Supreme Court sides with Foxwoods

April 2

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on Wednesday granted Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners Commercial Entertainment District status, thus nullifying Philadelphia City Council’s efforts to require that the Foxwood Casino developers meet a list of special criteria in regards to how the facility would impact neighborhood residents and businesses around the proposed casino.

Basically, the bottom line was this: what was good for SugarHouse, is appropriate for Foxwoods.

The Supreme Court concluded that City Council’s failure to grant the CED status to Foxwoods in a timely fashion required the same high court relief granted in 2007 to the SugarHouse Casino interests.

Foxwoods spokewoman Maureen Garrity said the ruling has lifted Foxwoods over the last of several major hurdles. “Our next steps are to regroup and figure out when we can put a shovel in the ground. We are anxious to do this as soon as possible.”

Garrity said the ruling instructs Philadelphia to grant all needed permits and Foxwoods is still working on Department of Environmental permits and that process shouldn’t take much longer.”

Brian Abernathy, chief of staff for Councilman Frank DiCicco, who introduced CED legislation in council for Foxwoods in an attempt to keep the decision-making associated with casino impacts in Philadelphia, said the city law department is looking at potential appeals of the Supreme Court action.

City Council was scheduled to hear a third reading of that legislation Friday. DiCicco is conferring with Council President Anna Verna Thursday to figure out council’s next action.

Mary Isaacson, spokeswoman for Rep. Michael O’Brien, called the Supreme Court ruling “a disappointing setback,” and she hopes the city or city council will appeal the decision. She said it was too early for casino opponents to panic. “SugarHouse got its CED in August, do they have anything in the ground?”

The court’s opinion regarding Foxwood’s petition for relief from City Council action stated:

(1) the site approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for the Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia is zoned as a Commercial Entertainment District pursuant to Chapter 14-400 of the Philadelphia Code as in
existence on November 1, 2007;

(2) pursuant to Chapter 14-400, Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners, L.P. (“PEDP”)’s plan of development as approved on August 21, 2007 by the City Planning Commission, including all provisos thereto, is declared to be fully approved and shall require no further approval as if City Council for the City of Philadelphia had approved the same;

(3) all revisions, relocations, strikes and vacations of easements and public rights of way identified in the plan of development as approved by the Planning Commission are authorized;

(4) the City of Philadelphia is directed to take all actions necessary to implement the relief granted, including making all necessary changes to City records, maps and plans, and receiving, reviewing and acting upon all applications from PEDP in the ordinary course and in compliance with this Court’s order; and

(5) jurisdiction is retained.

PEDP’s February 21, 2008 Application for Leave to File Reply Brief is hereby granted.

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