhillysBallotBox referendum a “publicity ploy.”