Town will allow Scarborough Downs complex to include casino

Posted Aug. 23, 2013, at 12:29 p.m.

SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Zoning around Scarborough Downs now allows casino gambling, after action Wednesday by the Town Council.

The rezoning of about 450 acres of racetrack land owned by Sharon Terry for mixed-use development was amended by councilors to include casino gambling as a permitted use, if voters support it and councilors accept a revenue-sharing plan.

The amendment means voters will be asked only to approve gambling in any potential referendum, without voting on a zoning change to make it a permitted use. The long-discussed ordinance passed unanimously, with Council Chairman Ron Ahlquist and Councilor James Benedict absent from the meeting.

The creation of the Crossroads Planned Development District on land between Payne Road, Haigis Parkway and U.S. Route 1 has been discussed since last winter. The last-minute amendment adding gambling as a permitted use is something Terry’s attorney Ed MacColl said he expected to be part of the plan all along.

“This is, in the long run, something the Downs will have to have to survive,” MacColl said, while adding his support to have the gambling issue decided by referendum.

Former Councilor Sue Foley-Ferguson opposed the amendment while applauding the development zone, saying councilors should not relinquish their control over local zoning.

Foley-Ferguson noted residents have twice rejected local gambling referendums and three times opposed statewide questions, and said the amendment request did not originate with local residents.

“This amendment has been asked for by the Downs,” she said, “not the citizens.”

Former Councilor Karen D’Andrea agreed with Foley-Ferguson, and both said the amendment is a substantive change meriting more review by the Planning Board and Long Range Planning Committees.

Councilor Judy Roy disagreed, saying it had been part of the discussions throughout the process she was part of as council liaison to the Long Range Planning Committee. The Planning Board made a favorable recommendation to the development ordinance in June.

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