Elk Grove Citizen
By Lance Armstrong - Citizen Staff Writer
The Elk Grove City Council on Sept. 28 unanimously approved a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the Wilton Rancheria. The tribe is proposing a $400 million entertainment and gaming facility on a 35.9-acre site near Highway 99 and Kammerer Road.
This MOU is an agreement between the tribe and the city to help reduce traffic and crime impacts from the casino, if the facility is built. The City Council’s recent action is not an approval of the project, which needs federal approval before moving forward.
If the casino opens for business, the tribe would pay nearly $132 million in recurring and nonrecurring payments to the city and community of Elk Grove during the first 20 years of the MOU.
As a gaming and entertainment facility, the project would feature a gaming floor with 2,000 slot machines, 84 gaming tables, a 12-story, 302-room hotel, a fitness area and spa, an outdoor pool, a 30,000-square-foot convention space/banquet area and fine dining restaurants.
Tribal Chair Raymond “Chuckie” Hitchcock expressed his satisfaction with the council’s unanimous decision to support the funding agreement between the tribe and the city.
“To have the council’s support in 5-0 for this MOU for the service agreement just shows we’re trying to do the right thing to be a community partner here in Elk Grove,” he said.
Hitchcock also stated that he was appreciative of the support that the Elk Grove Police Officers Association (EGPOA) gave the tribe through a letter that was released during the previous day.
A portion of that letter reads: “As it stands today, the EGPOA supports the partnership with the Wilton Rancheria and the proposed casino.”
Since the proposal is a controversial issue in Elk Grove, the council chamber was filled to capacity and 44 speakers addressed the council following the presentation of a staff report on the topic.
Thirty of those speakers spoke in favor of the proposed project, while 13 local citizens shared their feelings why the project would not be a good addition to the community. One speaker remained neutral on the issue.
Multiple speakers expressed their concerns about the location of the proposed Elk Grove casino, which would be built adjacent to the future Outlet Collection of Elk Grove mall. The casino site is also a short distance from Cosumnes Oaks High School and Pinkerton Middle School.
Also addressed were fears of potential gang activity, money laundering, and that the facility could become financially unsuccessful and fall into a depressed state.
Other speakers mentioned their concerns that the casino would not reflect the brand of the community, would lead to excessive gambling and potential illegal drug use and attract prostitution and other crimes.
Supporters of the proposed project praised the potential economic benefits for both the Elk Grove community and the tribe.
A city report notes that the project could bring 1,750 permanent jobs to the facility, as well as construction jobs for the building of the project.
During the council’s deliberation on the MOU, Council Member Pat Hume said that he believes the tribe negotiated a fair and equitable agreement.
Hume, who described himself as a “patriot,” also spoke about “some things in our history that we cannot undo,” including slavery, the Japanese internment and the forceful takeover of the lands of Native Americans.
“This process has been set in place by the federal government and by the state government to recognize the sovereignty of a people who had their livelihood, their land, their lifestyle stolen from them,” he said. “Therefore, my job is not to say I approve of how they want to better their lives or disapprove. It’s to get the hell out of the way, and I will approve this MOU and do just that.”
Council Member Steve Detrick noted that the casino portion of the project would represent about 10 percent of the build-out area of the project.
“There’s a lot of emphasis being put on the casino, but again, it’s 10 percent of the whole project,” he said. “This is not only going to spur the Howard Hughes (Corp.-owned) property, but everything around there. This will be a huge economic driver.”
Mayor Gary Davis stated that although he would prefer the facility without the casino, he was supportive of the project as a whole.
“It’s going to interject (a) tremendous amount of energy into that part of the community, it’s going to be a catalyst for the mall, it’s going to be a catalyst for that corridor,” he said.
Davis added that there is not a single project that would define the community of Elk Grove.
“It’s the people that define the community of Elk Grove,” he said. “We’re too strong for a project to change that, and we have too much history and tradition for that to be changed. If this project moves forward, I think that an MOU will only enhance the tradition and history and the ability to continue to do in our city and be what we’ve always been.”