Philadelphia Daily News
By CHRIS BRENNAN
Mayor Nutter yesterday announced his strong opposition to a controversial riverfront casino, two days after the state Supreme Court took away the city's zoning oversight for the project.
"It is clear - I want to be very direct about this - it is clear that the proposed Foxwoods site is wrong for Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Nutter told City Council in a hearing on zoning for the South Philly casino.
Holding the hearing, the third of four, was in question after Wednesday's ruling. But Nutter urged Council to continue gathering information about Foxwoods, which would be built on Columbus Boulevard at Reed Street.
Nutter complained that the Supreme Court had "snatched out this Council's will and ability and political responsibility," disrupting the zoning process.
Councilman Bill Greenlee wondered what more could be done after the Supreme Court ruling, which found that Council had stalled casino zoning approval.
"The decision is the decision," Greenlee said. "Where do we go from here?"
Nutter wasn't ready to answer but said that his staff was exploring options and that there are "many miles to go" before the issue is over.
He later declined to say whether the city was considering taking its case to federal court.
Council members were clearly smarting from the Supreme Court ruling, which mirrors a December ruling that forced the city's hand on zoning for SugarHouse, a proposed riverfront casino in Fishtown.
They also were unhappy to hear about estimated costs for police and fire services to deal with the two proposed casinos.
The Police Department says it will need nearly $18 million in start-up costs for a new 168-officer unit to patrol the areas around the casinos. The unit would cost about $12.8 million a year to run after the first year.
Council President Anna Verna said her colleagues had "agonized" about coming up with money for new police officers and were upset that they might patrol casinos instead of neighborhoods.
"I think it's absolutely and totally wrong," Verna said.
Nutter said the police costs are not part of his five-year financial plan and he has "no particular interest" in paying for them.
"I don't believe they're our responsibility," Nutter said.
Foxwoods attorney Carl Primavera tried to strike a respectful tone with Council, even though the court ruling has removed zoning authority.
"We want to be seen as a positive and cooperative partner as we move forward," he said.
But Primavera pointed out that Foxwoods signed a development agreement in the closing days of former Mayor Street's administration. That agreement says the city will pay for police costs from property taxes paid by Foxwoods and state taxes collected on gambling profits paid to municipalities where casinos operate.
"We worked long and hard on a development agreement to make sure that the city got the best possible deal that it could," Primavera said. "I don't think there is any legitimate basis to . . . ignore what's been a year's worth of work in coming up with that agreement."