Indian casino fight may not be over |

Indian casino fight may not be over

Susan Wood

The 3-year-old battle against an Indian casino in Shingle Springs may appear to be over for El Dorado County, but the war continues with possibly new recruits for a neighborhood group vowing to fight on.

Stephan Volker, the attorney for the project site’s nearby residents calling themselves Voices for Rural Living, has pledged to proceed to trial in state court in Sacramento in April.

In a complaint filed two weeks ago, the group has challenged Caltrans, the developer Lakes Entertainment and the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians over a newly filed environmental impact report. The complaint points to the health, safety and general welfare of the community group as being in jeopardy.

“Caltrans failed to address the air quality impacts of the project,” Volker told the Tahoe Daily Tribune Friday.

The renewed intent came a day after the county dropped its lawsuits against the Miwok tribe in exchange for an almost $200 million payoff over two decades, sending a rippling effect among tourism officials and a South Lake Tahoe local government grappling with the possibility of losing an estimated $40 million in revenue from intercepted visitors off Highway 50 based on county counsel’s own report. The study was done when the Placerville-based government was enlisting help as a party of interest.

The city obliged in January 2003. Making the motion to join the county fight was Councilman Tom Davis, who’s running for a seat again in November.

“I’m outraged by this. This is significant and serious. The good news is we knew it was coming. It was only a matter of time, so we planned for that. And that’s called Park Avenue and the convention center (projects),” said Davis, who also expects a dent in his vacation home rental business. He co-owns Tahoe Keys Resort.

Although Volker was more optimistic about the group’s chances, City Manager Dave Jinkens believes the Voices for Rural Living will have a harder time without the county’s support.

“The City Council should seriously consider the merits of joining the action of the Voices of Rural Living even while acknowledging that to do so may not be successful,” Jinkens wrote in a memorandum to council members.

Harrah’s/Harveys Lake Tahoe spokesman John Packer said his company and its chief executive John Koster may consider the same avenue through the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance.

“I don’t know, but we’re looking at the decision and the other things going on to see how to proceed and what our options are,” he said.

Skip Sayer, a former Harrah’s marketing vice president who’s now the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director, saw the writing on the wall early on.

In his extensive meetings, he had heard the Thunder Valley Indian casino in Lincoln has taken 15 percent of the business from Sacramento going to Lake Tahoe.

“There’s no question a casino in Placerville will have an impact on the South Shore. It sits in the direct path,” Sayer said, adding that perhaps the impact will be lessened by losing day-trippers because the hotel size is limited.

The tribe’s proposing to build a $100 million casino with Nevada-style gaming, a 250-room high-rise hotel and a 3,000-vehicle, five-level parking lot over a 43 acre area in the small grassy neighborhood between Placerville and Sacramento.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs claim the project amounts to the largest commercial development in the county, which is expected to generate 3 million vehicle trips per year, “triggering rapid urban growth and its attendant environmental impacts, including congestion, fire danger, water pollution.” It claims an additional heavy burden on local community services.

The county’s agreement finalized Thursday is intended to offset the impacts of traffic and law enforcement as two examples.

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